Saturday, March 14, 2015

Where The Star Trek Franchise Should Go Next

A while back, I wrote an article about shared universes, in which I noted a bunch of proposed shared cinematic universes (such as one commissioned by Sony revolving around Robin Hood) made me weary of the craze and hoping lackluster shared universes would die out. But notice that I mention lackluster; shared universes aren't bad inherently, and as Marvel and Star Wars have shown, can bring in untold possibilities from a storytelling perspective. Frankly, I felt like I should have emphasized that more in my original editorial, as I didn't want to come off as dismissive of an entire form of storytelling (when the usually incredible website The Dissolve did a surprisingly snooty takedown of cinematic universes, it burned my cinders, I just didn't want to make that same mistake).

So why do I bring up such a an element of storytelling today? Because I feel like a cinematic universe is an excellent place to take the rebooted Star Trek franchise. This series of films is is an interesting place, as it hasn't really tanked per se, but it is in desperate need of a boost. It got that sort of creative jolt from 2009's Star Trek, a feature I unabashedly love. That's a movie that manages to be wall-to-wall fun without ever sacrificing characterization, with the members of the Enterprise (like Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura and Scotty) embracing the personality traits that made them pop culture mainstays whilst adding notable depth to those characters.

Everything from the directing to especially the casting (Karl Urban was born to play Bones!) impressed me, and made me eager to see where these characters would go next. But despite four years between the first and second film, Star Trek Into Darkness felt like a rushed endeavor. I like it better than probably 95% of the internet, but I certainly am more critical of it than I was upon my original viewing, especially when it comes to the last 25 minutes or so, when gratuitous action sequences and moments of yelling "KAAAAAAAHHNNNN" just felt shoehorned in.

The cast was still strong, with their engaging dynamic resulting in a number of memorable moments, and Benedict Cumberbatch made for a formidable foe. It was far from bad, but Star Trek Into Darkness felt similar to Iron Man 2, a feature I consider superior to STID, but at the same time, I feel the two share some notable flaws, namely in having their stories lack focus. Both movies are fun to watch, and are never grueling experiences, but they do feel underwhelming compared to their immediate predecessors.

With Star Trek 3 on the horizon (it'll be released on July 8, 2016), with Justin Lin directing and Simon Pegg writing, now is the time to take things in a new direction for the franchise. Paramount needs to embrace the methods of the cinematic universe, because man alive, could it work for this particular series. How would they embrace it you query? Well, first off, get a deal with Netflix to make a 13 episode TV show about a new Starfleet crew set in the same universe as these new Star Trek movies. Spock and Kirk don't have to be in it, but their names and adventures can be referenced, and members of this new crew can even have cameo appearances in forthcoming movies.

Speaking of forthcoming movies, I have a hunch one reason Paramount hired Justin Lin of all people to helm the newest Star Trek movie is that they want him to make this newest Star Trek adventure the Fast Five of the franchise. In other words, just like how Fast Five to the Fast & Furious gang to new box office and creative heights, make this next Star Trek venture the one that really helps the series break out. Since Lin handled that particular F&F adventure, I'm sure the studio is confident he can get the series back on track.

I would say take another cue from those recent Fast & Furious movies and make the sequels more connected. Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 have a distinct beginning, middle and end as individual movies, but events from past movies do have an effect on current adventures, and advertisements for Furious 7 indicate that trend will continue in the next film. Try out that kind of storytelling tactic for the next Star Trek movie; have a story that works as a self contained entity, but that could directly lead to further adventures in further movies or that aforementioned TV show. Attempt to shorten the length between movies whenever possible (since Memorial Day 2018 is still open, I'd suggest Paramount snatch up that May 25, 2018 spot lickity-split), and of course, make sure scripts are more air-tight, and I have a hunch the Star Trek cinematic universe could result in the kind of quality I experienced back when I watched 2009's Star Trek voyage.

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