ALERT! ALERT! Potential spoilers for Star Trek 3 and 4 are contained in this article.
Star Trek 3, tentatively titled Star Trek Beyond, has only just started filming, but already plans are being laid to boldly go toward a Star Trek 4.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, all of the main characters who appeared in 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness have also extended their contracts with Paramount for an additional movie. Initially, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin and John Cho all signed three movie deals with Paramount prior to starring in 2009's Star Trek. With those contracts now up, it seems the studio was eager to lock down the crew of the Enterprise for further missions in the future, and what's more, they're going to pay them more for it.
Although figures are not available for each cast member, lead actor Chris Pine is expected to be paid a rather gargantuan $6 million to appear in Star Trek 4. This is up from his Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness paychecks of $600,000 and $1.5 million respectively.
Of course, it's not unusual for big franchises to plan many movies in advance (I'm looking at you Marvel), but this does seem rather strange for Star Trek, especially considering the circumstances under which Star Trek 3 is being developed.
Between the release of Star Trek Into Darkness and the filming of Star Trek Beyond, a lot has changed behind the scenes. J.J. Abrams abandoned the good ship Enterprise to join that other sci-fi mega-franchise, Star Wars. Following this, Star Trek Into Darkness screenwriter Roberto Orci was dropped from his scriptwriting position and was replaced with Doug Jung and Simon Pegg. Then there's the additional news that Paramount thought the first two movies were too 'Star Trek-y' (despite some fans complaining they weren't Star Trek-y enough). This lead to suggestions, from none other than Simon Pegg, that the studio wanted a broader, more marketable and lucrative story for Star Trek 3. Considering the vast amount of change to the formula, you'd think the studio would want to wait for the reaction of Star Trek Beyond before greenlighting another sequel.
According to Pegg, Paramount hopes to make Star Trek break into the billion dollar club, a lofty height attained by many other recent big name blockbusters such as Furious 7, The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World. He said:
"Avengers Assemble, which is a pretty nerdy, comic-book, supposedly niche thing, made $1.5 billion dollars. Star Trek: Into Darkness made half a billion, which is still brilliant. But it means that, according to the studio, there's still $1 billion worth of box office that don't go and see Star Trek. And they want to know why.
People don't see it being a fun, brightly colored, Saturday night entertainment like the Avengers. [So they want to] make a western or a thriller or a heist movie, then populate that with Star Trek characters so it's more inclusive to an audience that might be a little bit reticent."
The inclusion of the financially tried and tested Justin Lin as the new director will probably help in this regard, but with so much changing behind the scenes between Into Darkness to Beyond, are they counting their sci-fi eggs before they hatch? More importantly, could this move also alienate the core, passionate Trekkie element of its audience? Personally, I thought Into Darkness concentrated so much on delivering a high-octane visual eye-fest interlaced with technobabble, that it didn't really spend much time adhering to the themes or principles of Star Trek at all. It seems Paramount wants to move even more in this direction.
And then there is the other side-effect of this news. If all the main cast are all returning for Star Trek 4, we can probably once again expect for the hapless red shirts to make up all the casualties on the USS Enterprise's next dangerous mission.
Considering Paramount is dishing out pay raises to appear in Star Trek 4, at least it seems like they think they're onto a winning formula. But what do you think about these changes?