This time in 2016, ‘Star Trek’ was entering its fiftieth anniversary years as fans prepared for the release of ‘Star Trek Beyond‘, the third of the J.J. Abrams-produced reboot films. Despite their divisive nature among longtime fans, those films had seen considerable financial success and their future thus seemed assured. Meanwhile, the franchise had been absent from the medium that spawned it – television – for over a decade, though the end of that drought was in sight as work began on the show that would eventually materialize as ‘Star Trek: Discovery‘. Hopes were high, say the least, though there was an air of uncertainty that seemed to follow the project all the way to its September 2017 debut. Now, two years later, the two halves of the franchise have seen a near total reversal of fortune, with ‘Discovery’ going strong and a giant question mark looming over the films.
In hindsight, this reversal of fortune likely began before ‘Star Trek Beyond’ even saw the light of day. While ‘Beyond’ ultimately underperformed at the box office, the simple fact is that (whatever one thinks of the film itself) its chances weren’t exactly helped by what can only be described as a near-total failure on Paramount’s part to promote the movie. But despite this lackadaisical approach, the studio nonetheless announced a sequel days ahead of the film’s release.
In and of itself, this would be confirming something that we all took for granted: That there would, in fact, be more ‘Star Trek’ movies. But there was a hook. Not only would there be a fourth film, but it would see the return of Chris Hemsworth to the role of Kirk’s father, who he had played (albeit briefly) in Abrams’ first ‘Trek’ outing. And then… nothing. After the initial waves made by that announcement, there was no further word on ‘Star Trek 4’ until last month’s stunning announcement of Quentin Tarantino’s involvement. Whether that’s due to the underperformance of ‘Beyond’ or something else altogether is anyone’s guess.
And fan’s weren’t the only ones left guessing. Asked about the status of the film (and particularly his own involvement) in the wake of the Tarantino announcement, Chris Hemsworth revealed that he’s as much in the dark as the rest of us:
“I don’t know. It’s a reminder to call J.J. and ask the same question because I haven’t heard any updates on it either.”
So just what does Hemsworth know about the proposed film? What drew him to the project in the first place?
“Just the fact that he had a way of reinserting the character into the world. I can’t say too much – there’s not even a script – but I always thought, maybe, there was a possibility of him coming back in some way. I didn’t know how or what, but he was pretty enthusiastic about what they had planned.”
Of course, Tarantino’s involvement doesn’t necessarily rule out the original George Kirk storyline. After all, the most obvious way to reintroduce Hemsworth’s character to the story would be through time travel or some other sci-fi weirdness, exactly the sort of ‘Star Trek’ story for which Tarantino has in the past expressed fondness (the director has specifically referenced episodes like ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’ and ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’).
That being said, it seems more likely to me – given the year and a half of radio silence, the apparent lack of a screenplay draft, and the fact that Tarantino reportedly pitched his own story to Abrams – that the current plan for ‘Star Trek 4’ has likely changed considerably from whatever it was when the film was first announced. If anything, the announcement coming when it did (amidst a notably lackluster promotional effort) suggests that it served more as a vote of confidence on the studio’s part than anything else. That’s not to say they didn’t have every intention of making a sequel with Hemsworth, but following the lackluster showing ‘Beyond’ made at the box office, it’s likely that the powers that be started second guessing whatever plans were already in place.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more news on this and other upcoming ‘Star Trek’ projects as it becomes available.