J.J. Abrams Admits Lying About Khan Was a Bad Idea, Blames the Studio
It was evident to almost everyone from the get-go that ‘Star Trek Into Darkness‘ director J.J. Abrams cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan (the iconic ‘Star Trek’ villain originally played by Ricardo Montalban in ‘The Wrath of Khan’). Despite a mountain of overwhelming evidence, Abrams lied about it, cast members lied about it and the studio perpetuated the secrecy. But, with the film behind him, Abrams now says it was all a big mistake and blames studio pressure for the secrecy.
Speaking with MTV, Abrams explains what we’ve previously heard as the reason for keeping Khan a secret: it makes no sense for the audience to know Cumberbatch is Khan when the characters in the film don’t know that until about an hour into the movie. But, for the first time, Abrams explains another, more troubling, reason for the subterfuge.
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…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.
To their credit, Paramount’s marketing department did a remarkable job with 2009’s ‘Star Trek’ – not just rebooting the films, but rebooting the culture. Previously, ‘Star Trek’ was reserved for the geekiest of the geeks (see the classic “Get a Life” sketch from ‘SNL’), but they made ‘Star Trek’ “cool” again. The movie was a breakout hit and established J.J. Abrams as an A-list director. But, once you’ve established this new cachet, you don’t need to completely turn your back on the geeky fans that made you what you are in the first place.
Announcing Khan is not going to alienate any new fans, nor is it simple angling for existing fans. ‘Star Trek’ fans are among the smartest in all of pop culture and to think they weren’t going to catch on this was underestimating your core audience. Announce Khan for them and let any new fans discover the character in the new film; if they don’t know ‘Star Trek,’ they won’t know who Khan is before the characters do anyway, so it renders that point moot. Lying to your audience and playing them for fools is never, ever going to work, to matter what the intentions.
In the end, ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ tried not to alienate any new fans and just wound up alienating their existing ones.
(This all assumes that Abrams isn’t lying, once again, to cover his ass with fans as he prepares to direct another fanboy-heavy film, ‘Star Wars: Episode 7.’)