JJ Abrams Star Trek Premiere

One of the biggest movie-related questions coming into 2013 was the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch‘s character in Star Trek Into Darkness. Early on, multiple reports identified the character as Khan, the classic Trek villain best known from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. However, from top to bottom, director J.J. Abrams, screenwriters Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, as well as the actors themselves, denied this was the case. And, of course, we now know they were all lying in an attempt to preserve the theatrical experience. Cumberbatch was Khan.

Now that several months have passed, and there’s some perspective on how the whole ruse went down, Abrams has had a slight change of heart. He admits it “probably would have been smarter just to say upfront” that Khan was in the movie. Read, and watch, his thoughts below.

Thanks to MTV for this clip

And here’s the most important quote.

The truth is I think it probably would have been smarter just to say upfront ‘This is who it is.’ It was only trying to preserve the fun of it, and it might have given more time to acclimate and accept that’s what the thing was. 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,” he said. “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.

If you watch the whole video he gets into it a bit more, while also commenting on the possibility of Joe Cornish doing the next movie.

Abrams’ original argument, that the crew in the film didn’t know Khan’s identity for the first half of the movie, makes sense on one hand. On the other hand, the fact he’s Khan means nothing. He’s just a bad guy with a name recognizable to some fans. His identity is never a major plot of the story. The whole situation was a tough one from the start and I’m not surprised Abrams is questioning the way everyone handled the reveal. I commend them for keeping the theatrical experience a priority, and even going to some impressive lengths to fool everyone. Plus, with $228 million domestic and $467 million total, something obviously worked.

The big question is, would those numbers have been any different had they handled the reveal differently? I feel like the answer is “Yes,” but on the dark side. Had Abrams came out last year and said “Khan is the villain” the likely response from non-fans would been alienation (“Who is Khan?”) and fans might have felt betrayed (“I don’t want to see another Khan movie”). Plus, that big surprise, even if it was mostly ruined, surely sold tickets as people wanted to see the answer for themselves. The mystery helped drive buzz and discussion about the movie, plain and simple.

Abrams might now think keeping Khan secret was a bad idea, but it was likely a bad idea that worked to their advantage. What are your thoughts?

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