Star Trek 4 could finally reconnect the movie and TV canons
What happened to all that post-Beyond momentum?
After the theatrical release of Star Trek Beyond in July 2016, Paramount and Bad Robot immediately announced that a sequel was coming. Back then, we were told that Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) would be reunited with his father, George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) and we all got excited about some time travel possibilities that would reunite these famous cinematic Chrises and Kirks.
But then... nothing happened. Four years later, the future of Star Trek on TV is bright and fairly clear, while the future of the movies remains murkier than the Mutara Nebula. But now that a complicated merger status has settled down with CBS and Paramount, it's possible those Trek movie plans have come full circle. According to a few people who know a thing or two about Trek movies — Jonathan Frakes and Zachary Quinto — it's seeming likely another Kelvin universe sequel will be the next Trek movie. Here's what's going on, and what it all might mean.
What is the status of the next Star Trek movie?
The short answer to this is: nobody in the public knows. In a recent interview, Spock actor Zachary Quinto said "I'm like the last person to find anything out," but also has been very clear that he believes that the entire reboot cast would return for another film if asked. Prior to the nothing we have right now, there have been several different Star Trek feature film projects in the works since 2016. Those include:
- A sequel to Beyond starring the Kelvin crew, and possibly the return of Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk.
- A possible Kelvin-universe sequel directed by S. J. Clarkson
- A gritty R-rated Star Trek film directed by Quentin Tarantino.
- A new film directed by Noah Hawley with new characters.
As of right now none of these projects are being actively pursued. The Clarkson film was put on hold years ago, the Tarantino project is supposedly dead, and Hawley said that his movie is "in stasis."
So, what's the best bet for a new Star Trek movie?
According to a new interview with Jonathan Frakes at TrekMovie, the most likely route for a new Trek feature would be the Beyond sequel starring Chris Hemsworth. "Well, that’s probably the one that has the most hope of being made first because there’s already an audience." But, Frakes said that if he had his preference that he would encourage Paramount to pick either the Tarantino project or the Noah Hawley project. "I'd say greenlight the Tarantino and Noah Hawley if you are lucky enough to get either of them. And if they are too busy to direct, I’ll be available."
To be clear, Frakes is working closely with the new Trek TV shows (Picard, Discovery and Strange New Worlds) so he doesn't actually have any inside information about the new film. (Or at least none that he is revealing.) But, because he did direct two Star Trek films, and is good friends with J.J. Abrams, it seems like if there's anyone who is a decent canary-in-the-turbolift shaft about the future of Trek in cinema, it would be Number One himself.
TrekMovie also describes the Chris Hemsworth-centric sequel as "apparently the front runner again."
Why a return to the Kelvin Universe could unify Trek
One reason why the Chris Hemsworth-centric Star Trek movie might make sense right now is that it could be a unique opportunity to reunify the canons of the reboot movies and TV shows. To put it simply, if George Kirk is brought back to life, you could change the timeline of the Kelvin Universe to make it closer to the Prime Universe canon. If this kind of thing happened, then Star Trek have its own version of Flashpoint or Crisis On Infinite Earths. If the timeline of the Kelvin Universe changes again thanks to Jim Kirk's dad coming back to life, then the door is open for all sorts of interesting crossovers.
This isn't to say that Star Trek would do away with the Kelvin Universe altogether, but if a time-travel film altered that universe significantly, then suddenly you could get away with Ethan Peck's Spock meeting Zachary Quinto's Spock, just like you had multiple Supermen during the big Arrowverse Crisis On Infinite Earths.
With the exception of The Wrath of Khan, the most popular Trek movies always involve time travel — The Voyage Home, First Contact, and Star Trek 2009. If Trek is going to return with a new film, and revisit the super-popular Kelvin timeline Enterprise crew, then it makes sense there will be time travel shenanigans. And where there's time travel, there's a chance for crossovers. Anything could happen right now, but if the next Trek film does boldly try to do time travel again, we could be looking at another, brand-new Star Trek canon. Again.