“Star Trek” is a franchise that has always been defined by its television, where it and its spin-offs set the standard that almost every science-fiction series has had to compare themselves to for the past five decades.
Cinema, on the other hand, is where “Star Trek” has stumbled. Rather than doubling down on its uniqueness, it all too often has tried to emulate other cinematic properties from the “2001”-esque first film to the more “Star Wars”-copying mold of the J.J. Abrams era.
The films that have worked best are those that have gone for something different – a twist on “Moby Dick” with ‘Wrath of Khan’, a fish-out-of-water time travel comedy with ‘Voyage Home’, and an Agatha Christie conspiracy thriller romp with ‘Undiscovered Country’.
While the TV part of the franchise is thriving right now with “Star Trek: Discovery” and the upcoming “Star Trek: Picard” amongst others, the film part has stalled and a proposed fourth ‘reboot’-era entry looks to have collapsed. The hiring of Quentin Tarantino to do the next one could be the fresh blood it needs, and in an extensive interview with Deadline he says now is the perfect time to do it as the studio is open to a radical overhaul.
Tarantino has never played in an established film franchise before, but for him part of the big appeal is that ‘Trek’ comes with both the name recognition and comfortable familiarity, but no real restrictions in terms of formula or structure as he would have with a franchise that has locked in and hands-on producers along with more rigid formulas such as Bond, Star Wars, or the MCU. Thus he can play around with it, which includes making it R-rated:
“I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal but if I’m going to do it, then I’m going to do it my way. If you’ve seen my nine movies, you kind of know my way is an R-rated way and a way that is without certain restrictions. So that goes part and parcel. I think it would be more controversial if I said I’m going to do a PG movie and it’s going to fit exactly in the universe. It’s not me. What the f–k am I doing? I mean I didn’t even do that when I did that CSI episode
…As long as Paramount likes the idea and the script they almost got nothing to lose right now when it comes to Star Trek. Deadpool showed that you can rethink these things, do them in a different way. So really, even before JJ knew what the idea was, his feeling was, if it wants to be an R rating, fine. If it wants to be the Wild Bunch in space, fine.
Unlike Abrams who was a Trek neophyte going into his first film, Tarantino is a big ol’ Trekkie who admits he likes Star Trek more than Star Wars and a big part of the appeal is William Shatner’s performance as James T. Kirk which he dubs: “one of the greatest performances in the history of episodic television, of a series lead, and rightly so, because very few series leads have ever gotten the opportunity to play all the different wild, crazy things.” He was also asked the million-dollar question that everyone wants to know. Will he direct it? He replied:
“I will say one thing about Star Trek that I’ve been waiting for someone to bring up. I don’t know if I’ll do it or not. I’ve got to figure it out, but Mark wrote a really cool script. I like it a lot. There’s some things I need to work on but I really, really liked it.
I get annoyed at Simon Pegg. He doesn’t know anything about what’s going on and he keeps making all these comments as if he knows about stuff. One of the comments he said, he’s like ‘Well, look, it’s not going to be Pulp Fiction in space.’ Yes, it is! [laughs hard]. If I do it, that’s exactly what it’ll be. It’ll be Pulp Fiction in space.
That Pulp Fiction-y aspect, when I read the script, I felt, I have never read a science fiction movie that has this s–t in it, ever. There’s no science fiction movie that has this in it. And they said, I know, that’s why we want to make it. It’s, at the very least, unique in that regard… There is a gangster element to what we’re doing with the Star Trek thing that works out pretty good.”
Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is in cinemas next Friday. The proposed “Star Trek” film does not currently have any production timetable.