While it seems all but certain that the next Trek film will be directed by Roberto Orci, he’s got no previous directing experience. Although he has got history with the franchise, having co-written the last two movies – 2009’s Star Trek, its sequel, Into Darkness, and co-writing the latest entry.
We’re sure that directing a huge movie like Star Trek for your debut is a little intimidating so, being nice, helpful, non-critical people; we thought we’d offer Mr Orci a few helpful pointers. Not that we think he’ll need them obviously. He’s gone out his way on many occasions to assure us he’s a huge Trek fan. Plus his CV boasts such classics as assorted Transformers movies, Cowboys and Aliens, The Island and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so we’re sure the franchise is in good hands. And all those things that really pissed off fans in the last two movies were all JJ’s fault and nothing whatsoever to do with him.
So, (and we can’t emphasise this enough), not that he’ll need it, and in no particular order, here’s our top 10 tips for directing a Star Trek movie
1. Have a title that makes sense
We know it seems obvious, but it’s one of the basics. Ok, we’ll let Star Trek slide. The film was a back to basics reboot, and nothing says that like a stripped down title. But Star Trek Into Darkness is ultimately meaningless. Besides telling you very little about the film, it’s shockingly bad English. There’s a reason most of the first ten movies had a colon in the title. It’s called grammar. The current working title is apparently Into Oblivion. Sigh.
2. Get rid of Keenser
Sometime early in the development of the reboot, someone realised that Simon Pegg works really well as part of a double act. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they checked the availability of both Nick Frost and Jessica Hynes before deciding the bloke who played the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would be the perfect replacement. He isn’t. Keenser is the most annoying, pointless character in a franchise that includes both Wesley Crusher and Neelix. Star Trek’s managed for nearly 50 years without the need for comedy sidekicks. Especially one whose entire role consists of sitting on things and shrugging, just so Pegg can yell the un-hilarious catchphrase “Get down!” at him!
3. Leave Nimoy out of it
The appearance of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock in 2009’s Star Trek was a nicely written, beautifully played goodbye to a beloved character, and the perfect passing of the torch to the new crew. We’ll overlook the fact that the film blamed him for both the destruction of Romulus and the whole creation of the new timeline. For the most part, it was a fond farewell to a character we’d known for best part of half a century, even allowing him to deliver the closing “Space, the final frontier” speech. What a pity then that he was pointlessly brought back in Into Darkness for no reason other than to explain that Khan was actually quite nasty. Besides undermining the character’s goodbye in the previous movie, Nimoy’s ‘Basil Exposition’-like appearance simply served to remind fans that they were watching a second rate Wrath of Khan rip off.
4. Lose the sexism
One of the many disappointments of Into Darkness was the way it treated its female characters. After her version of Uhura got to do more in the previous movie than Nichelle Nichols was given in 25 years, it was disappointing to see Zoe Saldana reduced to simply playing Spock’s girlfriend. Never having been to Starfleet Academy, we can’t be sure that starting an argument with your partner in the middle of a top secret mission is against regulations, but we’re pretty sure it’s a bad idea. This is a version of Uhura who’s more concerned with arguing with Spock than preventing a war because, y’know, women obviously just like babies and kittens, and don’t understand man stuff like war. Uhura however is treated way better than Alice Eve’s Carol Marcus. The Wrath of Khan’s version of Marcus was a brilliant scientist, who created an invention which could bring life to barren planets. Into Darkness’ version of the character has a skill set consisting solely of disarming torpedoes out of sheer luck, getting kidnapped and taking her clothes off for no reason whatsoever. Star Trek wasn’t this sexist in the ‘60s!
5. Try to avoid the massive plot holes
What’s the best example of poor plotting in the first two movies? Having Kirk and Nimoy’s Spock just happen to bump into each other on an almost deserted planet? Marcus waking a genocidal maniac purely so he can design him a new starship (which is akin to finding Attila The Hun and asking him to whip you up a nuclear warhead, give or take a thousand years)? Oh, and then trying to start a war with the Klingons, because that’ll safeguard the Federation? Nero spending 20-odd years in a Klingon prison, then breaking out and just retaking his super-advanced spaceship which the Klingons presumably just left in the prison car park with the keys in the ignition (and, despite having it for 20 years, not attempted to exploit its advanced weapons)? Hiding the Enterprise underwater, to avoid detection – because keeping it in space would be too obvious? No, for our money it’s the bizarre ending of Into Darkness. After Kirk’s death and McCoy’s discovery of Khan’s magic, death-curing blood, we’re treated to an exciting chase, as Spock & Uhura pursue him through San Francisco. Which’d be fine if it didn’t completely ignore the fact that there’s 70-odd other genetically identical, cryogenically frozen, superhumans stored on the Enterprise. With the exact same magic, death-curing blood. But then, using one of them wouldn’t be as exciting would it?
