Alan Markfield
Darren Franich
March 11, 2013 AT 10:24 PM EDT

Producer Bryan Burk has been J.J. Abrams’ behind-the-scenes wingman since the Alias days, so it’s worth paying close attention when he idly muses about a possible release date for the next Star Trek movie. That’s exactly what happened in the middle of an interview with Digital Spy. When asked about a possible release date for a sequel to this May’s Into Darkness, Burk said that — although there’s no specific release date — the team is “definitely talking about the next one…. We don’t want to wait four years.” Since 2016 marks the franchise’s 50th anniversary, it seems like a logical year to debut a new film. All Burk said is that 2016 will be “a big year to celebrate, hopefully.”

There are a few different balls in the air here. As second-in-command at Bad Robot Productions, Burk is one of the men responsible for shepherding both the Star Wars and the Star Trek franchises forward. The next Star Wars entry is currently on the books for a 2015 release; it seems unlikely that they’d wait that long for J.J. Abrams to return to direct another Star Trek movie, and it seems even less likely that Abrams would want to make a third Trek.

That means there’s a plum job open for any director who’d like a couple hundred million dollars to make a movie. So who should direct the Star Trek preboot-threequel? The most popular name that always pops up in conversations like this is Rian Johnson, a stylish indie director who showed he could create a whole vivid science-fiction world with last year’s twisty Looper. Giving Johnson a blockbuster budget would be a Nolan-does-Batman power move for the franchise, transforming the rebooted Trek into a showcase for distinctive directors. Along the sames lines, Duncan Jones has made a weird, deep-think sci-fi movie (Moon) and a more action-y, hyper-kinetic studio sci-fi movie (Source Code), which seems like an ideal mix for a Trek film. Likewise, Josh Trank showed he could do big spectacle on a small budget with Chronicle. Maybe they can snag him away from that in-development Fantastic Four reboot?

It could be that Abrams would prefer to promote someone from within his geek cabal. Matt Reeves made Cloverfield and the underrated Let Me In; currently, he’s working on next year’s Planet of the Apes preboot-sequel. Jonathan Nolan produces Person of Interest for Bad Robot. Maybe Nolan, who’s co-written practically all of his brother Christopher’s films, could get his own chance at making a big blockbuster. But considering the sheer size of the Star Trek franchise, it seems just as likely that they’d reach for a triple-A director. In which case we shouldn’t count out Neill Blomkamp — whose hit District 9 and upcoming Elysium both mix distinctive genre aesthetics with big ideas — or Edgar Wright, the Scott Pilgrim director who is currently working on an Abrams-produced sci-fi film called Collider.

For personal preference, I’d also add in Joseph Kosinski, who over-delivered on TRON: Legacy and, if nothing else, got a good soundtrack for the upcoming Oblivion. Drew Goddard, who turned Cabin in the Woods into an utterly eccentric genre delight, also lands on my list. (Goddard worked on Alias and Lost, so it’s not that crazy.) Or, way outside the box, what about Shane Carruth, who turned the microbudgeted Primer into one of the twistiest science fiction movies of the last decade?

Your turn, film fans: Who would you want to see direct Star Trek: Into Darker-ness? Should Jon Favreau do a movie about aliens that doesn’t feature cowboys? Can Vince Gilligan follow up the end of Breaking Bad with a weird Star Trek movie, possibly starring Bryan Cranston as a disgraced Klingon general? Perhaps Sofia Coppola could make a gorgeously-shot tone poem about Captain Kirk sipping whiskey and walking through the Enterprise on a lonely night on a lonely, ennui-ful night in space?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

Read more:

Geek Deep Dive: 4 surprising things about the ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ poster

‘Star Trek Into Darkness’: Read the official synopsis, plus some theories

‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ to debut first nine minutes in IMAX sneak preview

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