The Real Reason Star Trek 4 Was Canceled


The Star Trek franchise returned to the silver
screen with its highly successful 2009 reboot of the same name, but a decade later, the
whole series seems to be stuck in limbo. But just how did it all go so wrong, so fast? Part of the beauty of the Star Trek universe
is how many different takes, visions, and ideas fans are able to see applied to the
classic Wagon-Train-in-space formula. Over the decades, many different people have
taken the helm, each with their own style of cinematography, concept of characterization,
and visual flair. Some love J.J. Abrams’ slick take on the Enterprise
and her inhabitants, while some prefer Gene Roddenberry’s original work, and others are
Deep Space Nine diehards. And the wonderful thing is that they can actually
coexist. Everyone has their favorite director, just
like everyone has their favorite captain. But there is a downside to this directorial
shuffling, and it’s part of the reason the films have run aground in the way that they
have. Star Trek 4 has changed hands more than once:
Quentin Tarantino and S.J. Clarkson were both rumored as directors at
various times, then a confusing pseudo-clarification was made stating that Clarkson’s movie would
be separate and released before Tarantino’s. Multiple writers and producers were named,
changed, and named again. No vision was ever truly able to coalesce
between any of these creators, and the fans had nothing to center their excitement around. “I can see no appeal in either option.” “Well believe it or not, neither can I.” Now the project has fallen apart entirely,
and no one is even really certain what might have been, since the film was never able to
settle around any one team or vision. It just proves the old adage right: you don’t
want too many captains on the bridge. 2009’s Star Trek was a box office smash as
well as a critical darling, garnering a solid little fandom of its own, full of fans who
were more than willing to see more of the Enterprise’s new adventures. The sequel, Into Darkness, was unable to recreate
the success of the first film, and constituted a step down for the franchise both critically
and commercially. But it wasn’t a real failure, and so the Hollywood
wheels kept turning, and Star Trek Beyond was released. This film was a further step downwards, since
it underperformed at the box office and ended up lost in the midst of its competitors. The writing was on the wall: Star Trek was
traveling a downward trajectory that showed no signs of changing course any time soon. A movie as great as that first Star Trek could
turn anything around, of course, but great movies aren’t easy to make, and evidently
the executives who hold the purse strings didn’t want to take a risk. Star Trek 4 was a gambit, and nobody could
guarantee that it would pay off. One thing that made the 2000s Trek movies
the successes they (mostly) were was the cast. Zachary Quinto as Spock brought new warmth
to the famously chilly Vulcan, Zoe Saldana was a quippy wonder as Lt. Uhura, and even
the smaller characters proved to be nothing less than outstanding. People love Star Trek for a lot of reasons,
but there’s a reason the debate always comes down to favorite captains: because fans are
ultimately in it for the characters. There’s no bigger personality on the Enterprise
than Captain Kirk, of course, and Chris Pine proved he could deliver an irresistible take
on the role. Pine’s charisma lit up the screen and became
a linchpin of the film’s success, but that ended up being a curse as much as it was a
blessing. Star Trek 4 endured months of rumors about
casting turmoil, and in August 2018, it was revealed that talks to secure Pine for the
project had fallen through. There’s no Star Trek without Kirk, and no
Kirk without Chris Pine. So now there’s no Star Trek at all. Back in 2009, Star Trek was in theaters, blowing
minds with its unique brand of brash, sassy science fiction adventure. But back then, the world wasn’t used to that
sort of thing. Iron Man was only a year old, and the scale
and depth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it exists today was still just a twinkle
in Kevin Feige’s eye. The idea of a talking raccoon with a tragic
backstory and a fondness for oversize weaponry was practically laughable. And no one even knew who Kylo Ren was yet. Geek had yet to become chic, and Star Trek
was pretty much the only game in town. Nowadays, however, everyone knows who Rocket
Raccoon is, and Saturday Night Live is making jokes about vibranium. “It’s locked! Maybe if you had some vibranium it would open.” “Say what?” Genre fiction, once maligned, now rules the
world, and Star Trek has been outstripped by Marvel, Star Wars, and all kinds of other
sci-fi/fantasy titans. Though the Star Trek sequels were hardly flops,
the reality is, they weren’t the smash hits they needed to be to keep up with the likes
of The Avengers and The Force Awakens. To be merely passable ended up being an unforgivable
sin in the eyes of the public…and now we’re all terrified of the First Order instead of
Klingons. Star Trek is a franchise that spans many mediums,
but its roots are in television, and likely always will be. In 2017, the franchise returned to its roots
with Star Trek: Discovery on the CBS All Access streaming service. Discovery begins roughly one decade before
the events of the original Star Trek, and follows the adventures of the crew of the
USS Discovery, led by anthropologist Michael Burnham. Though its run so far has been hamstrung by
what many see as a slow start and some wonky writing, reviews have trended upwards and
viewership has been decent. Unfortunately, decent just isn’t enough. The truth is that a massively popular new
installment of the series could have injected the movies with the adrenaline they needed
to get out of development hell, but the numbers simply aren’t there. Discovery is solid, but not a smash. Good for fans of Star Trek as a streaming
serial, but bad news for those who want more big screen adventures for the Enterprise and
her crew. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite
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