In today's cinematic landscape, franchises are the name of the game due to the success of Harry Potter, James Bond, the DCU, Star Wars, Star Trek, and the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios. While the current practice is to build origin stories, sequels, a universe, and now TV shows, the jump between film and television is nothing new for one of pop culture's oldest franchises: Star Trek.
The 1960s television series not only sparked other television shows and is continuing to do so on streaming, but also in films, including a theatrical reboot starring Chris Pine as James Tiberius Kirk, the captain of the USS Enterprise.
In the years following Pine's third film as the iconic captain, he and his costars have been no stranger to other popular franchises. For instance, Pine went on to star in Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984, while Uhura's Zoe Saldana is part of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and Khan's Benedict Cumberbatch became the MCU's Doctor Strange.
News now suggests that Pine and his crew may be returning for a fourth Star Trek film; but this time, he has a few words of warning for the studio and the need to compete with Marvel Studios.
Chris Pine Warns Against Star Trek Competing with Marvel
When asked about possibly returning to the bridge in a new Star Trek film, Chris Pine told Deadline that he's "met the director" and "the new people over at Paramount," but at this point, there's no "tangible script."
"I’ve not read a script. I met the director, Matt [Shakman], who I really like. I met a producer on it that I really like. I know JJ [Abrams] is involved in it in some respects. I met the new people over at Paramount, which is many different kind of relations. I really liked them. Everybody seems excited about the prospect of it. There’s just simply no — I don’t have a tangible script to look at."
Pine first portrayed Captain James Tiberius Kirk in 2009's Star Trek, directed by J.J. Abrams. He went on to reprise his role in 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness, followed by 2016's Star Trek Beyond.
Even though Pine played Kirk in three films, with six years now separating him from the last time he took the bridge, the actor still appreciates the franchise for what it is and what it's done for him professionally, saying, "It cemented the career that I have now. I'm honored to be a part of it. It's given me so much:"
"Conceptually, I love it. I love Star Trek. Again, I love the messaging of it. I love the character. I love my friends with whom I get to play. It’s a great gig. I mean, it’s a gig I’ve had, working and not working, for 15-plus years. It cemented the career that I have now. I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s given me so much. I think there are plenty of stories to tell in it. You know, I think Star Trek for me, it’s an interesting one."
However, Pine does have one complaint that he feels keeps the franchise from living long and prospering, and that's the industry's determination to compete with Marvel Studios.
According to Pine, making the previous Star Treks was "always this billion-dark mark because Marvel was making a billion:"
"We always tried to get the huge international market. It was always about making the billion dollars. It was always this billion-dollar mark because Marvel was making a billion. Billion, billion, billion. We struggled with it because Star Trek, for whatever reason, its core audience is rabid. Like rabid, as you know. To get these people that are interested that maybe are Star Wars fans or think Star Trek is not cool or whatever, proven to be … we’ve definitely done a good job of it but not the billion-dollar kind of job that they want."
Due to Star Trek's "rabid" core base, Pine believes a Star Trek film should be made for its audience, saying, "Let's make it for them and then, if people want to come to the party, great:"
"I’ve always thought that Star Trek should operate in the zone that is smaller. You know, it’s not a Marvel appeal. It’s like, let’s make the movie for the people that love this group of people, that love this story, that love Star Trek. Let’s make it for them and then, if people want to come to the party, great. But make it for a price and make it, so that if it makes a half-billion dollars, that’s really good."
While such an idea is suited for fans and creatives, Pine knows the numbers side of the business thinks differently. And while he stands by what he would do, the actor admits "That's all above my grade:"
"But we operate in a system now which I don’t know how much longer we have of you have to spend 500 million dollars on a film to reach …even you have to pay all sorts of people back. So to make a billion, it’s like you haven’t even — a billion is the gross. You haven’t brought your net in. So I mean, if I had my business suit on, that’s what I would do, but I don’t know where that is. That’s all above my pay grade."
Star Trek Isn't Marvel, But It Can Learn From the MCU
Is there a way to bump Chris Pine up to that pay grade? Because this is exactly what Star Trek fans would love.
In fact, Pine's approach is what all studio heads should be considering, especially in light of the disappointment from April's Morbius. Sony's latest film is a glaring example of how a studio put franchise-building over story, leading to a sub-par product and a lack of audience faith in Sony's own future Spider-Man Universe.
However, it's worth noting that Pine himself said he hasn't read a script for Star Trek 4; and while he claims Star Trek doesn't have a "Marvel appeal," its director Matt Shakman previously directed Marvel's WandaVision on Disney+ to tremendous success.
While Pine is right in that Paramount shouldn't be focused on Marvel Studios' box office, Paramount and the Star Trek franchise could benefit in learning from Marvel Studios and earning that broad appeal through years of focus on character and story and rewarding its audience along the way.
After all, despite what some studios and the Hollywood Elite tend to think, audiences know quality and the superhero genre alone isn't why MCU films pack out theaters. If Star Trek focused on quality instead of the box office, Star Trek 4 will be a better film; and over time, audiences would come to reward the franchise for that.
While only time will tell whether Star Trek 4 heeds Pine's warning or not, with both Shakman and the seasoned Star Trek actor on the bridge, fans have plenty to be optimistic about ahead of the Enterprise's return to the big screen.