Old sci-fi never dies – it just jumps to a new timeline. At least, that’s the way JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek in 2009, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto replacing William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as Captain Kirk and Mr Spock (though Nimoy still made a supremely stately cameo). Sequels Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016) continued the story, much to the chagrin of certain hardcore Trekkies who felt the new veered too closely towards mainstream Hollywood action cinema, lacking the original’s emphasis on scientific mystery.
Reports this week suggest that Matt Shakman, currently the toast of Hollywood after the success of the Marvel television series WandaVision, has been asked to direct the next film in the long-running saga. Great news, you might think, especially for the Trekkies – nobody who has seen WandaVision would accuse Shakman of making dumbed-down popcorn entertainment. And yet, given all the recent issues surrounding Star Trek on the big screen, fans would be forgiven for wondering just where the saga plans to boldly go next.
Industry reports suggest that Pine and his crew are by no means locked in to return for a fourth outing, though one assumes an announcement could be imminent given shooting is scheduled to begin in the spring. Let’s hope so, because the last thing this series needs is another reboot.
Whether you love or hate the Abrams movies (Beyond was directed by Justin Lin, though the former retained a producer’s credit), it still feels as if Pine, Quinto and co have unfinished business. The events of the third movie, in which the Enterprise got caught up in a desperate plot by Idris Elba’s warmonger to ignite chaos across the galaxy, took place while the team were on a break from their famous five-year mission. If this were the original series (and timeline), Kirk and his crew would barely have met the Tribbles, let alone reached the late-era magnificence of such episodes as the racially themed Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.
The stumbling block to getting the gang back together may, as ever in Hollywood, be money. The fourth movie was already supposed to be in cinemas by now, with Chris Hemsworth due to return as Kirk’s father George (who we last saw bravely piloting a ship to its doom in the 2009 film). Reports suggest Pine and Hemsworth wanted better pay than Paramount were prepared to offer given Beyond’s middling box office returns, and the deal fell apart.
Perhaps the solution is an obvious one. Abrams’ high-octane approach is no doubt pretty expensive, and Shakman has already shown he has the chops to delve into more intimate, incisive fare. Many episodes of WandaVision barely required special effects (unless one counts Elisabeth Olsen’s period costumes).
I would miss the eye-popping cosmic collisions of the Abrams era, but if that means losing the excellent Pine and high-profile cast members such as Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Simon Pegg, an episode in which nothing gets blown up and allows space for the new crew to bring the science sounds like just the ticket. If nothing else, it might finally give the Trekkies who once voted Into Darkness the worst movie in the canon something to cheer for.