What’s Next For The Star Trek Kelvinverse?

The J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot warped out of the drydock and reinvigorated the franchise nine years ago. For a while it seemed as if Star Trek was back in the public eye, though it was radically changed. But it didn’t have any staying power as seen with the collective meh from the general public over the last Star Trek film and the downright hostility from old-time Star Trek fans who correctly charge that the Star Trek films strayed too far from the core essence of Trek.

There are many reasons for the indifference towards the Star Trek reboot but it gained more notoriety with the recent news that Chris Pine, who played Captain Kirk, the center of the Star Trek films, has walked away from the planned fourth film, along with Chris Hemsworth, who briefly played Kirk’s father.

The two actors left the project over money since Paramount Pictures wanted both of them to take a pay cut. In the end, this is a negotiating tactic, and the actors have a just cause since they have contracts guaranteeing a certain rate. But this latest news illustrates the tenuous state of the Star Trek films.

Ever since Star Trek Beyond underperformed two years ago, and Star Trek returned to TV, the Star Trek reboot films, aka the Star Trek Kelvinverse, has lost its luster. They were intended to attract non-Trek fans and make the franchise more exciting. Unfortunately, the Kelvinverse films pandered too much to adrenaline junkies who would never appreciate the thoughtful nature of Star Trek. Plus, Paramount was convinced that making Star Trek more like Star Wars would increase ticket sales. After all, the previous Star Trek films before the reboot were disappointments. This attitude, unfortunately led to poorly conceived marketing that catered to The Fast and the Furious crowd which alienated fans and didn’t end up bringing in the demographics that Paramount wanted. Just look at this horrendous first trailer for Star Trek Beyond that helped doom the film, which is unfortunate because it turned out to be a good Star Trek film.

After Star Trek Beyond, no one knew if there would be another Trek film, at least one set in the Kelvinverse. This question came up after the ambiguous announcement late last year that Quentin Tarantino wanted to do a Star Trek film and that his vision would be even more radical than Abrams’. Around the time that Star Trek Beyond premiered, it was announced that the fourth film would feature a time travel story and have Kirk meet his father. The added bonus is that Kirk’s father was Hemsworth, who is famous for his Thor performances, and he actually excelled in his brief role in Star Trek.

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The big question is what if Pine and Hemsworth don’t return? What then? Should the roles be recast? Should the characters be written out or should the project be scrapped altogether? The bottom line is that Star Trek Kelvinverse films are expensive to make and are not the big moneymakers that Paramount hoped for, which is why they wanted the two actors to take the pay cut. In order for the films to be viable the budgets have to be pared down which is tricky but not impossible. The next film could use stock footage, it worked for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is still considered the best Star Trek film.  A lower budget would force the director and writer to focus on characters and plot, not flashy visuals.

Honestly, Star Trek can survive without Chris Hemsworth. The role can be easily recast or the story can be tossed out in favor of  new one. But can Trek survive without Pine? Sure it can, one thing the Star Trek TV spinoffs proved is that Star Trek is much more than James T. Kirk and Spock and McCoy. It is possible to have Spock as the lead character, maybe do a role reversal of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and have the Enterprise crew searching instead for Kirk. In the end, Pine may wind up reprising his role one more time and the film will be another hurrah for the Kelvinverse Enterprise crew, which is fine since the reboot films have their merits.

Or Paramount can be even bolder and go with a new set of characters or jump ahead into the future and feature the Kelvinverse version of the Next Generation or DS9 crews. Frankly, it is probably time to take a new approach to the Star Trek films and the current cast will get more expensive, have a higher profile these days and may want to move onto other venues. While recasting the Enterprise crew may be an easy out for the film studio, what would generate more interest and maybe bring back disenchanted fans might be to go with a new set of characters and situations. After all, the Star Trek universe is infinite and true fans would welcome this approach if done correctly.

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Star Trek: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, Part Two

classic-trek

Here we are celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, a milestone that many doubted would ever be reached. For good reason, Gene Roddenberry’s phenomenal TV show about Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the starship Enterprise should have been forgotten after it was cancelled after three seasons. However, Star Trek was special, it was more than weird, low-budget sci-fi trappings with empty fisticuffs. Star Trek concentrated on ideas, social commentary and characters. As long as each incarnation of Star Trek stuck to these core ideals it clicked with the general public and fans. But as with everything, Star Trek went through cycles and sometimes lost sight of what made it so reverential. Aside from the cancellation of the original series where fans went through a decade-long drought without any live-action fixes, another dark period happened more recently.

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Oddly enough, Star Trek started to burn out and lose its edge story and character wise when it was at its peak in the mid ’90s. There was a feeling of overkill as Paramount Studios was all too eager to cash in Trek’s popularity. The show that suffered from this the most was Star Trek: Voyager with its formulaic scripts. Before the third spinoff was created, there was some griping about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because it was considered too dark and strayed too far from what was perceived to be the core of Star Trek: exploring the universe in a spaceship. Due to these complaints and because Paramount wanted to milk the cash cow, a new spinoff was created that went back to the old spaceship formula for its new TV network UPN. Star Trek: Voyager was lauded for having Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), as the franchise’s first lead woman character and for its basic premise of a lost Starfleet ship making its way back home, but apart from that the show had creative problems. It felt too similar to Star Trek: The Next Generation with familiar stock characters. What was worse, were the predictable stories that were riddled with plot holes. Why was the ship so pristine looking every week? We wanted to see the actual ordeal of being stranded and away from support. It didn’t feel realistic, especially with the way they always defeated the super-powerful Borg whenever they showed up. Still, Star Trek: Voyager had its highlights, particularly Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), an ex-Borg who filled in the Spock/outsider role.

By the time Star Trek: Voyager concluded its run and Enterprise premiered in 2001, the franchise was undeniably creaky and tired. The film series were now bringing in less and less profits, seemed listless and unfortunately, Enterprise suffered from the same problems. On paper, Enterprise had potential; the adventures of the very first starship Enterprise commanded by Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew as the first humans to voyage to the Final Frontier. The prequel/spinoff instead of truly exploring the foundation of the Star Trek universe literally recycled plots from Star Trek: The Next Generation and when it didn’t the stories were uninspired. Simply put, it did not feel fresh and relied too heavily on the trappings of the Star Trek universe. For instance, transporter technology was supposed to be largely untested, yet all too quickly the scriptwriters relied on it to get our heroes out of jams.

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The show’s creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga tried jumpstarting the show in the third season, added Star Trek to the title, and created a season-long arc about a mission to save Earth from destruction by aliens. The storyline divided many fans who felt it was too violent and dark versus others who thought the moral dilemmas and high stakes were what the show needed. No matter where one stood in the argument it was clear that this version of Star Trek was influenced by current events, in this case 9/11.

 

It was only in the final season did the show find its moorings and actually became a true prequel, but it was too late. Just as with its ancestor, the original Star Trek, Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled in 2005 because of low ratings. The film series quietly died also after Star Trek: Nemesis flopped in 2002. The general consensus was that the property was completely mined out and devoid of any new material. Many felt that unlike previous lulls and failures that it was time to let the franchise rest. As Star Trek approached its 40th anniversary it seemed as if it was truly gone for good because of a lack of any initiative to develop new material let alone celebrate the anniversary.

Star Trek 2.0: Dormancy & Rebirth

That perception is not entirely accurate. Although there wasn’t any new Star Trek content, it did live on. The merchandising, while not as prevalent as in the past, helped. Another shot in the arm were the numerous fan films that carried the torch for the original crew. It’s true the production values and acting weren’t quite up there with professional productions, but it was clear that these films were lovingly made and some of them are actually impressive. At the same time, Paramount (and later CBS Studios) tried to create new films and TV shows. For instance, one film was called Star Trek: The Beginning and would’ve taken place during the Romulan War and featured Kirk’s ancestor, Tiberius Chase. Sadly, the script never went anywhere. Others pitched ideas for new TV shows including one that would’ve taken place in the far future in the aftermath of a galactic catastrophe that crippled the Federation. However, all those developments went by the wayside when Paramount hired J.J. Abrams to reboot the franchise with a new film.

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2009’s Star Trek retold the story of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the original Enterprise crew. But now they were played by much younger actors and the entire Trek universe received an updated makeover. On the whole, the film and its sequels were a faster paced, action oriented version of Star Trek. The first rebooted film was a huge box office success and many loved it. The problem, which became more obvious in later films, is that these films were catering to non-fans who wouldn’t show the same brand loyalty as regular Star Trek fans. With an emphasis on quick action shots and explosive special effects, the three most recent films alienated many traditional fans who likened the new films as Star Trek For Dummies. That perception crystalized when the ill-conceived trailer for Star Trek Beyond was released last year.

