Candidate Directors For The Next Star Trek Film

abrams 2J.J. Abrams isn’t available to direct the next Star Trek film because he’s busy playing in the other major sci-fi franchise. However, with the 50th anniversary of Star Trek just two years away, Paramount Pictures needs to find a new director for the next Star Trek movie. Due to the fact that the film will be produced by Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, the eventual director will probably be someone known and trusted by that company. Most recently many fans became visibly nervous when Abrams’ longtime associate writer Roberto Orci stated his wish to direct the next Star Trek film. He wrote the rebooted Trek movies and co-wrote other sci-fi movies like Transformers, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Cowboys & Aliens. Orci also co-created and wrote for TV shows like Fringe and Sleepy Hollow. baird trekHowever, he has never directed a film before, so it seems unlikely that Paramount is willing to entrust the keys of their popular franchise on an unproven director. Reinforcing that is the fact that the big budget, high profile film Transcendence failed with freshman director Wally Pfister.

So, Paramount has to be careful in hiring the right director for the next Star Trek film. History has shown that the success of Star Trek movies largely rests on the talents of its directors and the film series’ spotty record is a testament to that notion. An infamous example is Stuart Baird and Star Trek: Nemesis.

While obviously, they’re not going to get someone like Spielberg or Brad Bird to helm the film, there is actually a decent pool of directors who could be the next Nicholas Meyer. Perhaps this director could bring something different to the franchise; maybe some intellectual heft, while telling an exciting tale. Here are some candidates:

Matt Reeves: Perhaps best known for Cloverfield, Reeves is a solid choice to direct a Trek film and he could have some favor with Bad Robot Productions. Cloverfield was produced by that company so he is a known quality to Abrams and company. Plus, he directed the revered horror film Let Me In and the upcoming Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. Even though he has been named to direct another Planet Of The Apes film, perhaps he can be lured into the world of Star Trek.

duncan jonesDuncan Jones: His previous sci-fi films, Moon and Source Code were grounded, entertaining and thought provoking fare with great characters. Such qualities would be a perfect fit for a Star Trek film. Currently Jones is directing Warcraft, which is due on March 2016. Maybe if he can finish up that film soon, Jones may have time to squeeze in a Trek film for later that year.

Rian Johnson: The well-regarded, time-travel action film Looper put the director on the map. Johnson has also recently directed some of the most acclaimed episodes of Breaking Bad. That alone should be enough to earn some serious consideration. Remember that Nicholas Meyer’s previous movie before Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan was the underrated time-travel gem Time After Time. Maybe history will repeat itself?

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Shane Carruth: He is another director who helmed a time-travel film. This one being Primer, more of a thinking person’s sci-fi movie rather than an actioner. But Primer is a respected movie among genre fans, and Carruth’s hand would lend some sorely missed intellectualism to a Star Trek film. The problem is that Paramount is probably convinced that a more cerebral Trek movie won’t sell as many tickets as an action piece. That may be true, but a more serious minded Trek film would probably bring back many disaffected fans turned off by Abrams’ flashy and action-oriented directing style that is better suited for Star Wars.

Rupert Wyatt: This director seemed to have come out of nowhere in 2011 and presented the surprisingly great Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, which revived the dormant franchise. Last year, he was mentioned by Abrams as a likely contender for the Trek directing gig until the buzz shifted to Joe Cornish. Who knows what happened? But if they’re smart they should get back to the negotiating table to bring him onboard because Wyatt demonstrated some genuine storytelling skill with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

singerBryan Singer: Fans of superhero films generally agree that Singer’s X-Men films have been some of the best superhero movies of the sub-genre. An avowed Star Trek fan, Singer even had a cameo in Star Trek: Nemesis. Now throw in his directing prowess, especially with ensemble casts, and we may have a perfect choice for the next Trek adventure. However, he is busy with the X-Men film franchise and is now prepping the followup to X-Men: Days Of Future Past.

William Eubank: Love was an unusual and eubankadmittedly obscure sci-fi movie about a stranded astronaut in the International Space Station. Nevertheless, it was a thought-provoking and beautifully shot film thanks to Eubank. What is more impressive is that it was done on a shoestring budget, yet had topnotch production values. If Paramount wants to cut corners with the budget, Eubank can stretch a dollar out while delivering a winning film. If his upcoming film The Signal is successful, he should be considered by Paramount.

Joseph Kosinski: Tron: Legacy and Oblivion were sci-fi films that sharply divided many viewers. They were very entertaining with fantastic visual effects, imagery and production design. But many had issues with the emotional tone and narrative of the films. Still, they weren’t empty action films and Kosinski can deliver a sci-fi film with some food for thought.

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Now these candidates may be a bit out of left field but if Paramount gets desperate they  would be better choices than Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) or Roberto Orci.

