“So what now?”
That’s what anyone with even a passing interest in the future of the ‘Star Trek’ movies has been trying to puzzle out ever since Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth both walked away from what was to be the fourth entry in the rebooted film series last summer. This raised all sorts of questions about the future of the Kelvin timeline films, and not just for the obvious reasons. (That Paramount would much rather be making ‘Star Trek’ movies with Captain Kirk is no small part of why these things exist in the first place.) See, this walkout came after Paramount decide to start tightening the franchise’s belt after ‘Star Trek Beyond’ underperformed at the box office, with part of that belt tightening being an attempt to renegotiate both Chrises into less expensive contracts (after having already reached a satisfactory sum and signed on the dotted line). Such is the peril of announcing your sequel before opening weekend, folks. After months of speculation from fans and radio silence from Paramount, we learned earlier this month (and, it must be said, in a spectacularly anti-climactic fashion) that ‘Star Trek 4’ had been shelved, at least for the time being.
But of course, that wasn’t the only ‘Star Trek’ film the studio had in the works. For about a year, they’ve also been developing a film based on a pitch by Quentin Tarantino. Where does the apparent cancellation of ‘Star Trek 4’ leave the Tarantino venture? That’s a good question, and while it’s not exactly the full official word on the subject, we do now have our first semblance of an answer. In the midst of a larger piece in the New York Times regarding the ongoing effort to reverse the Paramount’s waning fortunes, newly minted president of the studio’s film division Wyck Godfrey made mention of his intent to breathe new life into their various franchises, including ‘Star Trek’. In this context the Tarantino ‘Trek’ was mentioned as an exciting possibility, with the implication being that the project is (at least for the moment) alive and well.
So why is this one still kicking, even though ‘Star Trek 4’ (or whatever we’re calling it now) has apparently gone the way of my generation’s capacity for optimism? Well, that question kind of answers itself, doesn’t it? After all, it’s not just the fact that Tarantino pitched the story but that there remains a possibility that he might direct the film. In the Times article, Godfrey summed up the power of that idea very simply: “Suddenly people’s eyes light up. Yours just did.” More to the point, ‘Star Trek’ has had some high profile directors helm its film iterations over the years, from Robert Wise to J.J. Abrams. But if Tarantino were to direct, it would be the first time they managed to sign a “name among names”.
Beyond that, though, it’s important to remember just how little we know about the movie. It basically boils down to “Tarantino pitched it, he’s an original series guy, and he’s a fan of episodes like ‘City on the Edge of Forever’. Though it’s been widely (and, it must be said, reasonably) assumed that it would be set in the Kelvin timeline, there’s been no official word on the subject. But let’s take a worst-case-scenario approach to this. Suppose that Chris Pine is out for good and that the cancellation of ‘Star Trek 4’ is the death knell for the reboot. Suppose as well that the Tarantino film was intended from the word “go” to reunite the reboot cast for their fifth big screen outing. Well, with the caveat that we know nothing about the proposed plot, it’s worth remembering that it’s still pretty early in the development process. By contrast, ‘Star Trek 4’ had been set to film this year, presumably for a 2020 release. In other words, it was much farther along in the process before things started to fall apart. But even if it hadn’t been all but ready to go, the film was reported to center specifically on Kirk, reuniting him with his late father (played by Hemsworth in the opening moments of the 2009 film). Suffice to say, it would be a lot harder to move forward with that while also excising Kirk (junior or senior, let alone both) from the narrative. By contrast, the Tarantino pitch – again, assuming it was meant to feature Pine’s Kirk, et al in the first place – in probably early enough in the creative process to undertake these sorts of large scale rewrites without compromising the core of story or production/release schedules.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for the latest on future films and other ‘Star Trek’ projects as it becomes available!