The trailer was clearly made for adrenaline junkies who crave the Fast and Furious films with its in-your-face action clips and an obnoxious Beastie Boys soundtrack. After the poor reception, Paramount let the bad feelings simmer for too long and cemented the feeling that Star Trek Beyond would be another loud and empty action porn bonanza. The film was actually more thoughtful and respectful to the essence of Star Trek, but the poor marketing ensured that it wasn’t as successful as the previous reboot films.

It is still too early to render a verdict on the reboots. It may be some time before the fervor dies down and we can all look upon them objectively. But as of now, many are decrying that the reboots are not real Star Trek and want a return to the original universe.

Fortunately, that is about to happen as Star Trek returns next year to the medium it is best suited for, television. The excitement building up over the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery only proves that Star Trek isn’t dead or fading from the public consciousness.

Star Trek: The Legacy

Other popular franchises may be getting more attention these days, but Star Trek has shown time and time again that it has appeal and staying power. The effect the film and TV series has had in pop culture is immeasurable. To dismiss the franchise at this point is foolish in light of its legacy, which is far spanning.

Star Trek helped make science fiction a mainstay in television and elevated the genre’s perception from low-brow, youth-oriented fare thanks to its imaginative and thoughtful episodes. That is why the original show (and Star Trek: The Next Generation) received Emmy Award nominations for best series. It helped lead other executives and networks to gamble more often on sci-fi series, some of which are stellar examples of the genre. But Star Trek has had more of a meaningful impact in our society.

WILLIAM SHATNER DEFOREST KELLY LEONARD NIMOY RODDENBERRY

As we celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, we should reflect on its greatest legacy which is how it inspired the world. There are countless accounts of how Star Trek had a positive influence among astronauts, doctors, engineers, scientists and everyday people like you and I. The show and its spinoffs helped us to learn not to fear the future but to embrace it. Thanks to Star Trek, many beneficial inventions like cell phones, 3D printers, medical scanners and more became a reality due to its fictional counterparts in Star Trek. More importantly, the show taught us about how to treat our fellow neighbors. Everyone knows how the show and its spinoffs were cultural  trailblazers with its focus on characters like Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Data (Brent Spiner), Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and the Doctor (Robert Picardo). They were outsiders who had trouble fitting into their society due to being different. Past episodes dealt with prejudice as their plights touched upon civil rights, tolerance, respect and looking past outer differences and into the character of the soul. This belief can best be exemplified by the Vulcan IDIC philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. This more perfect future society is beyond our reach today, but we are laying the groundwork to make Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision a reality someday.

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Star Trek will always be a part of our pop culture as it has been for the past 50 years. That is because it has so many aspects that are appealing to many different audiences. As long as Star Trek embraces its core roots, it will continue to live long and prosper. So may we all.

José Soto

Star Trek Beyond Pushes Past Other Treks In A Thrilling Ride

Star Trek Beyond poster

The latest Star Trek film, Star Trek Beyond, is unlike other Star Trek films, but shares many qualities of the best of them. It is a fun thrill ride that has heart and character development and takes audiences along into a grand adventure.

The way this film is different than other Trek films is that it takes place in deep space, nowhere near Earth and all the trappings of the Federation and nearby space. No Klingons, Romulans or other familiar trappings that have started to stifle Star Trek, even the reboot films. Star Trek Beyond feels completely original because it doesn’t try to ape lines and scenes from other films and in doing this the film feels very fresh and is the jolt that the franchise needs.

kirkAt the same time, this film pays respectful homage to the original Star Trek and especially Star Trek: Enterprise. To explain how would spoil too much of the film’s plot.  Star Trek Beyond takes place in the third year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is feeling burned out in his job and is thinking of taking on a new challenge. Soon after, the Enterprise arrives at this magnificent Starbase called Yorktown, which is more like a floating city or colony unbound by gravity. The scenes that show off the splendor of the Yorktown base are jaw dropping and is unlike anything seen in most films and bring to mind many literary sci-fi orbital cities.

Enterprise attacked by swarm

An alien woman in a spaceship arrives and asks for help rescuing her crew past a nearby nebula. The Enterprise is sent through the nebula and on the other side is attacked by swarm-like ships. Quickly, the small ships overwhelm the Enterprise and actually rip it apart. This forces Kirk to evacuate the ship and this splits up the main cast, who take refuge in a nearby planet. Separately, the bridge crew struggle to survive and stay one step ahead of the alien swarm. With most of the ship’s crew captured by the aliens on the planet, Kirk has to find a way to marshal his resources to free his people and defeat the aliens. Splitting up the main characters is a good move since they’re given their standout moments. An interesting thing to note is that the cast looks noticeably older now but fit the iconic roles better because of this factor. It is much easier to buy these actors as the characters they’re interpreting.

