To say that there’s a lot riding on the third film in the rebooted Star Trek franchise (13th overall) is something of an overstatement. After the mixed feelings of Star Trek Into Darkness, which was critically and commercial successful yet still seen as something of a narrative failure, there is an urgent need to get Trek back on track, especially with the release date for Star Trek 3 set for the franchise’s 50th anniversary in 2016. And that’s why it came as something of surprise when screenwriter Roberto Orci who got the job making his feature directorial debut after J.J. Abrams left the project to make some small unknown indie flick last year. That announcement has made this time last year, but now, just 12 months later, Orci is heading for the nearest turbolift door.
According Deadline, Orci is off the Trek 3 film, and it is not as clear cut as creative differences or an amicable split between talent and studio, or to put it another way, “there is fire behind the smoke,” says the website. That probably means that Paramount Pictures wasn’t liking what Orci was doing with the film and/or he wasn’t delivering what he promised and was overwhelmed by what must surely be a large and complex machine. Star Trek‘s a huge enterprise (pun intended) to break your directorial chops on. Sure, Star Trek served as first feature for Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, and Jonathan Frakes, but they had all directed before on TV, which offered, at least, some experience.
So who might replace Orci? Deadline is saying that The World’s End filmmaker Edgar Wright is at the top of a small list of desired directors. It might be a fitting result for Wright who left his beloved Ant-Man over creative differences with Marvel Studios to now parachute in and save another mega-franchise. Wright may not seem the type to be a director-for-hire, but don’t doubt that allure of going where no man’s gone before. It’s also worth noting that Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), a frequent collaborator of Wright’s, was previously associated with the director’s chair on Trek 3 so perhaps a passion for the franchise is something the two of them have in common.
Anyone coming into Trek 3 though will be faced with a very tight scheduled because the plan, as previously reported, was to start filming in spring 2015 for a summer 2016 release. That release date could be changed, both the previous Abrams’ Treks ended up being pushed back when production dragged on so it’s conceivable that Paramount could buy itself a few more months by moving the release date to November of December 2016, which would still count as the 50th anniversary. Obviously, there may be re-writes of the screenplay involved as well, and as of right now it’s uncertain if J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay will remain with the film, or if the script they were working on with Orci will survive.
Well, what ever happens there are probably a lot of people doing a happy dance tonight now that the last vestige of the Abrams era has been fired out the proverbial air lock. Orci, like Abrams, will stay aboard as a producer, but the creative direction of Trek 3 will now be left up to hopefully, someone with a lot of drive, creative energy and reverence for the franchise. Time will tell.