Star Trek on the big screen would appear to be on life support, which leaves the question whether the Kelvin Timeline can be rescued.
When Paramount made the decision to reboot the Star Trek film franchise after the failure of Star Trek: Nemesis, fans grumbled and made some noise about it, but not nearly as much as some would expect. That may be because deep down they knew that Star Trek needed a shot of energy and a fresh look.
The result was 2009’s Star Trek, directed by JJ Abrams and starring a whole new group of actors taking on the iconic roles of James Kirk, Mr. Spock and Bones McCoy. And while some decried the fact it felt more like Star Wars than Star Trek, there can be no argument that the film was a hit.
Star Trek would go on to earn $385 million worldwide and earn a whole new generation of Trek fans, many of whom didn’t really care about the original show it was based on. Paramount officially titled the reboot films the Kelvin Timeline, named after George Kirk’s ship, in order to differentiate it from the original films and television shows.
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Unfortunately, that good will didn’t last long. While the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness would go on to earn $467 million and become the highest-grossing entry in the history of the franchise, many found it inferior to the first film. Then came 2016’s Star Trek Beyond, which despite earning over $340 million at the box office was considered a disappointment due to the high production cost.
Which brings us to Star Trek 4 and a very uncertain future.
Reports of a story for the fourth film involving time travel and James Kirk reuniting with his father George Kirk have been circulating since Star Trek Beyond opened, but it would appear that might not happen. Both Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk, and Chris Hemsworth, who played his father in Star Trek, have both walked away from the franchise over money issues. The there is director Quentin Tarantino and rumors he wants to make a film that may or may not become Star Trek 4. This despite S.J. Clarkson officially being named the director for the project back in April of this year.
Throw in the death of Anton Yelchin, who portrayed Pavel Chekov, the soft box office returns for Beyond and the reemergence of Trek on television with Star Trek: Discovery and many fans feel it may be time to just let the Kelvin Timeline die and be done with it.
Which would be a massive mistake.
Despite what many fans might think, there is a place in the world for two different version of Star Trek. While Discovery and soon Star Trek: Picard may take a more classic and cerebral approach to storytelling, a version more focused on action and spectacle is not a bad thing. It will appeal to an entirely different type of science-fiction fan and would do nothing but help grow Star Trek beyond what some might consider its limited fanbase.
So how do you save the Kelvin Timeline films? Three words: Shared Cinematic Universe.
Since this is a reboot and not the original, there is nothing saying that the films have to focus on Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise. Over the decades there have been plenty of other Starships with other captains. You can be sure that some of them had some pretty wild adventures while exploring the final frontier.
First you bring in a new cast with lower salaries because that will help keep the costs down. You sign them all to multi-picture deals and plan out a trilogy or more of films, similar to what Marvel has done with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And then you go off and make some awesome Star Trek movies. Then, if Pine and Hemsworth change their minds and want to return, you can actually have two different Star Trek film series going at once. Release one movie or so a year around the holidays and guaranteed you would have a hit on your hands.
And to those who want nothing to do with the Kelvin Timeline films because they aren’t “true” Star Trek, just don’t go see them. There are plenty of fans who adore the reboot movies and would love nothing more than for the series to continue.
Star Trek will never be as huge as other franchises in theaters such as Star Wars and the Marvel films. But there is no reason they can’t be profitable for the studio and enjoyable to watch at the same time. Hopefully Paramount will realize this and won’t give up on the Kelvin Timeline just yet.