Star Trek Guide

Star Trek 4: What New Director Noah Hawley’s Previous Movies & Shows Reveal

Noah Hawley is heavily attached to the revived Star Trek 4, what does his impending appointment reveal about the direction, tone and potential plot of the movie? After a trio of Star Trek reboot films under the watchful eye of J. J. Abrams, a fourth outing has struggled to get off the ground. Star Trek Beyond lost money for Paramount and the studio were having trouble tying down Captain Kirk actor, Chris Pine, while also struggling to convince Chris Hemsworth, Pine's on-screen father, to sign on. After announced director, S. J. Clarkson, jumped ship, the plug was pulled on the entire project.

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As recently reported, however, Star Trek 4 is now back on. This is likely down to a combination of factors. The CBS and Viacom merger was completed in August, ensuring that the franchise's rights are no longer divided, while J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot production company signed an exclusivity deal with WarnerMedia in September, with a clause allowing Abrams to complete any outstanding projects. With Quentin Tarantino also pushing for his own Star Trek film, it was perhaps a case of now or never for Star Trek 4 and the name attached to write and direct is Noah Hawley, best known for his TV work on Legion and Fargo.

The fact that Paramount are looking to Hawley as a leading candidate reveals a lot about their plans for Star Trek 4, but perhaps the biggest implication is that the Enterprise's next adventure will be a considerable departure from Star Trek Beyond. Noting criticism from fans after Star Trek Into Darkness, the follow-up was intended as a fun, action-adventure romp and The Fast and the Furious' Justin Lin was hired for this very purpose. Hawley is not a name one would generally associate with this style of film. Star Trek Beyond was well-liked, but the conscious attempt to make Trek more accessible backfired and the interest in Hawley appears to confirm that Star Trek 4 will be heading for strange new worlds.

Also notable is that Hawley's existing body of work is largely based in TV, rather than major franchise blockbusters. In fact, Hawley's sole directorial credit on the big screen was a mammoth flop. Released last month, Lucy In The Sky featured a star-studded cast but was panned in reviews and has failed to gross even a fraction of its relatively small budget. Evidently, Paramount are not interested in Hawley for his track record at the box office, therefore it must be his style and television output that are attracting attention.

On the small screen, Hawley is best known for creating Fargo and Legion, writing and directing on both. While those series are very different, they share common threads that could be viewed as Hawley trademarks. Both Fargo and Legion are based on existing properties, but tell completely new stories within their respective worlds. Fargo takes thematic similarities from the 1996 Coen brothers movie but creates an anthology series with fresh ideas. In the same vein, Legion might be an X-Men series, but its focus and tone lies very far from what many would associate with the Marvel property. This would suggest that Paramount are looking to break new ground in Star Trek 4. Just as Hawley is not a name known for big-budget action blockbusters, he's also not someone Paramount would be expecting to tow the franchise line and deliver a "traditional" Star Trek movie. Star Trek 4 will likely be the final release with the current cast, so taking a riskier approach perhaps makes sense.

What Hawley does bring to the table is a reputation for nuanced, philosophical, introspective stories that invite the audience to question the authenticity of what they're watching. This is a technique present in both Fargo's "true story" claim and Legion's unreliable narrator. Consequently, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that Star Trek 4 will sit on the more esoteric end of science-fiction, delving into some mind-bending alien conundrums and twisting narratives that expose the personalities on board the Enterprise more than ever before. The Mirror Universe would play well into Hawley's style and is an area of Star Trek mythology untouched on the big screen. Alternatively the original series was full of trippy adventures that could inform the basis of a Star Trek 4 written and directed by the brain behind two of the most unique and unpredictable TV shows in recent memory.