How J.J. Abrams Altered Star Trek Into Darkness To Hide Its Secrets

Now that the weekend is over, we’re able to fully gauge just how many people were excited to see J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness on its first weekend. It turns out that it was a lot of people, though not quite as many as some analysts were predicting. It’s too bad it’s impossible to get an exact count on how many people were drawn in by the film’s advertising campaign. I can’t assume a large number of people went based on Abrams’ trademark secrecy, which didn’t quite work for this film the way it did with Super 8. Even so, the film’s secrets are obviously still relevant the week after the sequel’s release, and this is when you should stop reading if you haven’t seen the film. I’ll even put a pretty picture in the way so you can click off of the page without seeing anything.

SlashFilm has brought to light a big switcheroo that Abrams & Co. performed during a footage screening shown to journalists at Bad Robot in December of last year. This is where the name John Harrison originated for Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain. And as you probably know by now, Cumberbatch’s character name only rhymes with John. (It’s Khan.)

The sequence showed the second act space jump in the footage, and on two separate occasions - once spoken and once shown on a monitor - the name John Harrison was used. Fans spent the next few months debating over the bullshit factor behind that name, and we now know that bits from that scene were fabricated specifically for the preview screening. While this is pretty smooth and clever marketing, it still didn’t fool that many people, and again, was used in a film where secrecy wasn’t going to draw in hordes of viewers. The switch is explained by producer Bryan Burk as being necessary so that viewers weren’t ahead of the characters as far as prior knowledge goes. Fair game. Still, horror films should get in on this technique. Let’s hear an explanation from one of the horses’ mouths.

“Bryan Burk was the one who first proposed that we use the space jump sequence as a way of getting folks excited for the movie,” explains co-writer Damon Lindelof. “The challenge was obvious [because] this is after the reveal. Therefore, J.J. and post production supervisor Ben Rosenblatt executed a “Harrison Cut” to preserve the secret. I’d rather not get into the details of how this was accomplished; suffice to say it wasn’t easy. It was, however, worth it.”

Maybe next time they shouldn’t be so overt with the Khan hints and then all the actors wouldn’t have had to explicitly lie about it. Somebody tell Brad Bird to let Lindelof know that Tomorrowland is a Brad Bird film, and that plot comes before secrecy.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.