At one point, Attack The Block director Joe Cornish was the person picked to direct the upcoming Trek movie, but he dropped out late last year. With looming deadlines, he can possibly be lured back to the franchise. If not him Paramount can pull a Hail Mary pass and turn to Nicholas Meyer or even Jonathan Frakes for another go around. Of course, that won’t happen. Right?

meyer kirkOn a serious note, because of the pending fiftieth anniversary of the beloved franchise, the next Star Trek film needs to be a super event that rivals the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who and James Bond. Many fans are dissatisfied with Abrams’ take on Star Trek and want not just a replacement but someone who they think will treat the property with respect and put out a great movie. There is still time but Paramount needs to step up its efforts to find the right director. After all, it is a special occasion.

Lewis T. Grove

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

“‘Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning'”

Captain James T. Kirk’s final course heading for the U.S.S. Enterprise-A

trek 6 poster 2The final Star Trek film to feature the entire original cast from the Star Trek TV show has many distinguished qualities such as a thrilling story, craftsman-like direction, solid acting and yes great special effects. But Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country will always be known for its parallels to the end of the Cold War and more importantly as the last hurrah for the original Enterprise crew.

When the film was released, the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union had ended bringing on a new uncertain era with ramifications still affecting us today. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the long-running feud between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire comes to a peaceful end with adversaries on cast VIboth sides struggling to accept the new normal. This was done bravely with the main character Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) who expressed an unpleasant side with his unhidden bigotry towards the Klingons.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country literally begins with a bang. A giant shockwave from an exploding moon reaches across space and slams into the Federation starship Excelsior. Commanded by Captain Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), the Excelsior rides out the shockwave’s destructive path. Sulu and his crew learn that the explosion came from the Klingon moon Praxis, which was overused as mining facility in an analogue to Chernobyl.

Months later, Captain Kirk and his senior Enterprise-A crew are summoned to a meeting at Starfleet Headquarters. To their surprise, their colleague Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) presents at the meeting not only the finding that the Klingons are dying out but that peace negotiations have begun between the two powers. Kirk is ordered by the Chief in Command (Leon Rossum) to have the Enterprise-A escort the Klingon leader Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) to Earth for continued negotiations.

Kirk is angered that his friend Spock vouched for him to carry out this mission but Spock did so because Kirk’s reputation and antagonistic history with the Klingons will serve as an effective olive branch if he peacefully escorts Gorkon to Earth.

The Enterprise-A crew leaves Spacedock for its mission, but not before Kirk meets Spock’s protégé Lt. Valeris (Kim Cattrall), the ship’s helmsman. We later learn that Spock thinks highly of her and intends for her to succeed him as first officer of the ship.

enterprise and klingon

The Federation starship makes its rendezvous with Gorkon’s Klingon battle cruiser Kronos One and Kirk invites the chancellor over for dinner. Gorkon beams over with his entourage, which includes his daughter Azetbur (Rosana DeSoto) and General Chang (Christopher Plummer), a bald, crusty Klingon with an eye patch and an obvious dislike towards Kirk. He is practically chomping at the bit for the chance to engage the famous starship captain in combat and is clearly disheartened that he won’t get the chance.

chang and troop

The dinner held in the officer’s mess goes poorly. There is an uncomfortable tension as both Kirk and his senior officers and Gorkon and his entourage trade charged barbs at each other. The Starfleet officers, except Spock, can barely hide their contempt toward the Klingons. It was a bit jarring to see our heroes in a negative light, but it was very bold and dimensional because we see some flaws with our heroes. final dinnerThe only other person who tried to be polite and engaging was Gorkon. He is a clear reference for the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and exhibited a mature, open and statesman-like demeanor. David Warner was very memorable in this too brief but important role and made the leader seem sympathetic and noble.

After the uneasy dinner, the Klingons return to their ship while Kirk retires for the night nursing a hangover from drinking illegal Romulan ale during dinner. He has no time to rest when he is called to the bridge. These scenes were quite revealing; Kirk seems weary and ready to retire. But he is still the captain and acts as one when he instantly stops slouching after the turbo lift doors open to the bridge.

As he enters the bridge, the Klingons are attacked by an unknown source. The attack damages Kronos One’s gravity field, leaving the Klingons afloat and defenseless. Two men garbed in white Starfleet suits, garbed helmets and gravity boots beam aboard the Klingon ship and fatally shoot Gorkon.

Their work done, the assassins beam back out moments before the Klingons restore power. After answering the Enterprise-A’s hail, a furious Chang accuses Kirk of an unprovoked attack and begins a counterattack. Kirk, horrified and realizing the severity of what is unfolding, orders the Enterprise-A to surrender before an intergalactic war can begin.

