Quentin Tarantino apparently has a great idea for a Star Trek movie. While that’s a “jumbo shrimp” sentence if ever you heard one, it’s also true. It’s an idea that the studio is so enamoured with that a writers’ room has been assembled in order to workshop it.
There are really two things going on here. The first is the slight possibility of Tarantino being given a Star Trek movie. I’ve personally not connected with his work for a while, but he’s got a serious reputation, a style all his own, and provided he can color inside the lines (at least mostly), a Tarantino Trek film could be fun. It could also be a hot mess, and the fact that a lot of people have run screaming from the news says a lot about how fractious and divisive his style and reputation are, at the current moment.
And, weirdly, that’s a good thing.
This is the strongest emotional response anyone has had to a potential director of a Star Trek movie since the first (and only) person who thought lens flare jokes were original. It’s got people aware, and invested in the franchise in a way they haven’t been for quite a while.
That, far more than anything Tarantino might end up making, is what the Trek franchise needs: it needs to be talked about. I’m very fond of the Kelvin-verse movies, but none of them have truly succeeded in making Trek the household name that Star Wars is.
A name director, or better still a Star Wars-style flotilla of directors, would change that. And, as the Star Wars: Episode IX affair earlier this year demonstrated, there are some serious talents just waiting for their shot. Here are just a few of the possibilities:
DuVernay is best known for the fantastic Selma and 13th and, superficially, has almost none of the SFFnal background that genre fans prefer to see in their directors. However, she is about to have a very, very genre-filled couple of years. She’s directed the film version of beloved children’s SF novel A Wrinkle in Time and if that’s successful, she’ll no doubt be heavily involved in planning and directing adaptations of the other books in the series.
Between that and her previous work, DuVernay not only has a colossally varied body of work but also possesses something that blockbuster SF directors in particular all too often lack: the willingness to engage not only with spectacle but with concept and character, on the deepest level. DuVernay is consistently mentioned as being in the running for a Star Wars movie, but honestly, I think it’s debatable which franchise she’d be best for, in terms of doing the material the most good.
F. Gary Gray
The director of Straight Outta Compton and Fate of the Furious has certainly proved he’s no action slouch. The Furious series constantly balances on the razor-fine line between weightless CGI and chunky muscle car action, and thanks to Gray, the most ludicrous film of the series so far (CARS! VERSUS! NUCLEAR SUB!) also turned out to be one of the best. He’s got a grounded, pragmatic eye for action which could do fascinating things for Starfleet and their heavily armed and armored, faster-than-light skyscrapers. He’s got a rock-solid grip in terms of working with sprawling ensemble casts, too, and Straight Outta Compton shows just how strong and capable his character work can be.
Nichols is responsible for a raft of deeply strange, painfully personal character studies. Mud, Take Shelter, and Loving are all based on the exact sort of small-scale, character-driven drama that Trek has excelled at on TV but never on the big screen.
But that isn’t the only reason Nichols makes my list—the biggest factor in his favor is Midnight Special. Starring his frequent leading man Michael Shannon, along with Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver, it’s the story of a father going on the run with his child. Aided by his best friend, they attempt to escape from both the cult who worships his son and the government agency who want to study him. Profoundly strange, willfully obtuse, and with an ending that is simply one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, Midnight Special is one of the 21st century’s overlooked gems. I’d love to see what Nichols, its writer and director, could do with Star Trek.
Bigelow is best known for Strange Days, Point Break, and The Hurt Locker. All three movies, despite their wildly divergent subject matter, share a common style: pragmatic and grounded action, brutally non-romantic approaches to violence, and quietly stylised direction. Strange Days in particular is an exuberant, bloody-mouthed slam dance of a movie that has only improved over time.
Of her most recent work, I’ve only seen Zero Dark Thirty and that, for me, is a movie that gets lost in the weeds. It’s never less than technically brilliant, but the film loses the humanity of all its characters inside its story around the midpoint and never recovers from that. Your mileage will, I have no doubt, vary and that’s great. Regardless, Bigelow could do fascinating things with the dichotomy between Starfleet-as-soldiers and Starfleet-as-scientists that Discovery has been mining so successfully.
Star Trek, thanks to Discovery, is in a really interesting place right now. It’s managing to keep one eye on the past and another on the future, and that’s as impressive and compelling as it is difficult. There are numerous challenges to continuing the Kelvin-verse movies, not the least of which is the tragic death of Anton Yelchin, but they (and any core universe movies) would be greatly helped by the guiding presence of any of these directors or their colleagues. Take some chances, throw some curveballs—it’s a tactic that’s worked for Star Wars far more than it hasn’t, so far. And besides, it’s a big universe. Let’s see what else is out there, second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning—with any of these directors in the captain’s chair, it’s sure to be a fun journey.
Alasdair Stuart is a freelancer writer, RPG writer and podcaster. He owns Escape Artists, who publish the short fiction podcasts Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Podcastle, Cast of Wonders, and the magazine Mothership Zeta. He blogs enthusiastically about pop culture, cooking and exercise at Alasdairstuart.com, and tweets @AlasdairStuart.