Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
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Ever since J.J. Abrams announced that he was taking the helm of Star Wars: Episode VII, the Wheel o’ Rumors has been spinning contiuously when it came to who would now direct the inevitable Star Trek 3. Maybe it would be G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s Jon Chu. Or maybe Attack the Block’s Joe Cornish? Say, maybe Brad Bird (The Incredibles) would fit the bill. Well, it turns out it’s none of them, and in fact it’s somebody we hadn’t even considered a serious contender until recently: frequent J.J. Abrams collaborator and nu-Trek co-screenwriter Roberto Orci. And Star Trek 3 will be his directorial debut, no less.
Variety reports that Paramount and Skydance Productions have slated Orci to direct Star Trek 3, which he was already co-writing with J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay (the latter two are also writing a Flash Gordon reboot). But not, it’s worth noting, with longtime writing partner Alex Kurtzman. Orci and Kurtzman, who had been working together since the syndicated days of Hercules and Xena, had risen to be one of the most successful partnerships in Hollywood, in terms of quantity if not quality. The pair helped launch not only the revived Star Trek franchise, but also the current incarnations of the Transformers and Spider-Man series as well. Kurtzman and Orci announced last month that they were amicably breaking up the band to work on separate projects.
Orci has certainly had the chance to work closely with tons of top Hollywood directors, including Abrams, Jon Favreau (Cowboys & Aliens), and Michael Bay. We’ll sidestep the question of whether you like or respect those directors for the moment. If you’ll pardon my generation-skipping anachronism, this decision still seems a bit like handing Wesley the keys to the Enterprise. And I’m talking early TNG Wesley, long before he actually became a Starfleet cadet. Sure, he had been hanging around watching how things worked a lot, but you still wouldn’t give him command the flagship of the fleet just yet. This is the same kid who was taking over Engineering with a tractor beam or getting sentenced to death for stepping on some alien’s begonias every other week. Hell, maybe Orci really does have the talent and the training to helm one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises, but should an installment of that franchise really be the test case to find out?
Hiring Orci to direct also seems a poor judgment call for Paramount when it comes to winning over any of the Trek fans they alienated with the previous two Abrams films. As easy (and tired, sweet Jeebus oh so tired) as lens-flare jokes are, I’d argue that most of the problems of Abrams’ Trek films came down to the writing, not the directing. Sure, the buck still stops with the director, but Abrams knows very well how to transfer a story to the big screen in an exciting, visually interesting way, and if the scripts for the rebooted Treks had been better, I think there would be a lot less ire directed at them. But with Abrams jumping ship to the Star Wars side of the galaxy (mostly — he’s still a producer on Trek 3), the next Star Trek film could have been a chance to take stock, hire some new blood with a strong vision for the franchise, and perhaps craft a third film that could win over the haters.
Instead, Paramount looked at all their options and decided the right man for the job was one of the guys who helped write those aforementioned troublesome Trek scripts. Not to mention the abysmal Transformers movies. If Paramount really wanted to make Trek 3 a vehicle for a less experienced director, they should have followed in the footsteps of Godzilla or Jurassic World, both of which are being helmed by up-and-comers who have proven their mettle with smaller genre projects (Gareth Edwards with Monsters and Colin Trevorrow with Safety Not Guaranteed, respectively).
And all that’s without even touching on Orci’s contentious history of dealing with the Trek fandom.
As much as I want to root for any new science fiction project to be a success (yes, I would even love to see a genuinely good Transformers movie), giving Star Trek 3 to Orci seems like a huge risk on Paramount’s part, and one that could backfire in spectacular fashion. But on the upside, I guess if Orci cocks the whole thing up, that’ll put us that much closer to the next Trek reboot, whatever that may be…
There are still no official plot details or release date for Star Trek 3, but all of the principal cast are expected to return and it’s likely to be targeting a 2016 release to tie in with the 50th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s venerable franchise.
Header photo courtesy Summit Entertainment