Star Trek Into Darkness: Was The Mystery Box Worth It?

By Katey Rich And Sean O'Connell 2013-05-16 09:46:31discussion comments
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KATEY:  Yeah, it's hard to separate my frustrations with the Mystery Box approach and frustrations with how they dealt with the Wrath of Khan references. I firmly believe that the Mystery Box doesn't really matter that much in the long run, and in a few years re-watching STID we won't remember all the speculation about Khan, just the actual performance and the film around him.

SEAN: Let's hope. Because I think there's a lot there to appreciate. It's an expertly-crafted spectacle-event movie.

KATEY: I still think Abrams's penchant for secrecy is a good thing in a day and age when there's so little of it, and I'm super, super interested to see how that plays out with Star Wars, which has infinite potential for surprise references and cameos. I'm hoping he's learned a little more about sleight of hand from this though-- if you're gonna use the Mystery Box, distract us from its very existence until you're ready for the reveal.

SEAN:  Or just go into complete radio silence. "You'll have a new Star Wars movie in 2015. See you then!" And then nothing. Imagine that?

KATEY: The Internet, sadly, would never allow that. We're complicit in the system that turns things like the Mystery Box into a scavenger hunt... and I have some regrets about it. But I also don't think the flatness of the reveal is ENTIRELY our fault, as much as Abrams might want to think so.

SEAN:   Oh, I totally agree. And that's where the pressure of the Mystery Box and the reveal might have gotten the better of Abrams and his screenwriters. They were so preoccupied with keeping the mystery, they didn't cook up a brilliant way to drop the facts. The more we talk about it, the more opposed I am to the Mystery Box. I understand the need for some secrecy. But it shouldn't detract from the final movie, and I honestly believe the Khan mystery stole from some of the impact of the movie, in general.

KATEY: That's probably true. Imagine if we'd known from the start that he was Khan, and that was part of what we were witnessing with the terrorist attack and especially the attack on Starfleet. That would save us the giant monologue that Cumberbatch has in that jail cell, where he basically has to explain the entire plot and we are asked to remember it (again, telling and not showing). And then you still get the fun of seeing the Enterprise crew working with Khan as a kind of rogue force, literally a guy from another time. And he can still betray them. It gives you the same satisfying elements of the Khan plot without the dancing around.

SEAN:  And -- which is most important -- I think you can have Cumberbatch talking about Khan in the run up to the film. Which could only help!

KATEY: So if we're trying to teach Abrams a lesson-- and we recognize that it's impossible to just say "Star Wars Is coming in 2015, be there"-- how should he approach these mysteries going forward? Is it only the Iron Man 3 method of distraction? Or can you keep secrets in the way Abrams wants without driving everyone crazy?

SEAN:  I think that he needs to be open and honest with Star Wars. I don't know if there is as central a mystery to Star Wars as Khan is to Trek. They're not bringing Darth Vader back. So I think he'll be doing the movie a better service if he includes fans in on the journey. Stop with the bait-and-switch nonsense. Do you agree?

KATEY:  I think there's a balance between bait and switch and between keeping reveals to yourself-- like how the alien in Super 8 wasn't in any of the marketing, and it made for a good surprise. But I think that the Khan reveal was turned into a game with the Internet, and Abrams lost the game-- and that's something I hope he avoids next time.

Were you glad that J.J. Abrams kept the villain's identity secret?

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