‘Star Trek Into Darkness’: Benedict Cumberbatch Discusses Villain Reveal [Spoilers]

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Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison in Star Trek Into Darkness Star Trek Into Darkness: Benedict Cumberbatch Discusses Villain Reveal [Spoilers]

[Warning: MAJOR Spoilers Ahead!]


The line between speculation and spoilers is becoming more and more of a delicate issue as each new major film release becomes unavoidably embedded in Internet and social media culture. Between message boards, Twitter, Facebook and the thousands of film blogs and news sites out there, you can guarantee that every fresh piece of information about a film like Star Trek Into Darkness will be spotted, parsed and speculated upon in great detail.

No facet of the film has been the cause of greater interest than the identity of the film’s primary antagonist, played by Benedict Cumberbatch and credited as John Harrison – a name that very few Star Trek fans took at face value. One of the reasons that Cumberbatch’s character came under so much scrutiny was that there was a very heavy shroud of secrecy surrounding him, even for a Bad Robot production – a veil actor Karl Urban (who plays Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy) has said was in aid of surprising and treating long-term Star Trek fans.

The mid-film revelation about Cumberbatch’s character is a slightly complex one, in that it only really qualifies as a revelation to audience members who are already Star Trek fans, or at least those who have seen The Wrath of Khan. If you don’t belong to either of those groups, you may find yourself wondering what the dramatic musical sting accompanying the words, “My name is Khan,” is all about.

Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison in Star Trek Into Darkness Empire magazine cover Star Trek Into Darkness: Benedict Cumberbatch Discusses Villain Reveal [Spoilers]

Speaking in an interview with the LA Times, Cumberbatch echoed Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Wars Episode VII producer Bryan Burk’s recent comments about the importance of keeping secrets.

“I think [being surprised by what's in a film is] a rare thing in our day and age where you have a super saturation of media over-publicizing every detail or spoilers in adverts or trailers. That’s what it should be about, going to the movies. It shouldn’t be about ticking off a list of, ‘Yeah, I heard that was going to happen.’”

Given the current challenges of keeping such a secret right up until a film’s release, the production and cast should be applauded for managing to do so. Last year, Simon Pegg stated flatly in an interview that Cumberbatch would not be playing Khan, calling the rumors surrounding this possibility a “myth.” It might even be said that casting the proverbially pale and mysterious Cumberbatch in the role of a character called Khan Noonien Singh was instrumental in keeping the name reveal a surprise.Though Khan’s status as one of the better-known Star Trek villains made him a frontrunner in the speculation surrounding Star Trek Into Darkness - along with other much-discussed candidates like Gary Mitchell and Robert April – it would have been near impossible to convince fans that the Star Trek Into Darkness villain wasn’t Khan, had an Indian actor been cast in the role.

Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison in Star Trek Into Darkness1 Star Trek Into Darkness: Benedict Cumberbatch Discusses Villain Reveal [Spoilers]

The revamped Star Trek movies may take place in the 23rd century (not to mention in an alternate timeline to the original series), but they are nonetheless designed to be connected to current society. Chris Pine (who plays the latest incarnation of Captain Kirk) has said that Cumberbatch’s character “is a terrorist in the mold of those we’ve become accustomed to in this day and age,” and the director and cast recently spent time with a contemporary astronaut living on the International Space Station, via a Google+ hangout. Cumberbatch also argues that, at its heart, the story of Star Trek Into Darkness has open appeal.

“‘Star Trek’ works in subtle ways. There’re such condensed, incredibly beautifully drawn characters that are very now even though it’s a future-scape with loads of rich imaginative detail for fans to obsess over. The actual core content of the story is universal in time and place.”

Even with all the spaceships and phasers, there is something about the Star Trek universe that makes it feel like it’s not all that far away from becoming a reality. The fact that both of the rebooted movies have spent a solid chunk of screen time on Earth before boldly heading out into space does add a certain anchor of reality to the stories. This is particularly true for London residents who saw Star Trek Into Darkness, since even amongst the futuristic skyscrapers shown in J.J. Abrams’ 23rd century vision of the city – which is the victim of a brutal bombing near the beginning of the film – there are a few pieces of “ancient” architecture like the Gherkin and St. Paul’s Cathedral, that bring the destruction uncomfortably close to home.

