Paramount is going ahead with Quentin Tarantino‘s Star Trek movie, capitulating to his main demand: an R rating. The Revenant‘s Mark L. Smith is the frontrunner to write the script, suggesting a tone that makes Star Trek: Discovery look like Sesame Street.
By insisting on an adult rating, Tarantino confirms that he’s aiming for a gritty reboot. This already sounds like a terrible idea, because Tarantino’s brand of sex and violence is fundamentally unsuited to Star Trek. It’s also a textbook example of a depressing Hollywood trend:
middle-aged fanboy filmmakers CANNOT RESIST taking classic stories about Nice People and rebooting them with toxic masculinity.— Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (@Hello_Tailor) December 7, 2017
J.J. Abrams already did this to Star Trek in 2009. While Abrams’ Star Trek is a fun blockbuster, it warps and misunderstands the Original Series cast and what they stood for. To understand why look no further than Kirk and Spock. Chris Pine‘s Kirk is an arrogant frat boy who treats women like crap and launches into an antagonistic rivalry with Spock. He’s also motivated by daddy issues, a thoroughly overused theme among male filmmakers.
Kirk already had a reputation as a playboy, but if you watch the 1960s show, you’ll understand the difference. William Shatner‘s Kirk is a charming romantic lead, and his love-interests are treated with respect. Judged by the standards of their respective time periods, 1960s Trek is probably more feminist and progressive than the Abrams movies. The original Kirk was a thoughtful leader and kind of a bookworm, with a dorky sense of humor. He also maintained a warm relationship with his crew, something the reboot franchise only achieved after Simon Pegg, Doug Jung, and Justin Lin took over for Star Trek Beyond.
Zack Snyder famously did something similar to Batman and Superman, turning them into humorless, violent enemies. Just to jog your memory, the original 1978 Superman was a romantic comedy. The comics routinely portray Bruce Wayne as a loving mentor who hopes to rehabilitate his opponents—not that you’d know it from the recent movies.
These filmmakers understand that stories need conflict, but totally misinterpret what “conflict” actually means. They rewrite friendships as fractious rivalries, which is how you end up with Batman v Superman, Kirk v Spock, and the 2004 Starsky & Hutch reboot. They fail to grasp why these characters were appealing in the first place, and who they appealed to. (Hint: It was often women.)
Toxic masculinity is a central theme in gritty reboots. Guy Ritchie is the king of this phenomenon, rebooting King Arthur (another romance!) as a macho gangster story, and Sherlock Holmes as an action movie peppered with no-homo humor. He took The Man from U.N.C.L.E.—a silly spy show whose fanbase was predominantly female—and made its lead characters hate each other, rebooting the jovial friendship they had before. And while we’re talking about Sherlock Holmes, you may as well say the same thing of Steven Moffat‘s Sherlock. Judging by recent adaptations, you’d never know that Holmes and Watson were ever comfortable in each other’s company.
After hearing the mind-boggling combination of Tarantino, “R-rated,” and Star Trek, it’s tempting to imagine what the opposite would look like. A non-gritty reboot, either filmed from a woman’s viewpoint, or taking a relentlessly macho franchise and imbuing it with warmth and affection. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Wolverine and the X-Men. Based on the comics by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo, this teen comedy sees Wolverine become headmaster of the Xavier School. He’s an unlikely father-figure to a squad of teen mutant outcasts, and participates in no action sequences whatsoever. It’s very heartwarming.
- Die Hard 6, starring Lucy McClane. Die Hard‘s strength was its humor and realism, with John McClane as a plausibly flawed action hero. The franchise evolved into high-octane nonsense with Bruce Willis as a teflon-coated Terminator, but there’s hope in sight. While Die Hard 5 introduced John’s son as a badass CIA operative, Die Hard 6 sees Mary Elizabeth Winstead return as his daughter, Lucy. She brings the franchise back to its roots as a normal person in a ridiculously dangerous situation. Armed only with her wits and some self defense moves she learned from her dad, she rigs up a bunch of Home Alone-style traps to defeat the terrorists who hold her workplace hostage.
- Gran Torino: Reloaded: Clint Eastwood stars as a grumpy, gun-obsessed veteran. When criminals attack his neighborhood, he tries to defeat them singlehandedly… and his neighbors teach him the power of teamwork, defeating the bad guys and giving him a new home in the community.
Hollywood, I await your call.