Quentin Tarantino will not direct his much talked about Star Trek movie. We have known that for a while, with the iconoclastic filmmaker moving away from the project back in late 2019 and following the release of his last film, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. But now as Tarantino edges close to lensing his fabled final film, we are getting some better insight into the starship that got away.
In a new interview with Collider, screenwriter Mark L. Smith, the Oscar-nominated scribe who co-wrote The Revenant with Alejandro G. Inárritu, and who’s next film is the George Clooney-directed The Boys in the Boat, opened up about the QT Star Trek film he was brought in to write, and how it would have been a whole different kind of captain’s log.
“It was a different thing,” Smith said, “but this was such a particular different type of story that Quentin wanted to tell with it that it fit my kind of sensibilities […] I think his vision was just to go hard. It was a hard R. It was going to be some Pulp Fiction violence. Not a lot of the language, we saved a couple things for just special characters to kind of drop that into the Star Trek world, but it was just really the edginess and kind of that Tarantino flair, man, that he was bringing to it. It would have been cool.”
Yet it wasn’t to be for a reason that is simultaneously understandable and bizarrely self-imposed: Tarantino doesn’t want a Star Trek film, working from a script he didn’t even write (which would be a first for the filmmaker), to be his final film.
Said Smith, “Quentin and I went back and forth, he was gonna do some stuff on it, and then he started worrying about the number, his kind of unofficial number of films. I remember we were talking, and he goes, ‘If I can just wrap my head around the idea that Star Trek could be my last movie, the last thing I ever do. Is this how I want to end it?’ And I think that was the bump he could never get across, so the script is still sitting there on his desk.”
On the one hand, it makes sense that a filmmaker whose career has been as groundbreaking and trendsetting as Tarantino’s would not wish to end that journey on a franchise flick… but then, just maybe, don’t end your career right now?
Tarantino has famously insisted for more than a decade that he intends to cap his filmography off with 10 films: a nice clean set list that theoretically would include everything he wants to say in the realm of cinema before he retires and moves on to other artistic pursuits, including possibly writing novels (he’s already written the novelization of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood), television, and perhaps some plays.
The rationalization for this appears two-fold. Tarantino has said repeatedly that he thinks most filmmakers see their storytelling prowess fade after reaching a certain age. For example, in 2021 he put it like this: “Most directors have horrible last movies. Usually their worst movies are their last movies. That’s the case for most of the Golden Age directors that ended up making their last movies in the late ‘60s and the ‘70s, then that ended up being the case for most of the New Hollywood directors who made their last movies in the late ‘80s and the ‘90s.”
Admittedly, Tarantino has his own distinct (and sometimes puzzling) opinions on cinema, as expanded on in his book of film criticism, Cinema Speculation. Yet we suspect there are a few filmmakers who prove to be exceptions to his rule about losing a step. One of the filmmakers Tarantino most admires in that book is Martin Scorsese, and Marty is still making devastating work like Killers of the Flower Moon at age 81. And even if that film might be accused by some to be indulgent in terms of length and structure, Scorsese was still 71 when he made the biggest hit of his career, the vibrant and virile The Wolf of Wall Street, which has more energy than films made by directors a third of his age. Between these two films, he also made the brooding masterwork Silence.
In Cinema Speculation, Tarantino also muses that Jaws was not the best film ever made upon its release in 1975, but it might have been the best movie that showed audiences what a high-concept crowdpleaser could be when made by someone with actual talent. We would argue that with the right material, the 77-year-old Steven Spielberg still has the same passion and verve, a la his shocking ability to one-up Robert Wise with 2021’s remake of West Side Story, and the spellbinding big screen therapy session that is The Fabelmans.
As Tarantino prepares to shoot what is said to be his final film, The Movie Critic, the director is 60 years old. He is certainly no longer the indie young gun who turned the American film industry on its head in the early 1990s, but he isn’t ready to start drawing Social Security checks quite yet either. If he really wants to make a Star Trek flick before he retires… do it.
… But there is the other reason Tarantino is insisting on an imminent retirement: He wants a clean 10 films. It’s a neat number that makes a statement. However, we might suggest that limiting your own opportunities at artistic expression to an artificial number seems about as precious as Calvin Candie insisting Dr. King Schultz come over and shake his hand. Gilding the lily can also kill it. You know what also is a nice round number? Twelve. Or a baker’s dozen. Fifteen also looks good on paper.
The Movie Critic appears poised to be Tarantino’s final word on his vision and interpretation of cinema. Fair enough. Why not put it on hold and walk down a few other avenues that tickle your fancy, even if one of them is aboard the USS Enterprise?