Were you surprised by John Harrison’s true-name reveal in Star Trek Into Darkness? Did you find the reversal of the Spock-Kirk death scene from The Wrath of Khan touching or cheesy? Share your thoughts on the film’s twists and references in the comments.


Star Trek Into Darkness is out now in 2D, 3D, and 3D IMAX theaters. Check out the Screen Rant review, listen to our Star Trek Into Darkness podcast with screenwriter Roberto Orci, or talk about it in our spoilers discussions page.

Source: LA Times

Follow H. Shaw-Williams on Twitter @HSW3K
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  1. ““I think [being surprised by what's in a film is] a rare thing in our day and age where you have a super saturation of media over-publicizing every detail or spoilers in adverts or trailers. That’s what it should be about, going to the movies. It shouldn’t be about ticking off a list of, ‘Yeah, I heard that was going to happen.’”

    …said the guy who played Khan. This wasn’t what true Trek fans wanted. For us there was, is and will always be one true Khan. Some characters you just can’t ‘do over’ or ‘remake’ and Khan was one of them.

    • I actually preferred Cumberbatch’s Khan…

    • I agree. He didn’t bring anything unique to the role.

  2. I thought the movie was great. I had read enough spoilers that I sort of had an idea that it was Khan, but the way they did it was pretty good. I completely understand why some hard core Trekkies were upset since it was sort of a rehash of Wrath of Khan in a different timeline, but as a casual fan I thought it was a good way to kind of meld the Khan meeting in the series with the actions in Wrath of Khan. I thought the role reversal of Spock and Kirk was touching and cheesy. It served it’s purpose in that it gave Spock a reason to really connect with Kirk and seek revenge. But I think it wasn’t quite as emotional as the original because we haven’t had the time to connect with the new Kirk.

    Still, I agree that it is kind of a calculated risk to go with Khan. Unless they hope to reuse him in a sequel down the road, then people who haven’t seen the originals weren’t hit with the gravity of who the villain is. It’s just like Oh…ok. But I just went with it and didn’t think it took anything away from the film, like IM3′s villain twist.

  3. Spoliers and stuff don’t bother me, I’m a habitual re-watcher with a good memory.

    As for the reveal, I’m kinda stuck at a halfway house.

    Cumberbatch was fantastic, Khan as a character (regardless of actor) is a brilliant antagonist but a part of me wishes they tried something NEW.

    On the flipside this story is all about Kirk EARNING the chair so he needs to go up against some pretty strong opposition to make his graduation authentic and as Spock Prime says Khan is the most deadly adversary the Enterprise had ever faced.

    Now that Kirk has earned the chair (and the 5 year mission) hopefully now when we next see the Enterprise (bit quicker than 5 years please) she’ll be in deep space and we can have the “new” antagonists

    As for the film it self, needed more Khan, after all the setup he’s severely underused, Robocop takes too much centre stage, would of been nice if it was all Khan gone rouge not a Admiral planning pre-emptive strike for the greater good, should send him to Stamford to retire he’d fit right in.

    The Trek II references I was happy with, with the exception of Spocks “KHAAN!!”, they worked and fitted in with the narrative.

    Some posts have mentioned Trek VI, I didn’t see that in this film. I’m guessing it’s Admiral Marcus for Admiral Cartwright / General Chang characters.

    However the themes are completely different, in VI it’s all about the fear of change, being so used to hating someone that it doesn’t need a reason anymore it’s become part of who you are, it defines you to a certain extent, gives you an identity.

    With Marcus, after being totally outclassed by the Nararda and Nero and escalating aggression from the Klingons it’s not fear of change but just simple fear, the fear of not being able to protect ones self, family, people.

    Do you continue as you are and hope the conflict doesn’t happen??

    Do you prepare for conflict just in case but hope it doesn’t happen??

    Do you prepare for conflict and instigate it before the opposing force is ready and remove a threat before it truely manifests??

    How many lives would be saved by committing a morally wrong act of pre-emptive aggression, should a leader do what’s NECESSARY instead of whats RIGHT…. these are the questions that Marcus’s actions ask of us.

    But they’re not truely answered because Khan then re-asserts himself as the protagonist and the theme changes again to one of simple, cold, hard arrogance which is great for action but not that fab for drama.

    It’s been said that Khan in this film is a bit more sympathetic, that you end up routing for him. Again i didn’t see that. You end up routing for him because he’s COOL, everyone LOVES a badass.

