Apparently Simon Pegg accidently kicked a hornet's nest when he gave an interview to "The Radio Times" and expressed his honest opinion on the subject of movies by saying essentially saying we need more of these big summer tentpole type movies to have "challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions". It is one I agree with but outside the scope of this blog (but feel free to discuss in the comments). Long story short film nerds took offense and so Pegg was forced to walk the interview back and apologize on his website. In doing so it appears he accidentally verified that the title of the next movie when he wrote "I better climb aboard the old hypocropter and fly back to writing Star Trek Beyond."
In addition he confirmed that Paramount did not want the Star Trek films to be too Trek-y and that played into why Roberto Orci's script was scrapped and he was ejected from the director's chair. From Pegg, "They had a script for Star Trek that wasn’t really working for them. I think the studio was worried that it might have been a little bit too Star Trek-y. ...People don’t see it being a fun, brightly coloured, Saturday night entertainment like the Avengers." One possible solution he suggested for that perception problem is "make a western or a thriller or a heist movie, then populate that with Star Trek characters so it’s more inclusive to an audience that might be a little bit reticent."
I have said the two previous films where great action movies but not great Star Trek films and from Paramount's perspective that means the story goal was nailed. It seems what few bits of the previous two films that did feel like Star Trek was Orci getting one past them. Ironically (since Pegg is a co-writer on Star Trek 3), in Paramount's quest to achieve Avengers-like box office numbers, their solution will be to have more action, light on challenging story, no real emotional journey or moral questions that can't be answered in an action sequence. Over all I do agree and support Paramount trying to expand Star Trek for the next generation of potential fans and fans around the world. I just disagree that removing all things Trek and really only keeping the character names but little else is the way to go.
I do feel a need to point out that the most successful science fiction and super hero films of the last 20 years took the universe they were trying to create very seriously and treated it with not just respect but as if that world and the characters that populate it are real. They did not attempt to re-invent characters that have been quite successful for decades. They kept what was most important to the world and tossed what wasn't (spandex, simplifying rather then complicating origins, etc.) Superman (and Spider-Man and ...) didn't not need a new convoluted origin story just so everyone and everything in the plot points back to him. Or back to Trek, with fake shoehorned in "emotional arcs" like Kirk and his dead dad or Spock and his dead mom. The back stories of the Trek characters before then was simple - they just want to do the right thing while exploring the universe. There was no "motivation" needed or a bizarre desire to have the character magically be the center of every plot point.
The best stories are usually just how the hero responds to a challenge that would be beyond most. Some of our best stories in film, TV, and print are built on that simple starting point without the "wouldn't it be cool if it turned out that bad guy X is related to main character's Y!" type nonsense. To future screen writers, directors and studio heads - it is ok to tweak a long standing character as long as you first completely understand what about them helped then stand the literal test of time and keep those elements intact and build from there. The moment you think you can take a decades old character and somehow make them "better" then chances are you are probably are already screwing it up. If seek current examples of this 'figure out the character's core, build from there' I give you The Flash, Nolan's Batman, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.