How Far Did Abrams Go to Hide 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Villain?

May 20, 2013
Source: SlashFilm

Star Trek Into Darkness

This past weekend, Star Trek Into Darkness took the #1 spot at the box office. And despite some intense (and mostly valid) nitpicking of the writing and plot, the film is a fun roller coaster ride of suspense and action, complete with stellar performances and a glorious score. But leading up to the film, the primary focus was that of the film's villain. Early rumors pegged the sequel's bad guy as the infamous Khan from the frequently lauded Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but J.J. Abrams and everyone else kept saying that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing a villain named John Harrison, and they were wrong. More below!

**If you don't want any spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness, stop reading. You've been warned.**

And so began the long debate of whether or not J.J. Abrams was using one of the most iconic villains from the Star Trek universe. In fact, last winter, a group of press were invited to check out some footage from Star Trek Into Darkness, and any suspicions that Khan was in the film were erased. Why? Well, the footage shown highlighted the space jumping sequence in which Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) has to work with John Harrison to shoot from the Enterprise to the Vengeance where Scotty is waiting to open the ship's door for them to fly into. It's a pretty exciting sequence.

Well, in this sequence, there are two blatant references to Cumberbatch's character. One has Spock saying the villain's name a few times while another shows the progress of Kirk and Harrison making their way across space, with the latter's name clearly visible. And so that seemed to settle the debate, at least for the press in attendance of this footage screening. However, for those who have now seen the film, they know that this was a blatant attempt to trick everyone into believing one thing to allow for a surprise as to the villain's real identity: Khan Noonien Singh

Ironically enough, this footage was shown around the exact time that Cumberbatch's villain's identity was revealed with a photo from the film. It was around this time that we proclaimed our annoyance with everyone trying to uncover the villain's identity. What real value does any fan or audience member gain by learning a fact that filmmakers are trying to keep secret? It's obviously part of the fun. SlashFilm has a quote from producer Bryan Burk who explains why they decided to keep the villain secret as opposed to broadcasting the name of the iconic villain to rake in fan interest:

The characters believe he is one person: John Harrison. If everything you know going into the movie is “It’s a guy named Khan,” even if you don’t even know who Khan is, you know that you’re watching a film where for forty-five minutes or an hour of the movie you are ahead of the characters. So you’re just kind of waiting for them to catch up with what you already know, that he is not who he says he is. So there’s the general idea of going to see a movie and allowing it to unfold as it normally does.

And there you have it. Honestly, I wish more production companies and filmmakers would take a cue from Bad Robot. If they want to flat out lie to fans about certain elements of the film, that makes the experience of seeing the film that much more enticing. We're living in an age where something like Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker's father would be spoiled in a heartbeat. Could you imagine if one of the biggest reveals in cinema history was spoiled by some asshole? Filmmakers need to do everything they can to keep their stories under a tight lid so we can experience them with an open mind and no major expectations. For more on how Bad Robot kept Khan's identity a secret, read SlashFilm's great article. Thoughts?

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Love the bitchy complaint about a Khan being white.

Xerxexx on May 20, 2013


Well ... we went from Khan, to some European White Trash... Then we still have the lens flare ... and a drunk director ... connecting the dots and all ...

Zanpher on May 20, 2013



Xerxexx on May 20, 2013


Replying to your reply ...

Zanpher on May 20, 2013



Xerxexx on May 20, 2013


Xerxexx just ignore him he doesn't know what good film making is or even knows how to rightfully structure a sentence, shame.

Fidel Reyes on May 20, 2013


Making people blind (lens flare), making them puke (shaky cam), does not make a good film. All real directors know this. Only a drunk would direct and/or defend such junk. You really need to try harder at trolling. Such a shame.

Zanpher on May 21, 2013


Yeah keep telling yourself that buddy, in the end it all comes down to criticism vs. creation, It's easy to criticize the work of others especially when you yourself don't do anything of that even comes close to it, and it's your own ignorance that blinds you and your own insinuations that make people, including yourself, puke. If you ever make re-imagine or create something that's worth a while make sure to give us a call Mr. Troll. By the way arguing that the director is drunk is an overall stupid statement, I would understand if you argued the cinematic schematics and styles of JJ and tried to explain how you see they are wrong, I could respect but instead all you say is that he's drunk and he's made people puke, so either you're 10 years old, or you're a really underdeveloped adult in the neuron department, if you even know what I mean. Oh and there were not as many Lens flares as in the first Trek movie JJ directed, they are visible at various points of the movie but don't over exaggerate by saying it's blinding because it's not, you prom night diva. You're probably just pissed off because you're a classic Trek fan and you start crying because Abrams takes a different art direction than that of the old movies and shows, if that's the case you're blinded by geeky loyalty. And you're right effects don't make a film good it is the script, acting, and of course overall tone of the film and production process, but you clearly lack the competence to rightfully understand those sort of things, suffering succotash...!