    When he’s talking about being coerced with the threat to his crew and you get the little tear… i’m sorry, being a Trek fan I KNOW Khan so it didn’t play with me.

    Maybe that’s the point, the uninitiated go “Ahhh, he’s being forced becasue of his friends, he just like Kirk”. Me I go yeah right, your just biding your time till you can turn the tables to your advantage.

    As Kahn says in the film he wants his crew back so they can continue their work…. to dominate, to rule, the arrogance that comes with being “better”.

    One word of advice though…. if a film you REALLY care about is being shown in IMAX then go see it in IMAX. This was my first IMAX film and it was FANTASTIC, MoS and Pacific Rim will be my next. I can’t remember if Avatar was an IMAX release but i shudder to think of the awesomeness of that film in the IMAX format.

    Star Trek Into Darkness, Fantastic but not brilliant 4 out of 5

    Too many baddies nicking screentime of each other, Klingon fight sequence a bit shakey cam hard to follow… I take it the two security guys bought the farm, couldn’t make it out on screen though.

  4. I have no respect for the actors in this film who lied about Cumberbatch not being Khan. I mean, come on, when asked, they could have just said, “I’m not discussing that,” or, “I have no comment about it,” but instead, they chose to lie, claiming that they wanted to maintain and protect the “surprise”. Well, the first thing I thought of, when learning that Cumberbatch was indeed playing Khan, was how some of the actors outright lied about it. What are we, kids here? Come on!

    • Plus, I was disappointed with a Khan reboot. Do something orginal Abrams, now that you’ve changed the timeline and relegated decades of canon to nothingness. In your first film, you used Leonard Nimoy to entice the original fans to come and watch, and now, in your sequel, you use one of the most popular villains from the original series/movies. Space is your storybook, and you can’t think up something original?!

    • Did the lying actors hurt your wittle feewings? :(

      Well, get over it. You sound ridiculous right now.

      • “FILTHpig” above and “Poi” below…I find it baffling that you take such offense to my criticism of unneeded lies told on behalf of a film, when a simple, “I don’t want to discuss that,” would have sufficed. Your belittlement and ridicule prove yourselves to be the real children here.

    • Are you serious? How old are you? 9? Not saying this sentiment is correct, but in the eyes of many, the abscense of a denial is an admittance. Btw, Santa isn’t real, your parents were lying to you all this time.

      • He’s not?……….

        • He’s real. He’s real. Don’t cry, he’s real.

      • @ Pol

        Are you sure it’s not YOUR parents who were lying…..

    • Yup. Why didn’t they just say they weren’t going to respond to those or a simple ‘no comment’ would have sufficed.

    • I agree with you about the lying part, Jeff.

  5. Cumberbatch rocks it. He brought a lot to the character and the movie was a great ride. I grew up watching Star Trek and although I don’t consider myself a trekkie I will say I enjoyed his villian and the movie is a must see.

  6. Great movie and I loved the way the Kahn character was used in this film. JJ Abrams is doing a great job with this franchise and I look forward to more to come.

  7. 1st, I saw the movie and it was a fun romp!
    That being said as a long time trekker, I still found the white washing of a character that is cannon to be shortly racist and heavy on the rehashing of a told story and not coming up with something new as promised 4 years ago!
    Cumberbatch was superb and such a vibrant actor, we will surely see him in more film to come! All of the actors pulled off their assigned roles with perfection.
    Most of the lapsed flaws of the movie could have been corrected in dialog “Example ‘ Where Bones tells the bridge to have them take khan alive needed the explanation that the good doctor does not have time in testing the other augments and it is khan or nothing”
    Also the Switching of the death scene at the end was just cheesy and did not go over well.
    I think JJ and writers are out to destroy the franchise and what is to come with Star wars?

  8. I loved to movie….one of my all-time favorites! This Khan was a better villan than the orignal, his place in the story was great. Though as Kirk died I didn’t see them useing Khan’s blood to bring Kirk back to life… I thought Old Spock would revil the use of Genisis to bring himself back could be used on Kirk! Could have worked with the right writers.

  9. I finally saw the movie last night. I really liked it. I enjoyed it even more than the first one. Khan was such a bad ass. I think that he should be the main villain in the next ST movie too.

  10. I think there were many issues with the film, but Benedict portraying Khan definitely wasn’t one of them. If anything it enhanced the quality of the film. Perhaps people should of been more concerned with the predictable plot points.