6. Give Karl Urban something to do
It may be Zachary Quinto who gets most the credit for achieving the remarkable feat of looking a bit like Leonard Nimoy, but the best performance in the new cast is by far Karl Urban’s portrayal of McCoy. He may not be a dead ringer for the late, great DeForest Kelley, but the way he inhabits the Doc genuinely makes you forget you’re watching a different actor. It’s a pity then, that the films tend to largely ignore him. In the original series, McCoy was part of the ‘holy trinity’ along with Kirk and Spock. The reboot has shifted the focus, dropping McCoy in favour of Uhura, which is fair enough. Zoe Saldana’s a fine actress and the character was always underserved previously. But blimey, it’d be nice to have Bones actually do something once in a while! Oh, while we’re at it, John Cho and Anton Yelchin could use a couple of good scenes occasionally. And yes, it’s a little off the point, but could someone give Karl Urban the Dredd sequel we all want whilst we’re at it?
7. Science matters
Both Star Trek and Into Darkness wilfully ignore science – both actual real world science, and that which governs the series’ established technology. A supernova, no matter how big can’t “threaten to destroy the whole galaxy” as Spock informs us. Cold Fusion would, hypothetically occur at or near room temperature, and would therefore not, as Into Darkness shows us, be much use for freezing a volcano. Transporters cannot beam people from one solar system to another, as that would pretty much negate the need for starships and therefore kinda undermines the entire concept of the whole series. And, most importantly, blood, even Khan’s, is not magic, and a transfusion cannot bring people (or Tribbles) back from the dead.
8. Stop using Scotty as comic relief
Remember the moment in Star Trek V where Scotty pronounces, “I know this ship like the back of my hand” then immediately bangs his head? So do Orci and co, as they seem to have used that scene as the entire basis for their version of the character. We like Scotty being funny, but Jimmy Doohan’s incarnation had much more to him than that. The new movies seem to have decided that one of the crew needs to be a bit of a clown, and Simon Pegg’s the man to do it. Pegg’s actually a decent actor, and is more than capable of holding his own given actual stuff to do. Comedy he can do in his sleep. As indeed he does here.
9. More funky end credits please
Ok we’ve had a bit of a moan about various aspects of the last couple of movies, but there’s no doubt that they’ve got the best end credits of any of the movies. Zooming around various planets, whilst a gorgeous reworking of the Original Series theme tune blasts out; they’re the best bit of the films. There’s an obvious joke about not being able to wait for Into Darkness to end (which we appear to have just made), so we could see the credits, but it’s true. More of these please.
10. Do something original
One of the reasons 2009’s Star Trek worked was because it was an attempt to do something new. It may have been a flashier, less cerebral Star Trek than fans were used to, but it was exactly what the franchise needed to bring in new fans – a much needed shot of adrenaline to a series that was starting to look a little fatigued. Unfortunately, for their sophomore effort, rather than continue to take the franchise in an exciting new direction, Abrams, Orci and co decided to head backwards – ripping off The Wrath of Khan. Badly. Not only did it look like they were out of original ideas already, Wrath of Khan is inarguably the best Trek movie, and if you’re going to copy it, you’d better do it damn well. Unfortunately, they don’t. Benedict Cumberbatch is Khan in name only. Kirk’s death scene comes across as a Galaxy Quest style parody. And the less said about Spock’s laughably bad “Khhhaaaaannnnn” the better. Bringing Nimoy into the mix, pretty much for the sole reason of saying, “yeah, we did this one already” only reinforces that you’re watching a half-assed remake of a far superior movie.
Star Trek 3 is expected to begin shooting within six months, and is due to be released in 2016.