‘Star Trek Into Darkness': Why J.J. Abrams Regrets Khan Secrecy

Published 1 year ago by

star trek into darkness jj abrams Star Trek Into Darkness: Why J.J. Abrams Regrets Khan Secrecy

J.J. Abrams’ penchant for secrecy is well known, and few of his movies encompass his “mystery box” approach to filmmaking so well as this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness. In the months leading up to the blockbuster’s May release, Abrams teased out and danced around the identity of his villain, “John Harrison”, discussing the character’s agenda and intentions without actually spilling the beans on his true name and back story; he kept the lid tight on these details – at least as much as he could – within reason.

But the smokescreen cast by Abrams and Paramount turned out to be all for naught – halfway through the film, Harrison reveals that he’s none other than the genetically engineered superhuman, Khan, vindicating long-held fan speculation that the iconic Star Trek heavy would appear in Into Darkness as its central antagonist. In the end, the campaign of misdirection leading into the film’s premiere wound up feeling kind of pointless.

Viewers who felt that efforts made to preserve the deception over Khan’s presence in the film were rather unnecessary are now in good company: Abrams himself wishes that the movie’s advertising had been open about who Benedict Cumberbatch was really cast to portray. Speaking in a recent interview with MTV, Abrams expressed his misgivings over the duplicity, citing several reasons as to why he and the studio plead the fifth instead of admitting that Khan would serve as Star Trek Into Darkness‘ big bad.

star trek2 Star Trek Into Darkness: Why J.J. Abrams Regrets Khan Secrecy

Notably, Paramount wanted to avoid making non-Trek fans feeling excluded from enjoying the film by giving the impression that one had to be familiar with Star Trek in total to understand it. Here’s the direct quote from Abrams:

The truth is because it was so important to the studio that we not angle this thing for existing fans. If we said it was Khan, it would feel like you’ve really got to know what ‘Star Trek’ is about to see this movie. That would have been limiting. I can understand their argument to try to keep that quiet, but I do wonder if it would have seemed a little bit less like an attempt at deception if we had just come out with it.

For Abrams’ part, it was also important to not ruin the movie for people before they went to go see it by giving away Khan’s role, but he believes now that being upfront about Khan would have ultimately been the smarter move.

star trek darkness kirk harrison Star Trek Into Darkness: Why J.J. Abrams Regrets Khan Secrecy

On one hand, it’s easy to sympathize with him and with Paramount; no one wants to have the big twist to any movie given away by trailers or commercials, as that totally defeats the purpose of having a twist in the first place. On top of that, one of the big challenges of making niche genre fare like Star Trek successful is making it palatable to the mainstream instead of just catering to fans. It’s essential to please fans, of course, but doing so at the cost of a wider audience is bad business sense.

At the same time, divulging Khan’s identity wouldn’t have given away anything valuable about Star Trek Into Darkness‘ plot; the film’s climactic play on The Wrath of Khan feels like the far bigger spoiler between the two. Additionally, there’s no reference made to Khan’s position in Trek canon that goes unexplained, as Spock Prime speaks fairly explicitly to the character’s background, enough to bring unfamiliar viewers up to speed.

So it seems that Abrams’ considers both of these concerns unfounded in retrospect. In light of how often the guy plays with his cards close to the vest, his candor here is appreciated, if a bit past Star Trek Into Darkness‘ expiration date – especially since he’s done with the franchise as a director, having put Star Wars: VII on his docket instead.

What do you all think, Screen Ranters? Are Abrams’ points spot on, or did Paramount make the right move by leaving Khan’s name out of the film’s marketing?


Star Trek Into Darkness is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Star Wars: Episode VII opens in theaters on December 18th, 2015.

Source: MTV

Follow Andy Crump on Twitter @agracru
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  1. They should have released a TV spot a week before release with Spock yelling Khan!!!

    Fans of the series would have flocked to compare the two films and the mainstream audience would either be clueless or have enough pop culture knowledge to know that Shatner screamed that line in something at one point in his career.

  2. Why would name-dropping Khan prior to the movie’s release alienate non-Star Trek fans anyway? The deciding factor for a person to see the movie or not is whether or not there’s a character named “Khan” in the movie? As long as they didn’t make the trailers lean on prior knowledge of who Khan is / was, I don’t see how it would have affected ticket sales.

    I mean, viewers who had no idea who Kahn was were completely puzzled as to why the “My name is Khan” part in the new movie was done-up so dramatically.

  3. So he regrets trying to cover the fact he was making a rehash of Star Trek 2 under the guise of being clever, fresh and edgy?

    • It never fails to amaze me the stupidity of people saying “Into Darkness” was a rehash/remake/ripoff/etc. of “Wrath of Khan”. If that’s what you think, then clearly you either weren’t paying attention or don’t know What the hell is going on. When J.J. re-set the timeline into an alternate future with “Star Trek” (2009), everything we have come to know from the William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy days (specifically, the classic episode “Space Seed”) is done and gone, and we have been presented with a “what if THIS had happened” new timeline. As a direct result of Nero going back in time through the singularity in the previous film, someone ELSE (Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus) discovered the Botany Bay ship with all of the frozen, exiled, superhuman convicts including Khan. “Into Darkness” is the depiction of how things would have unfolded under THOSE circumstances instead of Kirk and the Enterprise finding them. Therefore… OBVIOUSLY not a remake or a rehash, but a fresh and imaginative take on events those familiar with the series THOUGHT they knew.

