Captain, I suggest we go to Red Alert. We’re detecting signs of a very bad idea just off the starboard bow.
Famed director Quentin Tarantino has apparently set himself on a collision course with the Star Trek franchise, according to a report by Deadline. The Holywood trade site says Tarantino is keen to direct a Trek film and has discussed his idea with Trek producer J.J. Abrams; the pair are reportedly at the stage of assembling a writer’s room.
Is this likely to actually pan out in the long run? Possibly. Tarantino does know his Trek, and he and Abrams have worked together before (Tarantino guest-starred on Alias). Should it? Hell no.
Everyone has their own take on Tarantino, an unusually divisive filmmaker. Mine has cooled over the years as the director has done little but double down on his “blood-soaked revenge played for tense laughs” trope. I loved Reservoir Dogs when I first saw it; by the time I saw its warehouse standoff remade in cowboy cosplay as Hateful 8, I rolled my eyes.
But the one thing you can’t deny about Tarantino is that the worldview revealed through his movies is profoundly cynical. Might always makes right; if the good guys win, it’s because they were more violent than the bad guys and indulged their basest instincts.
Think of the scalp-taking soldiers of Inglourious Basterds — the lesson from that movie is torture is justified if the subject is sick and evil. Now imagine men in Federation uniforms scalping the Klingons.
This is total “darkest timeline” stuff. We’re officially in the mirror universe.
If there is a mindset further opposite of that of Gene Roddenberry, the man who created Star Trek, I can’t think of it.
Roddenberry was a profoundly hopeful believer in the essential goodness of man. Star Trek was founded in the notion that utopia is inevitable, given enough time. By the 23rd century of the show, disease, poverty, racism and all internal human strife has disappeared.
Roddenberry was a profoundly hopeful believer in the essential goodness of man
Replicators provide everything we could want, so money is unnecessary. There’s nothing left to fight over. That’s why the show and its heirs have almost always focused on the final frontier and humanity’s desire to come to terms with “strange new life” — because back on Earth, life is wonderfully perfect and dull.
Roddenberry took this notion too far in his later years, and the writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation chafed under his dictum that there shouldn’t ever be any conflict among the crew of the Enterprise. Still, the desire was to make the show a beacon of hope and reason, and this desire led to one of the best series on television.
Picard and his crew were truly noble, a word that seems to have fallen out of favor since then. They were thoughtful. They were just. They did things by the book and you could look up to them for that.
Star Trek is at its best when it embraces that nobility, and divides fans when it doesn’t. After Abrams rebooted Star Trek, in the appropriately named Into Darkness, we saw a Captain Kirk whose traditional hot-headedness had spilled over into smiting his enemies for the sake of smiting.
The almost-as-disappointing Star Trek Beyond handed the franchise to Justin Lin, who took it even further into action movie territory. Tarantino would seem to confirm the downward trend, drowning Star Trek in buckets of green blood.
But is that really what we need in 2017? When the planet seems further away than ever from a utopian future, don’t we need visions of that utopian future more urgently than ever? When the most powerful man in the world is a study in lawlessness, Tarantino’s self-interested anti-heroes are a galaxy away from the kind of idealism we miss in our movies.
Perhaps Tarantino wants to try something new; perhaps he wants to surprise us. Trek does have a way of rehabilitating cynical Hollywood men at the midlife crisis stage; just look at Seth Macfarlane’s surprisingly earnest Next Generation homage, The Orville.
But really, if Paramount and Abrams really want to try something new and edgy, how about this radical idea: pick an actual woman director for the next film. Given that Tarantino admitted that he ignored many direct warning signs about Harvey Weinstein for decades, he is doubly the wrong man at the wrong time for the right franchise.
Star Trek can help usher in a utopia of representation behind the scenes as well as on the screen. Please, Paramount, make it so.