Here's the thing: whatever the next “Star Trek” film is, it needs to be special since it will be released (most likely) during the 50th anniversary of the original series first making its television premiere.
I'm not a Trekkie who believes that the series has to be done one particular way or it's wrong, but I think it's an important overall property for the studio, and I would like to see it treated with a certain degree of respect. I am an unabashed fan of the 2009 film, and the more I've seen it, the more convinced I am that it's pretty close to a perfect way to kick off a brand-new version of a very familiar property. They nod to the original series in a nice way, they reinvent familiar characters, and they made something that had a new flavor that was all its own.
The sequel is a problematic film that has the same energy as the first film, but without the same clarity of vision. I'd honestly say that it is one of the films that most confounds me out of the entire time I've been writing about movies. From moment to moment, it feels like they're doing it right, and the cast is all doing exactly what they've been hired to do. But when you step back and start to take it apart in terms of structure and theme, it's a catastrophe. It has not held up to several re-watches on my part (my older son is so enamored with the world of “Star Trek” that he plays one of the two films almost every week), while the first film has. And at this point, with JJ Abrams moving on to “Star Wars” along with Bryan Burk, “Star Trek” is going to be in the hands of other people for the most part with their next movie.
I was surprised to read yesterday that Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are going their separate ways professionally, but I was much less surprised to read that Orci is angling to take the helm for “Star Trek 3.” It's sounded like they had not settled on a direction for the third film as they've been looking at filmmakers, and when I went to a pre-release screening of “Into Darkness” where Orci and Kurtzman introduced the movie, it sounded like Orci knew which way he wanted to head with the story even if no one else was as sure about it yet.
Orci takes his share of heat from fandom, and in some cases, more than his fair share. If he does end up directing “Star Trek 3,” it would be his feature debut. That's sort of remarkable, isn't it? Helming a major entry in a major franchise as your first film? He's writing the film with Patrick McKay and John D. Payne, and presumably he's already had a pretty heavy part in shaping this next picture.
When I read fans who get upset about these guys or one of these guys or some of their movies, it all seems to ignore a basic rule in Hollywood. Momentum counts. These guys started on “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” and since then, they have played the game with precision and skill. They have made a lot of people a lot of money, and they have diversified to television in a very strong way. They have earned their way onto the short list of writers who can get something greenlit at the giant preposterous megabudget level.
Kurtzman is going to tackle “Venom” for Sony, and the two of them are currently contracted to write both “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 3” for the studio. It seems like they'll both have a hand in the ongoing world of the web-slinger, and they've got their own lower key franchise with a “Now You See Me” sequel in the works. Kurtzman's going to supervise another attempt to reboot the classic movie monsters at Universal, and I will bet you money they're looking at using the Marvel model, with a lot of individual movies eventually leading to a horror “Avengers,” with Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monsters and more all crossing paths. They don't even have to call it the Marvel model. They just point back at the original Universal horror era in the '30s and the way they evolved.
These guys are already built into a huge array of stuff that will hit theaters and TV screens over the next four or five years at least, so this news isn't going to change anything in the immediate future. It does point at a difference in focus that has apparently developed between the guys, and it sounds like they've both got plenty of individual things to focus on in the near future.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” opens May 2