      THINK, people! Honestly?

      • Well said!
        As an older fan, I love seeing the differences in how these universes unfold. You can really see the much more muted presence of Vulcans in the development of Starfleet and the Federation. It is much more militarized than the previous incarnation

      • Thanks captain obvious. The point is that the movie is a rehash of existing Star Trek references. It was dumb dumb dumb.

  4. I feel they should have avoided Khan altogether. He deserves a film of bigger scale where he is the greatest threat to the heroes. I am not sure this was that grand.

  5. Another article for the J.J haters to b!tch some more about another movie that had great reviews and made a lot of money. Easiest thing to do on this site is to gather all the nostalgia goggle wearing nerds who want to complain about their Star Trek heritage right along with all the MOS haters who want a Superman that saves cats from trees LOL.

    Off course they are going to bring old characters back in a different way DUH! It’s a reboot with a spin, it happens when you introduce time travel, look up the butterfly effect!

    • Im not a ‘J.J hater’. I like most of his movies & tv shows. I was just disappointed that he took the easy option & used Khan rather than try something new & fresh.

      • Same here. They essentially created an alternate timeline to explore, and yet the writers fell back on the Wrath of Khan, and now they have 72 bodies to use to bring people back from the dead. Hooray for pointless deaths!

      • But they did start their rebooted timeline with a completely new story. And they had already revisited characters from the previous timeline with Spock-Prime and even any character from the series. And following Khan’s origin, which hasn’t changed because he’s from before the breaking point, he would have came back eventually. He IS a big gun in their Rogues Gallery, if you will.

        Now, saying the movie is not good because you don’t like it is perfectly fine, but saying they took the easy route and the movie wasn’t new and fresh, well that’s just out of nowhere.

    • I guess anyone who does not fully enjoy a movie must be a hater.

      Then you can hate on the haters.

      Good boy.

    • What does the Butterfly Effect have to do with time travel? And technically they did a combination of dimensional and time travel in the first movie, even sci-fi conventions don’t apply…..

  6. The movie was full of plotholes. It would have been better if Harrison was Gary Mitchell as the speculation was going on about.

    It didn’t matter if it was Khan, the movie Khan didn’t match the old Khan. The old Khan wasn’t immortal (if Khan’s cells can bring back the dead, then wouldn’t he be immortal?) Still don’t know why McCoy needed Khan’s blood, he had alot of other eugenics experiments lying in sickbay he could draw blood from.

    The two movies were Star Trek with Star Wars physics (you can’t fight at warp? that’s Star Wars, not Trek; Warp out right on top of people instead of knowing where you’re going? That’s Star Wars not Trek) Good thing Abrams is off to Wookieland, he already knows Star Wars physics.

    • It was a poor decision to use the character Khan. Had the writers and J.J. Abrams possessed just one atom of imagination between them, a far better movie could’ve been made with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Commander Gary Mitchell, Alice Eve playing Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, and Peter Weller playing Fleet Captain-turned-madman Lord Garth of Izar.

  7. A good way for Paramount to apologise to fans for messing around with the fans expectations a bit too much would be for them to release a proper DVD/Blu-Ray release with all the extras that were spread over all the various retailer specific versions onto one properly packaged set… Its only fair seeing as they also need to apologise to fans for that as well. Its not like they won’t be making money off it either, and it would allay all the disappointment they were so eager to garner on the home video release. Paramount take note.

  8. Going with Khan was dumb.

    Having Spike scream Khaaaaaaaaan! was mega dumb.

    Having old Spock say that Khan was the most dangerous adversary the Enterprise had ever faced was over the top wanky fanboy tickling.

    Assuming that anyone outside of the fan base has a clue as to who Khan is is out of touch.

    Assuming that most fans wanted Khan even more out of touch.

    The first Abrams Star Trek was great. The second had the potential to be the equivalent of The Dark Knight but instead was more like a transformers movie. A bit of fun with some good moments and some painful moments but will never go down as one of the great movies.

    They have the right cast (mostly). I really hope they can knock something out of the ballpark for the third film.

  9. I honestly don’t understand what all of this crap talking is about them redoing Khan… It’s an alternate timeline that starts from the beginning, it only makes sense for them to run into the same people and the same situations… In fact, it’ll be less believable if they never run into any similar situations since they are in a parallel universe just at an earlier time…

    • I would agree with you except for the fact that all the tv shows did the “Mirror Universe” thing to death.

      I do agree that some characters and situations are bound to pop up in different circumstances but with the five year mission starting now I don’t want to see every movie now just be a rehash of something we’ve already seen.

      Take this opportunity to do the stories we didn’t see in the original five year mission, knowing full well they happened in our universe but in a different way. In other words, PLEASE “boldly go where we haven’t been before…..PLEASE?!?

      Maybe get some real science fiction writers to come up with a story that a screenplay could be closely based on. Thank you.

      • @Shawn

        I’m not saying for every story to be redone, I’m saying it would be unbelievable if NONE of the stories get redone. I would be happy that this is one old character that they run into like the old cast did, then from here on out they go a different path and encounter new things. Just as long as they got the “parallel” thing out of the way…

  10. I think they should’ve just kept the villain as John Harrison. The ‘twist’ added nothing to the film, except for an excuse to briefly talk to Spock Prime.