Hello all and welcome to my first post as a guest writer on this fine site. Thanks to Ian for making me part of the family. I am honoured to be here and share my opinions with you all.
For my first article I thought I’ve give my views on the current state of the next ‘Star Trek’ movie as there’s been quite a bit of news about that of late.
I’ll give a little background on my familiarity with the franchise so as to help with context. I’ve been a fan of ‘Star Trek’ in all of its forms since long before I can remember. Growing up I was well and truly indoctrinated with the adventures of Captains Kirk and Picard by my family and I’ve never looked back since. It’s always something that has captured my imagination and given me endless hours of entertainment.
When it comes to the J.J. Abrams reboot series my views on that are mixed. Before the 2009 film came out I was filled with trepidation as I didn’t feel that ‘Star Trek’ could be successfully rebooted with new actors taking on the roles of the iconic characters first portrayed by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the rest of the cast.
It did turn out to be mostly successful if a little dumb. I still don’t think that ‘Star Trek’ can easily be altered to fit under the summer blockbuster umbrella but the 2009 movie managed to retain enough of the spirit of The Original Series to work for me as a fan. I still feel that ‘Star Trek’ has most potential on television to allow for depth of characters and storytelling for an ensemble piece.
This all changed when the follow up ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ was released. As a fan I felt positively insulted by most of it. I couldn’t believe what I was watching by the end of it. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it but reusing the villain Khan in the way they did was a massive mistake and the 3rd act ripping off an iconic scene from ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ was horrifically lazy. I’m not sure who thought that would ever be a good idea but it happened. The fact that the film was delayed for 2 additional years and that was the best they could come up with adds further insult.
I generally had no feelings about this one way or another as I don’t really identify Abrams as the problem, it seems that all he was doing was putting the script he was given on screen and he did a very competent job at that. The problem therefore -as far as I’m concerned- lies with the writers. ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ had 3 of them. The duo of Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as well as frequent Abrams scribe Damon Lindelof (Prometheus, Lost) were responsible for penning the film we got.
I’m not sure exactly who is responsible for what but as a team it’s clear that they don’t understand ‘Star Trek’ so want to alter the franchise to suit their own needs. The concepts of peaceful exploration and scientific discovery have been entirely sacrificed for big dumb action with a central underdeveloped villain driving this lackluster plot forward. This was the case in both of the Abrams films so I’m not keen for another one.
Early reports had Bob Orci pegged as director despite the fact that he had never directed anything in his life. The writers would be Orci along with relative newcomers Patrick McKay and John D. Payne. All signs were pointing to more of the same. Given that the release date of the film is geared to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the franchise it didn’t really bode well.
This changed shortly before Christmas 2014 with a surprise announcement that Paramount had dropped Bob Orci as director due to a disagreement over the script. There’s an article that sums it up nicely here. To have heard nothing for months and to have this come out of the blue was quite a jolt and actually gave me a little bit of hope for the future of my favourite franchise.
There was no indication that the release date of the film was to change from summer 2016 so it basically turned the production into ‘Star Trek 13: The Search for a New Director’ -reference to ‘Star Trek III: The Search for Spock’– with a need to get moving on it fairly quickly.
Within days there was an apparent shortlist of directors announced. More information here. Of those my preferred choices would have been Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) or Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) due to their track record of making really engaging science fiction in the past few years. It was all starting to look up.
It wasn’t long before Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6) was picked to helm the film. Again, more information here. I have mixed feelings on this as I go out of my way to avoid the Fast and Furious franchise simply because it doesn’t really appeal to me. I am told that he’s a competent director and of that I have no doubt. He is given lots of high profile work but I’m just not sure he’s right for Star Trek. As I’ve said above I really don’t want another summer action film with no real depth to it. It does a disservice to this franchise.
This seems to be backed up by rumours that are flying around. Paramount have allegedly expressed a desire to have this new Star Trek film resemble Marvel’s hit ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (more info here) which seems like a financially sound idea given the popularity. Given that ‘Star Wars’ will be out mere months prior would seem to be shaping that desire too. My main problem with this idea is that there’s too much of this going around. It seems that there’s a lot of emphasis on things being like something else that’s popular. Whatever happened to diversity? ‘Star Trek’ should be its own thing and not be pandering to something else that does well.
In general audiences don’t know what they want until they get it so there’s no reason that ‘Star Trek’ couldn’t blaze some kind of trail for high budget exploration based science fiction and bring that back into the public consciousness. If any film should be taken as inspiration then it should be Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar,’ a film that focused more on the wonder of the universe and the science of exploring it that empty explosion based spectacle. One major positive is that Orci is only sticking around as a producer (as reported here) so we might get something well written out of this.
I guess my overall point -if there really is one- is that I’m nervous about this next installment in my favourite franchise. The chance in director and writer might give the film the shot in the arm it needs to get back to its roots and really dazzle people with a smart, character based science fiction stories. There’s not a lot of time to pull this together with the release date being set at July 8, 2016 (reported here) but it can be done as proved by ‘X-Men: First Class’ going from development to screen in a short period of time.
What the film needs to do is get back to what makes ‘Star Trek’ great. The characters need to be fleshed out in a way that makes them memorable and interesting. I’m not interested in seeing Chris Pine’s Kirk act like a self important moron any more and I really want to see him confident in the center chair giving orders. I want his orders to make sense and for him to have the respect of his crew. So far, this version of Kirk has coasted by on blind luck and never earned anything for himself. The story needs to be strong and fascinating with a massive emphasis on the wonder of being out in deep space. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if no weapons were fired in the entire film. In short I want a little more Trek in my Star Trek instead of this hanging around Earth they seem to be doing.
I’m sure more information will be released in the coming months but for now ‘Star Trek’ has a real opportunity to be great again and that’s something that fills me with nervous excitement.
If you have enjoyed what you read here then please visit my website on kneelbeforeblog.co.uk. I do reviews of comics, movies and TV with regular content updates. Recently I wrote an article detailing my idea for a new Star Trek TV series that you can find here. Thanks for reading.