Word of new Quentin Tarantino movies brings to mind one kind of moviegoing experience, while word of new Star Trek movies brings with it the suggestion of an entirely different kind of experience. The two of them coming together is kind of mind-blowing — though, not necessarily in a good way.
Think of the movie Superman III — and the notion of the Man of Steel sharing the big-screen with the hottest comedian in the world at the time, Richard Pryor, would be a good one. Separately they were great. Together? Not so much.
Last week, Deadline reported that Quentin Tarantino was in talks with Paramount Pictures and producer J.J. Abrams about directing the next Star Trek movie, the first since 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. And then, in a second report, the site noted that things were picking up steam, with the scripting frontrunner being Mark L. Smith, co-writer of Leonard Dicaprio’s The Revenant, and that Abrams and Paramount had both signed off on the director’s insistence that he be allowed to shoot an R-rated Trek.
That’s everything we know so far, with the exception of the fact that, while speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Patrick Stewart, Captain Jean Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation, would welcome the chance to be involved.
“One of my dreams is to work with Tarantino,” explains Stewart. “I admire his work so much, and to be in a Tarantino film would give me so much satisfaction. So, if he is going to direct something to do with Star Trek and there was the possibility of dear old Jean-Luc showing up again and doing that for Mr. Tarantino, I would embrace it.”
But would it really be that embraceable? More importantly, would it be Star Trek? Look, there’s no denying what Tarantino brings to the table — a camera that is a character within itself, a kinetic energy and sense of movement that few others are able to duplicate, and character interactions that are dynamic, oftentimes filled with humor and punctuated with 'WTF?' dialogue. And it would certainly give the franchise a very different, and likely innovative, vibe, which is what everyone wants in their entertainment, but the price of that innovation could cost Star Trek its soul.
Now, it needs to be said that, we don't take the view of many fans of the franchise that all changes are bad ones. We were fine with Abrams and writers/producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman rebooting the film series in 2009 by creating an alternate timeline that allowed for brand new adventures — Star Trek Into Darkness being something of a remake of The Wrath of Khan not withstanding — without sacrificing canon. And, we definitely had no problem whatsoever with the latest television series, Star Trek: Discovery, featuring technology and a general look that is far beyond what existed on the original show, particularly considering that that show premiered over half a century ago. For that reason alone, updating is necessary. But, just as necessary, is maintaining its core essence.
It’s a cliché at this point, but when Star Trek premiered back in 1966 — and the reason that it triggered a pop culture and social phenomenon throughout the 1970s — it brought to life the vision of Gene Roddenberry of a future in which humanity had overcome much of its divisiveness. People of all genders and races were united, and not so much against a common enemy, but rather in a unified belief in what we could be. With the real world surrounding that vision falling apart all around them (Vietnam, race riots, high-profile assassinations, Watergate and the collapse of our government belief system soon to occur), the viewer was given hope in a time of seeming hopelessness. Star Trek not only said that we would make it to the future, but that we would thrivethere.
It’s a message that would continue in the five spin-off series (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise and, now, Discovery) and to varying degrees of success in 13 feature films. It’s also the thing that has separated Star Trek from most other science fiction franchises, offering optimism in place of dystopia. And an optimism we’re in desperate need of today.
Look at the headlines. With each passing day, it feels as though we’re inching closer to a nuclear confrontation with North Korea; hell, as these words are being written, a short time ago a mechanical malfunction was the only thing standing in the way of an allegedly ISIS-inspired suicide bomber and true disaster in New York City. Race relations, despite our so-called progressive times, are at a terrible low. More and more, we’re reminded of how women are being marginalized by those in power as we see rampant sexual harassment in Hollywood, politics and the work place in general. Everywhere we turn, it feels like the structures and mores of civilized society are splintering apart, and there is a growing sense of helplessness.
Admittedly, that’s a hell of a lot to place on the shoulders of what is, and remains to be, an entertainment TV show turned film series, and maybe it’s too much to ask. But the truth is, Star Trekwas tackling all of those things at a time when many people weren’t even aware that these were the questions being asked, or that many of the answers were actually within ourselves. It’s a concept that is effectively captured in this clip from the original series episode “A Taste Of Armageddon,” which takes on the fact that we are a race that is filled with dark impulses, but impulses we’re capable of fighting against.
Is Quentin Tarantino capable of delivering a Star Trek adventure that captures the concept’s basic tenets? The fact that he's been given the green light for an R-rated adventure already suggests that his will be a subversive take, filled with violence, gore and (as prudish as it sounds) language that just doesn’t fit within what Trek has always been. However it all plays out, there's one inescapable fact, though: the final frontier is never going to be the same.