Star Trek Beyond is just over a month away, but the second man to play Captain Kirk on the big screen has kicked off a very passionate debate about whether the cinematic Star Trek franchise can ever be “cerebral” again.
TrekMovie was the first to note Chris Pine’s comments to SFX Magazine during a new interview for Star Trek Beyond: “You can’t make a cerebral Star Trek in 2016. It just wouldn’t work in today’s marketplace. You can hide things in there – Star Trek Into Darkness has crazy, really demanding questions and themes, but you have to hide it under the guise of wham-bam explosions and planets blowing up. It’s very, very tricky.”
Well, he’s right about one thing. Any cerebral elements in Star Trek Into Darkness were really well hidden. Has anyone found them yet? As for the rest of his argument, Pine’s…less than right. When you think about what has kept Star Trek alive all these years, it would seem that young Kirk, cool as he may be onscreen, misses the point.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is often used as the justification for the dumbing down of Trek. It’s a ponderous, slow-moving, and even boring movie at times. The fanbase wasn’t necessarily happy with that film, but Star Trek: The Motion Picture was not some box office failure. Of the original films, only Star Trek IV made more money.
If Pine’s argument were that Star Trek: The Motion Picture couldn’t be made today, then he’d be absolutely correct. But considering the fact that Star Trek Into Darkness lifted so much from Star Trek II, it’s amazing that the cast and crew seemed to learn none of the lessons from that flick. Many fans and Trek historians correctly believe that Star Trek II saved the franchise with an exciting story, a great returning villain, a very powerful death for Spock, and even a thoughtful subplot about Captain Kirk facing his mortality. Even 30-plus years later, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who could convincingly say that Star Trek II was a boring movie that couldn’t be made today! Yet somehow, Into Darkness failed to recapture the original story’s best qualities and it felt empty by comparison.
Action does matter. We’re not saying that “wham-bam explosions and planets blowing up” don’t have an important part in Star Trek films. But they can’t be the only reasons for the audience to show up. Because frankly, in a world where Christopher Nolan made blockbusters out of Inception and Interstellar, you can’t tell us that audiences won’t go to a movie that makes them think. Not everyone is as skilled as Nolan, but he’s not the only director out there with ambition. With the right story and the right person behind the camera, the Star Trek films could still bring together the Best of Both Worlds (pun totally intended). It can still be a space action franchise that has deeper ideas beneath the spectacle.
To be fair to Pine, he’s trying to say that Star Trek Beyond will explore something more than just the survival of the Enterprise and its crew. During the SFX interview, Pine added that “the question that our movie poses is ‘Does the Federation mean anything?’ And in a world where everybody’s trying to kill one another all of the time, that’s an important thing. Is working together important? Should we all go our separate ways? Does being united against something mean anything?”
Nothing would make us happier than to see Star Trek Beyond deliver on that promise. And if it can’t, then hope is not lost for Trekkers. Bryan Fuller and Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer are working on a new Star Trek series for next year. If anyone can make the franchise cerebral again, it’s them.
Do you agree with Pine’s argument about cerebral Trek films? Or should Star Trek directors strive to do more with the franchise? Beam down your thoughts to the comment section below!
Image: Paramount Pictures