Kevin Smith weighs in on the recent developments regarding Star Trek 4. The long-running, science-fiction series first hit screens back in the 1960s but was since rebooted for the big screen by J.J. Abrams in 2009. People were predictably skeptical when the plans were first announced, but the film proved a pleasant surprise. Winning over general audiences, it established a new timeline that existed parallel, yet connected to the original. It has since spawned two sequels: Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond, with a third reportedly set to start filming in January 2019.
Despite having S.J. Clarkson set to direct and a potential female villain lined up, development on the new sequel recently stalled, when both Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth walked away from negotiations. Pine currently serves as the lead of the franchise, in the iconic role of Captain James T. Kirk, first popularized by William Shatner. People were equally apprehensive about the casting, but were similarly won over by Pine's charm, humor, and the fact he committed himself to honoring the part without veering into imitation. Hemsworth, meanwhile, was set to reprise his role as Kirk's currently-deceased father, George. Both apparently exited due to Paramount wanting them to take slight pay cuts to help with the film's budget, leaving many disappointed.
Speaking on his podcast, Fatman on Batman, Smith revealed himself as one such individual. Discussing the issue with his co-host and fellow creator Marc Bernardin, he stated that he believes Paramount and Star Trek have little choice in the matter:
"They can’t recast. Chris Pine is fantastic. It was chancy bringing another Kirk into the world. They found the one guy who could pull it off where it doesn’t sound like an impression, but it totally homages an entire f**king body of work in a character. So, you got to bring him back. Maybe you let go of the dad storyline if you can’t get Hemsworth to come down a little bit. But, you can’t do those Star Treks without that Kirk. He was great.”
Details on the plot itself remain scarce. If the film follows the previous pattern of paying homage to the original films, it's easy for Star Trek 4 to follow similar beats to A Voyage Home. The time travel element itself would explain the return of Hemsworth's George Kirk and would, indeed, be an interesting story. The situation is a tricky one, though. An argument could be made that such a franchise as Star Trek is bigger than any one actor and that the films could prove successful regardless. After all, different iterations of the franchise and its characters currently exist across various platforms without harming the brand. The films, after all, did feature two iterations of Spock. Most recently Star Trek: Discovery even cast their own version.
Pine has proven himself in the role and seen his stardom rise over the last few years, appearing in independent, mid-budget, and blockbuster movies alike, so it's understandable he would seek reflective payment for his participation. Equally, it's a difficult to envision who could replace him, especially if Paramount wants an A-list star in the role. Then again, they could always follow go the Patrick Stewart route and just have William Shatner reclaim the role or give the Enterprise a new captain altogether.