As usual, Karl Urban steals the film with his dead-on Jayla, Spock and McCoyimpersonation of the late DeForest Kelley doing Dr. McCoy. He gets most of the funniest lines and his scenes with Spock (Zachary Quinto) allow the two characters to bond and echo the classic banter between Kelley and Leonard Nimoy. Other stand out characters are Scotty (Simon Pegg) and his alien ally Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who rescues Scotty on the planet. Jayla is full of fire and is a breakout character in the Star Trek films. The villain in this film, the aliens’ leader Krall (Idris Elba), is one tough foe who is after an alien artifact that was on the Enterprise. But what makes him stand out is his backstory, which makes him one of the most unique Star Trek villains on film or TV.

On the whole, Star Trek Beyond is consistently fun to watch and goes a long way to validate the reboot in ways that the past two attempts did not.

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At the same time, the film took time out to have some quiet character related moments that add heart and nuance. It was very welcome and overall strikes a good balance with the flow of the film. Do not be put off by the first trailer which did not represent the film’s tone at all. Anyone involved with that trailer should not be allowed near another Trek film because of the way it gave the wrong impression about Star Trek Beyond. It needs repeat viewings to confirm that this is the best of the three reboot films and one of the better entries on the whole. After some shaky summer releases Star Trek Beyond is just what was needed. It’s a terrific and reverential way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary thanks to its characters, their interactions, and a non-stop sense of adventure.

José Soto

Star Trek Beyond: A Tale Of Two Trailers

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Late last night Paramount Studios released the second trailer for this summer’s Star Trek Beyond. In short, what a difference a second trailer makes! Many will remember that this past December the film studio premiered the highly anticipated first trailer for Star Trek Beyond. Star Trek fans were anxious to see how the Star Trek reboot would look like without J.J. Abrams directing it, instead it is helmed by Justin Lin who directed one of the Fast and Furious films.

To say the reaction was negative is the understatement of the year. The only film trailers that were more poorly received were the ones for Fant4stic and the Ghostbusters remake. “Sigh” We all knew the Star Trek Beyond trailer was garbage seconds into the trailer when the soundtrack started screeching out the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”. One has to wonder what genius in the Paramount marketing department thought it was a good idea to insert such an annoying hip hop song into a Star Trek film. Just because J.J. Abrams is supposedly messed up crewa huge Beastie Boys fan does not mean that a beloved film franchise has to be polluted with the obnoxious music. This was an early indicator that the Star Trek reboot was not going to be well received. The atrocities did not end there with the Star Trek trailer. It over-emphasized big explosions, meaningless fights, motorcycle stunts, and the result was that Star Trek Beyond looked like just another empty action film.

Understandably, the people behind Star Trek Beyond were flabbergasted at the negative response. Many of them like Simon Pegg and the director Justin Lin pleaded with fans to keep an open mind and that the film would be true to the spirit of Star Trek. For many Star Trek fans who felt disrespected already by the attempts to make Star Trek more “mainstream” these pleas were seen as signs that something was wrong with the film. It is incredible how the reactions to  Star Trek trailer have tainted the perception of the film.

Fortunately, the second Star Trek trailer for Star Trek Beyond is much more in line of what we expect from Star Trek. It evokes a sense of wonder and danger. It still has many money shots of explosions and fights but they are well balanced and the trailer actually makes sense because it lays out the film’s plot without giving away too much. From what can be seen the Enterprise is assigned to deep space and attacked by a swarm-like alien species. Captain Kirk is forced to order an evacuation and he has to find a way to reunite his scattered crew and take on the alien baddie. For once, if this is the plot, the story seems original and is something that the Star Trek reboot sorely needs: the chance to explore new paths and do something different instead of regurgitating old story lines and villains. What’s more is that the trailer actually does its job of making us curious and respecting the spirit of Star Trek. Plus, the shot of a starship that looks like an NX starship from Star Trek: Enterprise icing on the cake.

Congratulations Paramount, this new Star Trek Beyond trailer may not have completely rid the bad taste left by the first trailer (the continued usage of motorcycle shots only serves to remind us of the film’s attempts to appeal to the empty-action crowd), but it may have reignited interest in the latest Star Trek film entry.

Lewis T. Grove