khan in star trek into darkness

The Khan reveal landed with a thud in Star Trek Into Darkness. We all knew Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan going into director J.J. Abrams‘ sequel. The film was heavily criticized for its twist, and co-writer Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers), echoing Abrams’ thoughts, admits it was a mistake to hold off on revealing Khan.

Read Lindelof’s comments after the jump.

Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. I still recall the silence that fell over the crowd when John Harrison said, “I. Am. Khan.” For those unfamiliar with the character, the name, at best, was vaguely familiar. As for Star Trek fans, they all saw the twist coming — and an audience shouldn’t be that far ahead of its heroes.

In an interview with Variety, Lindelof had this to say:

When we did Star Trek Into Darkness for example, we decided that we weren’t going to tell people that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan. And that was a mistake, because the audience was like, “We know he’s playing Khan.” That was why it was a mistake. But J.J. [Abrams] is telling us nothing about the new Star Wars movie and we love it. I’ve not come across a single person who’s like, “I wish I knew a little bit more.” We are like, ‘Thank God he’s protecting us from all the things that will be revealed in the movie theater.”

In this day and age, some fans soak up every piece of spoiler-y information they can find on a TV show or movie, meaning it’s hard to surprise viewers. Staying ahead of an audience is getting more difficult as time goes on, and Lindelof acknowledges that:

We’re in a media culture where the audience is so sophisticated and they can crowdsource and Reddit this information — if they get a twist, you know, like the Edward James Olmos [twist] on “Dexter” or what happened recently on “The Walking Dead,” the audience basically crowdsourced exactly how [that twist could have happened] within hours of it airing. By the time it airs a month later, the audience just goes “Duh!” That’s not the storytellers’ fault. It’s just the sophistication [of the audience’s ability] to figure things out. It’s like, we’re up against this incredible creative algorithm.

The screenwriter is no stranger to twists, often causing divisive reactions. This season of The Leftovers, however, is so adept at playing with audience’s expectations. The reveals and payoffs over these past few episodes have been incredibly satisfying, and a part of the reason why is this season isn’t completely on the twist, like Khan, but on the characters and drama. The mystery is very secondary to the characters, so your focus is on the leads, not guessing what’s going to happen next.

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