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Should Star Trek 4 reboot the franchise again? It’s not a question we thought we’d be asking ourselves after three films in the modern cinematic iteration of Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction franchise, but given the current shape of things, that may very well be where this starship is headed. That’s because it’s looking increasingly likely that director Noah Hawley’s upcoming Star Trek film will boldly go somewhere new and that the current Enterprise crew may not be coming along on that journey.
The road to Star Trek 4 has been a circuitous one, with the fourthquel seemingly stranded in the final frontier known as development hell since 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. Things looked to be taking a turn for friendly federation space when S.J. Clarkson signed on to direct, but it was not to be. The project was shelved and S.J. Clarkson left to go helm the ill-fated Game of Thrones spinoff pilot.
Then, back in November, Noah Hawley boarded the starship to write and direct Star Trek 4. We haven't heard much about what the new director has in store for the movie, but Simon Pegg recently indicated that he didn’t think Hawley’s film would actually be a true Star Trek 4. Noah Hawley seemingly confirmed as much, telling The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast:
To call it Star Trek IV is kind of a misnomer. I have my own take on the franchise as a life-long fan.
In the podcast, Noah Hawley also indicated that he thought the film would have new cast members and that he didn’t know if any of Star Trek Beyond’s cast would return for his movie. Then, speaking at the TCAs, Noah Hawley said of his Star Trek movie:
This is a new beginning.
So although Noah Hawley’s statements have some ambiguity to them, it certainly seems like things are trending towards Star Trek 4 being some sort of break from the previous three films. Whether that means we’re getting a spinoff that takes place in the same universe, a film that hands things off to a new cast of characters or a total and complete reboot is unclear, but it definitely seems that a reboot of some sort is in the offing. But is that what we want? Should Star Trek 4 reboot the franchise again?
A Reboot Could Revitalize The Property
If Paramount Pictures is indeed looking to reboot Star Trek with Noah Hawley’s film, it isn’t hard to see why. The last film in the franchise, Star Trek Beyond, opened in July of 2016 to $59.2 million and went on to make $343.4 million worldwide on a budget of $185 million. Based on those numbers, the Star Trek franchise isn’t performing the way Paramount wants it to on the big screen, especially considering the sci-fi spectacle’s sizable budget.
Now, we can certainly quibble with the ‘why’ of it all. Many would argue that Star Trek Beyond’s relatively disappointing box office was in no way due to a lack of creative merit. The film boasts an 86% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and the A- CinemaScore indicates fairly positive audience sentiment as well. The more oft-cited culprits for Star Trek Beyond’s fate are its release date and the film’s marketing, as well as the lukewarm reception of Star Trek: Into Darkness.
But that doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, film executives are interested in the bottom line and not the nuances or excuses about why a film didn’t perform well. And regardless of the reason, it is unquestionably true that audiences were not interested enough in the third modern Star Trek film to make it a hit. That could reflect a feeling of boredom with the franchise and the reality that, for whatever reason, Star Trek isn’t connecting with audiences the way it should, as least when it comes to the movies.
In that case, shaking up the Star Trek franchise with a reboot of some sort that provides audiences with something new and something they haven’t seen before is absolutely an understandable call and quite possibly the right one.
There Is A Lot That Works About The Current Franchise
Sadly, while a reboot might be the most prudent business decision, it would rob audiences and Star Trek fans of all the things that work about the current franchise. While I know that Trekkie purists have had many issues with the more Star Wars-esque nature of the modern films and the lack of the science fiction elements that make Star Trek feel like Star Trek, there is still a lot to like, particularly the cast.
The actors that crew the Starship USS Enterprise, including Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho and, of course, the late Anton Yelchin, are positively delightful. Getting an ensemble like this that is this much fun, has such great chemistry and plays off each other so well is no easy thing, and it’s a real bummer that we may lose that when it feels like we’ve just scratched the surface of the adventures they can have together.
