What’s Going On With STAR TREK 3?

A director shortlist appears. Also: do we now know why Orci and Paramount parted ways?

Paramount is pushing ahead with Star Trek 3 despite not having a director and, as of the last I heard, not having a script. First, news from Deadline, who has the director shortlist: 

Duncan Jones

Morten Tyldum

Justin Lin

Daniel Espinosa

Rupert Wyatt

How likely are any of these names on the list? Jones took to Twitter to say this was the first he heard of it, and while flattered he is far too busy with Warcraft

Deadline thinks Wyatt is the frontrunner, and with The Gambler opening for Paramount and his experience on Rise of the Planet of the Apes making him geek friendly as well as the right guy to do a smart scifi movie, I hope that's true. I think a lot of these names - like Justin Lin - are wishlist names, not actual people in contention for the job. 

When the news broke I told you I heard Orci was off the movie in everything but credit, and he took to TrekMovie.com to deny this. We'll see. I talked to some folks and have heard two different narratives about what happened in Orci's final days on Trek 3: one is that he quit because Paramount's notes on his script were untenable and the other was that Paramount shut the picture down a month ago and spent the time talking to other filmmakers before officially taking Orci off the project. Edgar Wright was offered the movie, but I'm assuming his experience with Ant-Man made him unwilling to pick up someone else's unfinished film. 

Maybe both narratives are true. I wonder if Paramount basically forced Orci to quit. If he did quit it was a surprise to many members of his pre-production team, who didn't see it coming. But what would have made him quit? What was the source of the disagreement between Orci and Paramount?

Guardians of the Galaxy. That's the movie that has a bug up Paramount's ass, and they want Star Trek 3 to feel more like Guardians. This comes on the heels of the first two movies being respectable, solid earners but not the kind of home runs Paramount needs. They want the third film to be huge, and they want it to be huge overseas especially. They look at Rocket and Groot and then they look at Keenser and they wonder why he doesn't have more of a role. 

Weirdly, I think you could use aspects of Guardians as a template for a Trek movie. What made that film work was the way humor and characterization melded with strong action and big, fun ideas. The Enterprise crew aren't galactic ne'er-do-wells, but many of the best Trek stories have them bouncing off each other. Of course I'm sure that's not what Paramount means when they use Guardians as a reference. Still, this could be the moment we get Harry Mudd on screen. 

If this is why Orci left I'm disappointed in him. If the studio is pushing to make a Trek movie that he feels won't be a proper Trek movie (and this is the guy who wrote Star Trek Into Darkness, the least Trek movie ever made), is quitting the right way to go? Why not stay and fight the good fight? Orci has said that he'll still be involved, but considering the film's current situation is all his fault - a year ago he set himself up as an obstacle to new directors coming aboard, his fights with the studio have left the film without a script very late in the process - I wonder how happy Paramount is to have his input. Of course a lot of this comes down to Bad Robot, who are still producing the picture, so perhaps Paramount only has so much say. It's also hard to imagine a guy who has no directing experience getting a shot at directing this movie - the 50th anniversary movie for a franchise he claims to love - and just walking away like this. 

I won't lie: I don't know how I feel at this point. The whole process seems a bit fucked, and time is not on the movie's side right now. I don't think Star Trek 3 has an official release date yet, but it simply has to be December if they're starting over from scratch at this point. Some of the names on that Paramount wishlist freak me out - I like Justin Lin, but he's wrong for this movie. Wyatt is, without a doubt, the best choice, and since I doubt The Gambler is gonna make a dent at the box office it's good sense for him to come on to a movie that at least has a chance at being a big hit.