J.J. Abrams wants Star Trek fans to know that he’s not happy with the way Into Darkness handled the mystery and secrecy surrounding the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain in last summer’s blockbuster sequel.
The problem with that is that it’s Abrams, as the director of Into Darkness, who’s responsible for this Mystery Box nonsense.
Still, in an effort to mend fences, Abrams opened up about the decisions in an interview with MTV (which you can watch above). As many remember, Team Star Trek swore up and down that Cumberbatch was NOT playing Khan, a classic Trek villain famously portrayed by Ricardo Montalban in the 1982 sequel Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Despite being asked numerous times in the run up to Into Darkness opening, cast and crew swore the villain would not be Khan.
Except that the villain was Khan. And the needless misdirection angered many. Abrams, in the new interview, argues:
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. 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."
That’s basically what we came up with when we took Abrams to task for his Mystery Box foolishness. You risk alienating true fans with sleight-of-hand parlor tricks that can end up negating any goodwill and momentum you have built up heading into a sequel. Plus, once Cumberbatch’s identity is revealed in Into Darkness, the "tension" created by a marketing exercise deflates. It doesn’t help the overall film.
We can only hope Abrams learned his lesson, and doesn’t try such blatant misdirection on Star Wars: Episode VII. Then again, we know so little about that sequel at the moment, the whole movie exists in a suffocating Mystery Box. Here we go again?
The Joe Cornish bit at the end of the MTV interview addresses recent rumors that the Attack the Block filmmaker might be up for Star Trek 3, whenever it goes into production. Abrams tempers the rumor cycle, but doesn’t shoot the idea down. Stay tuned for confirmation (or denial) in time.