Wanting to help, he and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) beam aboard Kronos One. They find Gorkon and McCoy desperately tries to save the chancellor’s life, but he is unsuccessful. Gorkon’s last words are to Kirk, a plea “Don’t let it end like this.”

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The two Starfleet officers are arrested on the spot by the Klingons. Spock assumes command of the Enterprise-A and begins investigating what happened. According to their computer,  their ship did fire on Kronos One, but Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scottie” Scott’s (James Doohan) inventory reveals that all of the ship’s photon torpedoes are accounted for. Spock orders Valeris to continue investigating, convinced that the assassins are still onboard the starship.

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

Spock: “The needs of the many …”

Kirk: “…outweigh the needs of the few.”

Spock: “Or the one.”

An exchange between Spock and James T. Kirk onboard the Enterprise

khan posterStar Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan was a radical departure from its predecessor Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which is what Paramount Pictures wanted. Even though Star Trek: The Motion Picture made money it was perceived as a failure. Many people complained that it was dull and pretentious. In other words, they wanted action! And that is what director Nicholas Meyer delivered with Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, only he added a human element that elevated the film to classic status.

This film is the most personal Star Trek film out of the many that have come out. Its main characters go through some intense and heartfelt emotional journeys and are changed forever. Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner in his best performance as Kirk) faces the prospect of middle age and looking back at his life. His best friend Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) faces his mortality with a sense of bravery and nobility that touched audiences’ heart in a way that would have been more lasting if his fate had been final. On the other side of the coin, the main villain Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) is wracked with bitterness and hate over his lot in life and in the end this anger consumes him.

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In the original Star Trek episode “Space Seed” Khan was part of a group genetically enhanced despots from Earth’s violent past found hibernating by Kirk and his crew. After briefly capturing the Enterprise, Kirk defeats him and exiles him and the other superhumans to an uninhabited planet.

In between that episode and the film, the planet. Ceti Alpha V, underwent an environmental disaster that made it practically unlivable. Think of Tatooine on its worst day with blistering sandstorms. Most of Khan’s people didn’t survive, including his wife. Now, Khan is a seething cauldron of fury out to annihilate the one he blames for his predicament: James T. Kirk.

Even though the film is a sequel to “Space Seed” it skillfully brings viewers up to speed with only a few lines of exposition regarding Khan, who is portrayed magnificently by Montalban. The actor originated the role of Khan in “Space Seed” and testmade a solid impression in that episode but by the time that the first Star Trek sequel came around, Montalban was more known for his role in the show Fantasy Island. His performance as Khan demonstrated the true nature of his acting prowess thanks to his bringing to the role a sense of regal eloquence, animalistic charisma, and maligned fury.

The film opens with the Enterprise, commanded by a young Vulcan  named Saavik (Kristie Alley in her first role), being attacked by Klingon ships and losing the battle with main characters like Spock being killed. But it was a simulation at Starfleet Academy. Some time has passed between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and this film. One noticeable difference is that the Starfleet uniforms are now bright red jackets with black pants giving its personnel a more militaristic look. The filmmakers wanted to convey a sense of naval conditions with this film since they saw it as a retake of Horatio Hornblower. In fact, the feel of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan feels more grounded, less lofty than in the first film. Sets look more cramped and a bit more lived in although not as severe as with Star Warsor Alien. A good eye will spot a No Smoking sign on the set, which alarmed some fans who hoped that the awful habit would’ve been gone by the 23rd century.

The actual Enterprise is now training vessel commanded by Spock for young cadets and officers, including Spock’s protogé Saavik. Kirk is no longer commanding a starship and feels like a relic, in spite of the fact that it’s his birthday. Gifts from Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) do little to cheer him up, prompting McCoy to urge him to do something with himself and stop living in the past.

reliant

Around this time, the starship Reliant approach the barren Ceti Alpha V, which is to be used as a testbed for the Genesis science experiment. Kirk’s former lover Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and her son David (Merritt Butrick) have developed the Genesis Device, which can initiate rapid terraforming on inhospitable worlds for colonization. The Reliant’s captain Clark Terrel (Paul Winfield) and first officer, the former Enterprise navigator Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) beam down to the planet investigate life signs only to find Khan and his people marooned there. After capturing the two men, Khan and his genetic superhumans gain control of the ship and set out on a mission of vengeance.

khan castKirk joins Spock onboard the Enterprise with his original crewmates to assist with a training cruise for Starfleet cadets. They receive a call from Dr. Marcus wanting to know why Kirk is taking the Genesis Device. What she and Kirk don’t realize is that Khan is trying to lure Kirk by manipulating a brainwashed Chekov into stating that Admiral Kirk wants the Device. Kirk takes the bait and orders the Enterprise to head out to Marcus’ science station Regula I, which orbits an asteroid the station is named after, and investigate. In a preemptive move, Spock relinquishes command of the Enterprise to his friend because as he famously said, “Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material.”

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