Monday, May 29, 2006

However this goes, it seems likely that the reception for MI3 has made Paramount execs a little more nervous, a little less confident, a little shakier than they might have been if it had been an unqualified hit. They can’t fail to notice that a box office record was set by a film released two weeks later ( The Da Vinci Code), a record itself broken by X-Men3. (Was there a lack of confidence already, since Paramount chose not to release MI3 on a holiday weekend, when it might go head to head with one of these blockbusters?) Even before X-Men3, MI3 had fallen behind an animated feature (with a character voiced by William Shatner---will the ironies never stop?)

It would be natural under the circumstances for Paramount to be reluctant to take chances they might have otherwise taken. While it’s pretty certain that we won’t see Tom Cruise in Star Trek XI, the perceived weakness of MI3 may have also done in Ben Affleck, if indeed he was ever in the running for a role. It’s unlikely they’ll take a chance on an actor whose previous action role (as Daredevil) was itself a perceived flop. Tobey McGuire, on the other hand, they might die for. (Star Trek does have this advantage: a lot of actors are fans.)

Casting is a big part of budgets these days, and how this film is cast may signal what Paramount is willing to spend. Assuming this is still a young Kirk and Spock at Starfleet Academy story (and recent shying away from the first press release by Abrams and others haven’t really denied this), then the star power is likely to come from actors playing the older parts: officers, teachers, mentors, etc. Though Abrams might like to field a cast of young unknowns, TV-style, this rarely works in movies, especially of this kind.

A lot will unfold in the coming months, but for now it seems like an odd kind of déjà vu in Star Trek’s 40th anniversary year: once again, Mission Impossible may be affecting Star Trek budgets, in a downward direction.

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