Screen Gems via Everett Collection
J.J. Abrams brought Star Trek back to the screen in 2009 with suprising success, but Star Trek: Into Darkness was a disappointment earlier this year, leaving the fate of the series up in the air. Now, while Abrams is off to work on Star Wars: Episode VII, director Joe Cornish might be taking over the franchise. Sounds like good news, as Cornish is funny, smart, and has a good eye for sci-fi and action. Cornish certainly has limited experience making his own films, but Attack the Block was an assured and cohesive debut. Cornish has a long history of collaborating with director Edgar Wright, who has similarly risen from independent filmmaker to venerated action mastermind. And both directors are collaborating on the script for Marvel’s Ant-Man, which Wright will be directing.
Working on a large studio project doesn’t have to be the same shallow “sellout” move anymore. It’s possible to be a unique filmmaker who makes one of the most popular movies on the planet and follows it up with something small and personal. (Just ask Joss Whedon.) However, Cornish is so under the radar even some die-hard Trekkies might not know exactly what he can bring to the table. So here are six good reasons why Cornish might be just what the Trek franchise needs to close out its trilogy:
1. He can work with a team. One of the key parts of Trek is the unit. Despite the “Red Shirt” trope, all of the main cast members should be indispensible, and if they’re absent, that should be felt. One of the major failings of STID was the lack of collaboration and teamwork — Scotty disappeared for the first 7/8ths of the movie, and nobody noticed. But Cornish was able to take a collection of anonymous kids all dressed in near-identical hoodies distinct and memorable. He’ll certainly be able to work wonders with famous characters like Bones or Chekov.
2. Humor that doesn’t come at the characters’ expense. Surprisingly, in the journey from Star Trek to Into Darkness, the character humor that initially seemed good-hearted started to evaporate and instead be replaced by an overall dourness only lightened when turning Kirk into a horny fratboy for a few minutes to ogle some female Star Fleet officer.
3. Aliens! Abrams and Co. have rarely deployed non-humanoid aliens. In Trek’s television history, budgetary concerns stopped a full exploration of extraterrestrial life forms. But Abrams hasn’t been shy about destroying buildings and cityscapes in explosive climaxes for both of his films, so why not juice up the adversaries? Cornish has proven himself adept at both action and creature design, and with a tiny budget managed to create two distinct types of aliens and stage dozens of attacks and setpieces around them.
4. Heroes that want to be heroes. When aliens invade their South London housing complex, the kids inside don’t cower, they immediately rise to the challenge of protecting (and, okay, of having fun attacking) their home by killing the intruders. Moses, the lead kid and the protagonist of the movie, is never wrestling with the decision of whether or not to help with the defense. He’s a true heroic character.
5. Female characters that don’t feel extraneous. In Attack the Block, Sam isn’t the protagonist, but she’s the character that leads the audience into the story. That could have easily been a male character, but Cornish saw that he was building a world around this Despite that calculation, Sam never feels like she’s useless or out of place like Carol Marcus in Into Darkness.
6. Diversity. At its heart, Trek is a series that celebrates boundry-pushing diversity of every type, not just romantic. It might not shock us any more when Uhura kisses Kirk (or Spock), but that doesn’t mean stop there. Attack the Block is a celebration of poor London kids that rarely get depicted as much more than thugs, and tells a story where they singlehandedly save their own neighborhood. That lines up with the best of Trek, where expectations are flipped and accepted ideologies questioned.
While J.J. Abrams deserves a lot of credit for convincing audiences to pay attention to Star Trek again, his attentions will likely be better spent with Star Wars (the series he admitted he’s always preferred), and Joe Cornish might make a lot more sense for the new Star Trek. Now there’s just a late in the game Damon Lindelof rewrite to worry about. If only Cornish was also working on the screenplay.