[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.

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.

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