Producer Adi Shankar believes it's possible to make Star Trek 4 without the character of James T. Kirk. Chris Pine has played the fearless captain of the USS Enterprise three times since taking over the role in 2009 and is arguably the face of the rebooted franchise. That's what made it surprising when talks between Pine and Paramount broke down while negotiating the actor's deal for the upcoming fourth film. Pine was looking for a larger payday in light of the success of Wonder Woman, and the studio would prefer to keep costs down.
It goes without saying Kirk is an integral part of Star Trek lore, so the notion of Pine leaving the franchise is quite alarming. Some fans, including Kevin Smith, doubt the sequel could even work properly without the participation of the leading man. But if Paramount never comes to terms with Pine, it wouldn't necessarily spell doom and gloom for Star Trek 4. It could be an exciting opportunity for the filmmakers.
Screen Rant asked Shankar his thoughts on Pine possibly stepping down from Star Trek, and he had a very interesting response about the possibilities it presents:
"Losing Pine and Kirk is not a big deal and kind of cool. Actors don't matter, stories do. This is the universe presenting an opportunity to do something different and boldly go where no suits have gone before."
Kirk has been the main protagonist in the Kelvin Timeline films, going through arguably the most substantial character arc in the franchise. At first glance, it would seem odd to move forward with Star Trek 4 if Pine wasn't onboard, but this property isn't defined by a single character. Especially since other members of the principal cast are signed, Paramount could decide to move forward and accept the challenge of telling a story sans Kirk. Perhaps a new character assumes control of the Enterprise, or a pre-existing crew member is promoted. Both of those scenarios have the potential to be quite fascinating, serving as a fresh angle in addition to whatever the villain has in store. Obviously, Paramount would prefer to have the fan-favorite Pine back, but if he leaves for good, there are ways to salvage the film.
Pine wasn't the only Trek veteran Paramount was having issues with. Negotiations also fell apart with Chris Hemsworth, who was planning on reprising his role as George Kirk, Jim's father. Hemsworth, of course, has come a long way since his brief part in the opening of 2009's Star Trek, becoming a foundational figure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Paramount would need an entirely new concept if they lose both Kirk boys for good, but as long as they adapt the mentality of Shankar and don't panic, it could work out for the best. As a studio, they're a little thin on tentpoles (Transformers is in a state of flux), so whatever they end up doing for Star Trek, hopefully it delivers another crowd-pleasing hit.