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The Current State of Star Trek Cinema

Uncertainty, Unease, and No Clear Path Forward

By Silek Fri 09 Oct, 2020 9:38 PM - Last Updated: Sun 11 Oct, 2020 2:27 AM
Disney announced today that their latest film from animation studio Pixar, 'Soul', will be bypassing most theaters all together, and will be headed to Disney+. Featuring the voice talents of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, 'Soul' will debut exclusively on the streaming service in time for Christmas.

This is just the latest film to upend the traditional 'studio to theater' model, and comes at one of the darkest periods for cinema in modern history as theaters around the world struggle to stay afloat, with some such as Regal Cinemas closing their doors entirely.Chris%20Nolan
Christopher Nolen and David
Washington on the set of Tenet.

Over the summer, many saw Christopher Nolan's timey wimey film 'Tenet' as a litmus test as to the general public's appetite for getting back into theaters while balancing their concerns over avoiding crowds and large gatherings. Most agree that this did very little to jump start audience's return to the cinema.

Matt Belloni, Editorial Director of The Hollywood Reporter spoke with NPR affiliate KCRW about 'Tenet's' push to drive movie goers back into the seats. Belloni explained, “It did not do great. And let's explain some of the numbers because there's been a lot of spinning going on by Warner Bros. here. And Warner essentially had a gun to their head by Christopher Nolan, who insisted on a theatrical release for this film. About 70% of theaters in America are open and somebody had to go first to see if people were comfortable going back to theaters. So Warner put 'Tenet' out and opening weekend it did about $9.4 million. Typically a Chris Nolan film would open to about $50 million. And they did some games with Canada releases and some of the cumulative numbers to get that a little higher. But Overall, after two weeks, it's still in the $20 million, high twenties, not good.”

With this as a barometer for the overall atmosphere it was of little surprise when Disney announced 'Mulan' would appear exclusively on Disney+ over the summer and blockbuster titles like 'Wonder Woman 1984' being pushed back for a third time to Christmas Day 2020, and the newest James Bond adventure 'No Time To Die' all the way to April 2, 2021.Patty%20Jenkins
Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot
on the set of Wonder Woman 1984.

'Wonder Woman 1984' Director Patty Jenkins expressed her concerns to Reuters News Agency explaining, “If we shut this down, this will not be a reversible process, we could lose movie theater-going forever. It could be the kind of thing that happened to the music industry where you could crumble the entire industry by making it something that can’t be profitable. I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where the only option is to take your kids to watch a movie in your own living room, and not have a place to go for a date. I really hope that we (Wonder Woman 1984) are able to be one of the very first ones to come back and bring that into everyone’s life."

And so, in this climate of industry flux and uncertainty, it can only add more unanswered questions and confusion for a franchise like Star Trek that is also dealing with a corporate merger, reported infighting, and a fan base split among those who think a deluge of new series, perceived or actual tonal shifts in writing and character development, and a possible 'see what sticks to the wall' approach will bring Trek to new heights, and those who believe it may be eroding the very foundations on which it's creator had based his Trek universe in.

With so many contradictory statements being reported and opinions sometimes being construed as fact, the following is status of every Star Trek movie currently being considered for development.

Star Trek 4

The next entry into the JJ Abrams films and the 'Kelvin Timeline' (named after his grandfather) is referred to as Star Trek 4. While Giant Freaking Robot announced over three weeks ago that this movie had been scrapped entirely, ScreenRant has reported that their source at Paramount has stated that this is false, and negotiations and preparations are currently in the works for it's preproduction.

Giant Freaking Robot has proved correct in the past reporting on the recently greenlit series 'Strange New Worlds', revolving around the characters Pike and Spock from Discovery, well before it was officially announced. ScreenRant however has reported that “Paramount confirms with us that this is not true and Star Trek movies (for the cinema) are still in development”Director%20JJ%20Abrams
Producer and Director JJ Abrams.

Anyone following the JJ Abrams Trek movies are probably aware that even before the pandemic put strain on the industry, Star Trek 4 suffered from some of the same issues any big budgeted Hollywood sequel find themselves negotiating. Most notably was the cast salary negotiations. As the actors became more well known and some of them stars in their own right, these negotiations brought the project to a halt on more than one occasion and it's currently unclear where they presently stand on the issue. Most notably Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth were reported to both balk at the salary offered with Hemsworth reportedly eventually turning the role down as he didn't have faith in the story and the way they were going to bring his character, George Kirk, back in an interesting way.

Speaking on The Talk, Zachary Quinto remained optimistic about the casts excitement for a fourth installment stating, “We’re all incredibly close friends in real life, and I think all of us would welcome the opportunity to go back and keep telling those stories.”

His co-star Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, had a much more cynical take on the whole affair. Speaking to Games Radar, Pegg said, “The fact is, Star Trek movies don’t make Marvel money. They make maybe $500 million at the most, and to make one now, on the scale they’ve set themselves, is $200 million. You have to make three times that to make a profit. I don’t feel like the last one… they didn’t really take advantage of the 50th anniversary. The regime at the time dropped the ball on the promo of the film and we’ve lost momentum. So I don’t know.”

Among these setbacks, then Director SSJ Clarkson left the project in 2019 to pursue other projects and it would be impossible to ignore an obvious point of contention on how the franchise would deal with the loss Anton Yelchin, who played Pavel Chekov. Would fans accept recasting this role with a new actor? Would they acknowledge the loss of the character itself in this timeline? These questions remain unanswered even though sources at Paramount say that the movie is still moving forward.

The Noah Hawley Movie

Speaking to Christina Radish at Collider back in January of this year, Hawley said of his helming a Star Trek movie, “When I looked at all of the franchises, I kept coming back to Star Trek as something that, ultimately, at the end of the day that is, at its heart, about being human, about diversity and exploration and outsmarting your opponent, as opposed to destroying your opponent through your physical might. It’s William Shatner putting on his reading glasses and lowering the shields. That’s Star Trek to me. He’s clever. He’s cleverer than the other guy. But it’s also the conceptual science fiction that was always so great in Next Generation, or even the original. Action, in and of itself, isn’t that interesting to me, unless it’s story. So, I have my own take and my own things that I want to do with it. Having done this 40-hour homage to the Cohens, and having done a Marvel series, I always approach this material understanding that people are really invested in these stories, and I treat the material with real respect, but I’m going to tell my own story now. I always feel, as a fan, if there’s something that I love and somebody tells me new stories, I get excited. I’m excited there’s going to be another Matrix movie. I don’t need it to be the old Matrix movie. I’m excited to see characters used in new ways, or new characters, or whatever it is.Writer%20Noah%20Hawley
Writer, Director, Producer
Noah Hawley

It was only in September however that Hawley himself gave the news to Variety that his Trek movie was 'on hold'. He had described the then current state of the movie, which he had intended to both write and direct saying, “It’s an argument for why humanity should prevail and why we should come together and unite, which I think is important – to look at the United Federation of Planets and remember at some point Earth is what we are now and then we invented warp technology and met extraterrestrial life and everybody came together. But how? How did we get from where we are now to where they are then? And what happens if that utopian reality is challenged? There are times of challenge and war when we have to prove our values all over again. Maybe there’s a time in the Federation where this ideal is challenged and it won’t survive on its own. It needs to be saved.”

When he announced this, unnamed sources at Paramount claimed that the plot revolved around a virus that wiped out vast parts of the known universe. These same sources went on to say that given the current climate, audiences might not respond to something that hit so close to home while searching for escapism at the theater.

The Quentin Tarantino Movie

Aside from a pitch from Tarantino to JJ Abrams, there has never been anything concrete or official about this project. Much of the fan base reacted when the director, famous for 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Reservoir Dogs', revealed he would be interested in wading into the Trek narrative, but aside from his own take on what he would like to see in an R rated Trek adventure, it would seem that it never really got further than an idea scribbled on a cocktail napkin.Quentin%20Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino's vision would center around the TOS Episode 'A Piece of the Action', which finds the crew of the Enterprise on a planet full of 1920's style gangsters.

Although Noah Hawley's vision would have been riskier than than continuation of the Kelvin Timeline, this one has been seen by most, as the riskiest move of any version being considered and the least likely to move ahead.

Many have voiced their opinions that a slightly more adult Star Trek, and with one of the worlds most prolific directors at the head, could potentially spring Trek into the bailiwick of the general public and possibly raise it to the heights, and earning potential, of Star Wars or even a Marvel Franchise.

Based on the amount of reports and seeming disinterest from Paramount in the past six months, this seems like a longshot.

I would like to give a more definitive report on where we stand with new Trek movies. I would love to be giving you release dates and project updates, but due to the situation we find ourselves in together, and in no small part to corporate uneasiness, these seem to be as close as we are going to get to anything concrete.

In my opinion, I'll take my Trek as I can get it. Jonathan Frakes would seem to agree, telling TrekMovie just this week, “I say greenlight the Tarantino and Noah Hawley, if you are lucky enough to get either of them. And if they are too busy to direct, I’ll be available.”

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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