Is there a future for the Star Trek franchise on the big screen following the uncertainty at Paramount?
Despite the below expectations performance of the last big-screen adventure, ‘Star Trek Beyond‘, there have been rumblings that a new adventure in the ‘Star Trek‘ universe would be warping its way into the world’s multiplexes. Despite the departure of Chris’ Pine and Hemsworth from the fourth film in the ‘Kelvin’ timeline due to changes to their contracts only to manage to bring them both aboard again, the franchise has had three films on the slate for a few years now. The fourth part of the ‘Kelvin’ timeline, an R rated version from director Quentin Tarantino and a film from Noah Hawley (Fargo) that would focus on totally new characters were supposed to be incoming but now, it looks like even Paramount Pictures themselves don’t know exactly what is going on with the long-running big-screen incarnation of the franchise.
It has been revealed that the Hawley film has been put on the back burner by the studio for reasons that remain shrouded in mystery. It has been speculated that the film is a little too close to the bone with its proposed storyline, one which sees most of the universe wiped out by a killer virus. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, perhaps that is the logical reason behind the decision to push the film onto the back burner instead of putting it into production but it is all speculation at this point. All we know for sure is that the film isn’t incoming anytime soon.
Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek‘ film has fared about the same as Hawley’s. It was announced that the ‘Pulp Fiction‘ writer/director had earmarked and was onboard to direct an adult aimed ‘Trek‘ film, chock full of violence and bad language as is his trademark. This was met with a chorus of approval. The plotline of the film was said to be based on an episode of the original series, “A Piece Of The Action”. Those of you who remember the episode will glean that the film would have taken place in a 1930s gangster period setting. The screenplay was written by Marl L. Smith (The Revenant) and it seemed like all systems were a go. Everyone was ready to see what Tarantino could bring to the party and to see what an R rated ‘Trek‘ film would be like. Now though, Tarantino has dropped out of the film completely, almost certainly killing off any hope that the project will ever see the light of day.
And then we have the announced fourth go-around for Pine and his crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. At the end of ‘Beyond‘, Kirk and the crew were aboard the Enterprise-A after the original was destroyed twenty minutes into the film. And with the basic storyline based around the meeting of Kirk and his dead father, George played by Hemsworth in a before the opening credits sequence in the 2009 reboot which gave rise to a time travel/alternate universe story and it seemed like another great warp driven film was on the way. Until it wasn’t. Contract changes meant Pine and Hemsworth left the project and director S.J Clarkson, who was in line to be the first female director of a ‘Star Trek‘ film, saw the project canceled. Sadly, of course, actor Anton Yelchin’s accidental and untimely death meant that the character of Checkov wasn’t going to return, this was due to J.J Abrams saying he wouldn’t even consider recasting the role (a decision that I wholeheartedly agree with). But once the situation with Pine and Hemsworth was ironed out, nothing was stopping the film from launching amongst the stars again. The film should have been released or about to be released in cinemas around the world by now.
So why is there no clear answer to what Paramount intends to do with the film franchise? To be honest, I don’t think they even know what they are going to do with it. The small screen incarnations of the franchise are performing well in the ratings and there are several new projects on the horizon but where is the big-screen continuation of Paramount’s most popular franchise of them all? Forget Tarantino’s effort, that is dead in the water. In fact, it’s already sank to the depths, never to resurface in its current state. Hawley’s version sounds promising but is too much of a hot topic to be dealing with right now. I sadly think that his vision will fall by the wayside, at least for a few years yet before hopefully coming back. That leaves the main feature, the one that is seemingly a no-brainer when it comes to being the one to put into motion. But nothing has been done about it. Even the cast doesn’t know if it will ever happen and even if it does, will the cast actually WANT to return to something that’s on and off again regularly. Zachary Quinto even casts doubt on it actually being put into production. The same goes for Karl Urban and Zoe Saldana. And as for Chris Pine, well if he decides not to return, then the project is dead in my opinion. They can’t go down the Christopher Pike route due to the character already appearing in the first two films before being killed off. Picard is out as its too early for him to come into this period of the franchise. So where would that leave the project?
Paramount is expected to reveal its decision on the future of one of their biggest money-spinners in the coming weeks. But that’s IF they ever decide to make their minds up and come together as one to bring ‘Star Trek‘ back to the big screen in whatever form they choose. I really hope they make the correct choice for the franchise going forward, truly I do as I have been a fan since the very beginning. But in all honesty, I don’t think Paramount knows what they are going to do with what they’ve got and the way forward cinematically. I’m expecting all three films to be shelved and to gather dust in a filing cabinet somewhere on the Paramount lot. I hope I’m wrong. But with the way things are going, we better get used to seeing anything to do with ‘Star Trek‘ on streaming services and the TV for the considerable future.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!