Star Trek Shouldn’t Be Making Movies Anymore
Paramount's ongoing Star Trek cinematic failures prove that the franchise should stick to the small screen.
As a sci-fi fan, it’s interesting to see how Star Wars and Star Trek are always moving in opposite directions. For example, after the financial disaster of Solo: A Star Wars Story and the critical disaster of The Rise of Skywalker, Disney is mostly focusing on creating Star Wars television shows rather than movies. Meanwhile, the Star Trek fandom, along with Paramount itself, is focusing on creating movies when the blunt truth is as clear as Captain Boday’s skull: Star Trek shouldn’t be making movies anymore.
There are many reasons why we don’t need any more Star Trek movies. One reason is purely financial: until Chris Pine started headlining reboot films (more on these soon), no Trek movie brought in more money than Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (or as your mom still calls it, “the one with the whales”) according to Box Office Mojo. In other words, before the reboot films, Paramount spent a very long 16 years getting diminished financial returns from repeated trips to the well.
The 2009 franchise reboot was a massive success, introducing us to the next generation of actors playing iconic characters like Kirk and Spock. However, in a stark preview of what he would later do with the Star Wars sequel trilogy, director J.J. Abrams phoned it in with Star Trek Into Darkness, a movie essentially built on the premise that audiences really wanted to see the worst possible reboot of Wrath of Khan. While this is technically the highest-grossing Trek film, the best estimate is that this expensive film made Paramount less than $30 million in profit, and the best estimate about the follow-up film Star Trek Beyond is that it actually lost the studio over $50 million.
Fast-forward to the present day: with the success of Star Trek: Discovery, Paramount successfully launches an entire fleet of new Trek content focusing on shows instead of movies. Discussions begin in earnest to create a fourth film in the reboot franchise, but the film keeps getting delayed, even after having some big names like Quentin Tarantino attached to it. Most recently, Dungeons & Dragons star and younger Kirk actor Chris Pine expressed his frustration with these ongoing delays, complaining that the actors in the franchise are usually the last ones to learn what Paramount plans to do.
On some level, it seems that even Paramount is aware that Star Trek works better as shows than movies. The studio once considered creating a Starfleet Academy movie called Star Trek: The First Adventure, and they have now cannibalized that idea to create an upcoming academy-based television show. And we are presumably only getting a Section 31 movie because Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh is now too busy to headline the previously-announced Section 31 TV show that the second season of Discovery so painstakingly set up.
Fortunately, the best reason for Star Trek to ditch movies and stick to television is one that most fans can get behind: the fantastic success of Picard’s third and final season. Over the course of 10 episodes, that show was able to give us the character beats and closure that previous Trek films featuring that crew (like Nemesis and Insurrection) never could. And that show also proved how a series of episodes could have all the grandeur of a film: as Redlettermedia (perhaps the most vociferous NuTrek critics) points out, the first four episodes of the season were basically a satisfying mini-movie.
Like most lifelong Star Trek fans, you can expect me to be there on premiere night for any future movies. But long before NuTrek was even a thing, the running joke with this franchise is that only every other movie is even worth watching. You don’t have to have the positronic brain of Brent Spiner’s android character Data to do the math: why would we want more films where the best case is half of them sucking when all of that time, money, and effort could go to creating more fan-favorite series like Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks?