Will the modern Star Trek movie franchise live long and prosper, or have we boldly gone everywhere we were going to go? Although Paramount Pictures announced a fourth Star Trek films around the time that Star Trek Beyond hit theaters last summer, the future of the franchise is anything but certain.
In a recent interview on The Today Show (via IGN), actor Zachary Quinto (“Mr. Spock”) was asked about the status of the fourth Trek film:
“I know that they are working on a script for another one and we’ll see how that all plays out, but the nice thing about that experience is that the time in between those big tentpole films allows us to go off and cultivate a lot of different creative experiences for ourselves. I’m hopeful that we’ll do another one, but there’s no guarantee.“
So why is it up in the air? Although Star Trek Beyond got great reviews, it wasn’t a runaway success at the box office, making only $343 million on an $185 million dollar budget. Star Trek films have historically always had a problem doing great business in countries where the original Star Trek TV series didn’t leave a huge cultural footprint.
Nevertheless, the franchise does have a built in fanbase that always turns up for opening weekend, and would probably come back for seconds and thirds if the movie is good. It would be very sad for Paramount to throw away one of their only reliable franchises besides Transformers. Paramount needs to stop trying to make Trek the next billion dollar franchise like Fast and the Furious and just let it be what it is–a steady, reliable performer if you can bring them in on a reasonable budget.
Given Quinto’s comments, what should happen now with the franchise? It might be time for Paramount to start thinking about how to play out this series in a more long-term manner. Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy and Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige have Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, respectively, mapped out for the next several years, going well into the next decade. Likewise Fox has announced four (!) more Avatar movies going up to 2025. Someone at Paramount needs to take the same approach for Star Trek. There is seemingly nothing that modern fans love more than knowing that a serialized franchise film is part of a bigger picture.
The original Star Trek crew had six movies, while the Next Generation crew had four. Considering that the new Pine/Quinto crew is by far the most successful series of Trek movies ever (yes, even adjusted for inflation, 2009’s Star Trek is still the biggest money earner) it would seem silly to halt them after just three. If the Fast and the Furious crew can have eight movies, then surely we can get at least one, maybe two more adventures for this Enterprise crew, who are all still in their prime, right? But even if we do get just a movie or two more from the J.J. Abrams crew, maybe it is time to start planting the seeds for the next movie iteration of big screen Star Trek. Yes, I’m talking about Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D.
The next logical step for the Star Trek movie franchise is to start thinking about what comes next, and that’s the inevitable reboot of The Next Generation crew for the big screen. Although those movies would likely be several years away, it would be wise to start planting the seeds now, over the course of the next few films featuring Kirk, Spock, and the gang. If the first Avengers movie could tease fans for a movie that wouldn’t come out for six more years, then why can’t Trek do the same?
For example, what if we are introduced to the character of Data much earlier in the timeline of the Kelvin universe (the official name for the “side-timeline” of the J.J. Abrams Trek)? Maybe Data’s creator, Dr. Soong, cracked the code for a sentient artificial life form much sooner in this timeline, and Data could be our “bridge” character between the two series? We could even see Data serve as an junior officer in Kirk’s crew in the final Pine/Quinto movie, and then we could see Data as the executive officer on Picard’s Enterprise? And how about I suggest something really crazy? What if in this timeline, Data is a woman? Maybe…Tilda Swinton?
Other elements that are crucial to the Next Generation timeline could be seeded in the next Star Trek film. For example, the Klingon/Federation alliance is a crucial part of the cosmology of TNG. It’s why there’s a Lieutenant Worf on the bridge of the Enterprise-D after all. Maybe we could see how, in the Kelvin universe, that crucial partnership came to be. There are lots of other ways the TNG era could be teased in the last few original crew movies (or movie, if we only get one more) without having to resort to baby versions of Picard and Crusher making cameos. I mean, no one wants to see that.
Modern moviegoers feel more confident in a franchise if they feel the people behind the scenes have a greater plan in mind when handling their favorite franchises. Paramount needs to be tacking this approachwith Star Trek if they want fans to invest in it in the same way. Trek should have years of life left in it on the big screen, as long as the people in charge start treating it the way it deserves to be treated. If the fans knew that the studio had more solid long-term plans for the movie series, it would only serve to excite them more for everything that’s yet to come.
What are your feelings on the big screen future of Star Trek? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.
Images: Paramount Pictures / CBS Television / Marvel Studios
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