After Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered the box office in 2015 and cemented its cult status for years to come, director J.J. Abrams returns to his other intergalactic franchise this week when Star Trek Beyond finally makes its debut in cinemas. With such a popular figure behind the camera, Paramount is fairly confident that the film will be a success and has already green-lit Star Trek 4. While it may be a few years until we see the movie itself, J.J. Abrams and his crew already have a huge dilemma coming into the sequel — the passing of Anton Yelchin.
The release and promotion of Star Trek Beyond has been somewhat overshadowed by the young actor’s sudden and tragic death, news that shocked the world back in June, and the pain is still fresh in the mind of everyone associated with the franchise. Yelchin played prodigal navigator Pavel Chekov in the movies, a pivotal character aboard the USS Enterprise, which only duplicates the problems for Abrams. How do you replace an actor who charmed and warmed the hearts of millions while portraying such a popular character? Well, Abrams has a simple answer to that; he won’t recast the role.
J.J. Abrams would reveal the difficult decision to Postmedia Network, via Toronto Sun. Although he kept his answers simple, and did not elaborate on his reasons why, or explain how Chekov’s absence will be dealt with in future sequels, the director has clearly made up his mind.
“I would say there’s no replacing him. There’s no recasting. I can’t possibly imagine that, and I think Anton deserves better.”
When asked if Chekov would be killed off, the director added the following.
“I have thought about it, we’re working on it, and it’s too early to talk about it.”
With the tragedy surrounding the death of the young actor, this feels like the right decision. Star Trek 4 will probably hit cinemas within two to three years, if the release schedule of the previous three movies is any indication. To recast such a pivotal role this deep into the franchise will not only take some considerable time, but possibly also require an entire reboot. The latter is clearly not on the cards, so Abrams is looking to honor Yelchin’s memory instead. Quite how they will deal with his absence on screen — an omission that will seem vast in the grand scheme of the ensemble cast — is uncertain, but with the film in the early scripting stages, it’ll be a while until we find out.
And who’s to say he’ll be absent anyway? Nothing has been confirmed, but technology nowadays could allow for Yelchin to make one final appearance as Chekov. Permission pending, computer imagery could conjure forth the young actor for a final appearance, and if the screenwriters do decide to give Chekov a send-off, using his facial image to make this happen just might be the perfect way to do it. It’s been done before, with Paul Walker in Fast & Furious 7 and Oliver Reed in Gladiator, and although the circumstances are slightly different, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
It’s certainly a decision that will shape the fourth film in a way that no one expected, and the decision has to be handled in a fair and decent manner. Whatever the decision and final script for Star Trek 4 would be, one thing is for sure; the film will not be the same without Anton Yelchin on board. The fans will remember his performance for some years to come, and the refusal to recast the character is certainly one that proves J.J. Abrams is a true gentleman of his craft. He clearly thinks the actor’s final role can honor his memory, and fans will be hard-pressed to disagree.
On a slightly lighter note, Star Trek 4 is a few years away yet, which allowed the cast to speculate on a potential future storyline. Provided by Games Radar, a video for this can be seen below.
Directed by Justin Lin and starring Idris Elba, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, and Anton Yelchin, Star Trek Beyond hits U.K. and U.S. cinemas on July 22, 2016.
[Image via Paramount Pictures]