The cast has generally indicated they’d be down to return for Star Trek 4 as well. These Star Trek films may not be working as well as they maybe should be or need to be, but it seems a shame to throw the baby out with the bathwater after one miss at the box office when some more conservative retooling might do the trick.
That said, the cast has seemingly been one of the primary impediments to Star Trek 4 actually getting off the ground.
A Reboot May Be Unavoidable
For quite a while, the prevailing wisdom was that Star Trek 4 would bring back Chris Hemsworth’s George Kirk for a time travel adventure that would team him up with his son, Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk. But when the both actors walked away from the project, that version of the film fell apart. When Noah Hawley was brought on board to direct, the reports indicated that the film would continue the story of the Kevlin Timeline with the existing crew, including Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk. So it would seem that something was worked out to bring Pine back into the fold, but there are no guarantees.
If Chris Pine actually didn’t sign on to star in Noah Hawley’s Star Trek,and the issues that saw him drop out of the project in the first place remain, a reboot may be unavoidable. It’s difficult to move forward with Star Trek 4 without Chris Pine, especially considering that Star Trek Beyond didn’t hand things off and set up the character’s exit.
I tend to think that the rest of the cast is strong and entertaining enough that a good script could make Star Trek 4 work without Chris Pine, but it would be challenging. And as the face of this iteration of the franchise, losing Chris Pine is far from ideal. It’s unclear if that’s exactly the situation Star Trek 4 faces or why Noah Hawley has said what he’s said, but it is worth considering.
A Blank Slate Could Yield Amazing Results
The other argument for a total reboot with Star Trek 4 is simply to allow Noah Hawley the freedom to execute his vision onscreen. Noah Hawley’s feature directorial debut, Lucy in the Sky, was a huge miss critically and at the box office, but that’s not necessarily reflective of his talent. Noah Hawley has created some incredible, visionary and innovative stuff on TV with his FX shows Fargo and Legion.
Given that, it would be nice to see Noah Hawley have a blank canvas to start from scratch and create something entirely new, and not be shackled to the past by having to adhere to the tenets of the existing cast or canon. And it is entirely possible that his vision simply is not compatible with the Kelvin Timeline or its crew.
That would be especially interesting considering that Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek film, which seems very unlikely to happen now (at least not with Tarantino directing) was seemingly going to use the existing cast. Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek would be R-rated, and given the director’s sensibilities, you’d have to think that it would be a major shift in terms of tone and content from the previous three films in the Kelvin Timeline. And yet, it seems like even that hypothetical film would not have rebooted the property.
So as much as there is to love about the current cast and the three films thus far, there is a lot to be curious about with Noah Hawley’s vision for the franchise. And if Star Trek is rebooted, we have a solid trilogy of films with a great cast to look back on and appreciate.
Ultimately, there are a lot of unknowns about both Noah Hawley’s Star Trek and everything else going on with the franchise on the big screen. Maybe Hawley’s film is a spinoff set in the same timeline, but using different characters, and it’s still possible to get a proper Star Trek 4 using the existing cast. Maybe both things can exist simultaneously. Plus, Quentin Tarantino believes that Paramount will make the Star Trek movie based on his idea, even though he has no intention of directing.
I don’t know if it’s the right approach, but it would be somewhat interesting to see Paramount emulate DC and just sort of focus less on a series of films and instead on exciting visions from different filmmakers, even if they don’t fit with one another.
So should Star Trek 4 reboot the franchise again? My instinct is to say no, at least not yet. I like this cast and the current iteration, and a total reboot seems a bit premature. However, without knowing what lies in the undiscovered country of Noah Hawley’s imagination, it’s impossible to say what potential outcome I prefer. Basically, we’re in uncharted space with the Star Trek cinematic franchise, and where the USS Enterprise heads next is anyone’s guess.
Star Trek 4 does not have a release date, but the small screen (where the franchise excels) sees the release of the new series Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access on January 23. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to keep track of what’s coming to theaters this year and let us know in the poll below what you think should happen with Star Trek.