Fidel Reyes on May 21, 2013


That is a little better trolling. Though, if you want in on an adult conversation, you need to keep your assumptions to yourself. Over all, not too bad trolling.

Zanpher on May 22, 2013


You do know that if I were trolling I would be making no sense or being sarcastic at you without any sort of explanation, just stupid remarks were I to be trolling I would be saying stuff like "Your face makes people vomit", but this is not the case I am making an argument with various points that I took time to explain and backup, and you clearly don't know what to say anymore so you didn't try to keep the conversation going you just decided to say that my trolling is " a little better" this just goes to show that you have no more things to say considering that I had broken down your arguments and proved that you were just saying a bunch of total nonsense, and not to mention you yourself have now proved you cannot back up those points so therefore you try to end the conversation with a stupid remark about trolling. A quick tip/lesson, if you will judge a director do it based on cinematic terms and facts, not with a bunch of stupid remarks like "he's drunk" because that sort of behavior and argument does not work in a real conversation.

Fidel Reyes on May 22, 2013


Do you bother to read posts you claim to reply to? Seriously. Just stop embarrassing yourself.

Zanpher on May 22, 2013


You're the one calling people "drunk" and using the word "trolling" as your argument, you should be the one embarrassed, and yes I read your posts that is why I analyzed the points you said, burned you, and then you responded with the word "trolling" as if to justify that you do not know how to reply to my comments, so you then try to make me look like an incompetent person to make it seem as if you know what you're talking about, in part you would have if you had explained your arguments with more competence rather than with words like "puke" ,I'm not saying the film is perfect, because it's not but it is a good movie, for Trekkies and Non-Trekkies alike.

Fidel Reyes on May 22, 2013


Burned me? Yeah .. that's a good one. Try reading my posts. It does no good for me to retype everything when you refuse to read. Anyone with two cells can read my posts, read your replies, and go, WTF? I explained several times why JJ had earned his nickname. Feel free to actually read posts.

Zanpher on May 22, 2013


I read your damn posts I even mentioned what you said, don't be stupid, you're the one not reading my posts if you would read them you would know I called your attention on what you said. And no you did not explain how JJ got his nickname, at least not in this post, unless you're confusing this argument with another argument you're having, and no you did not mention JJ's nickname or how he got it.

Fidel Reyes on May 22, 2013


Hey @Ethan Anderton, this guy Zanpher is being a total assclown to some of the users in this site.

Guest on May 22, 2013


? I agree withfidel

Et on May 21, 2013


Why thank you.

Fidel Reyes on May 22, 2013


Neither do Orci or Kurtzman or Lindelof, apparently.

mistermysteryguest on May 22, 2013


Haha I gotta give it to you this comment made me laughxD! Not because it's an indirect to a remark I made, but because it's just funny! I do agree I am not too big of a fan for those three guys, specially Lindelof, example number 1: Prometheus, example number 2: Lost's unsatisfying finale.

Fidel Reyes on May 22, 2013


JJ-haters like to froth over his lens flares's a photography ego thing I guess ...

Dominic on May 21, 2013


I hate drunks. JJ happens to use things in his films that only a drunk could love.

Zanpher on May 21, 2013


JJ-lovers froth in their pants over any news about him or a new movie with his name attached.

mistermysteryguest on May 22, 2013


No problem. 1. JJ took an iconic character and turned him into white trash. (Further destroying the Star Trek franchise). 2. JJ decided to do two things in this film which only looks good to a drunk or a blind person. JJ has a repeated history with #2. This means either he needs to see a psychiatrist to treat his illness, or he is a bona fide drunk.

Zanpher on May 21, 2013


That is a pretty interesting assumption. I am not going to deny or confirm that one!

Zanpher on May 22, 2013


@6835abe78bffe3b926ab5d6c37f38d4d:disqus, do you see his reply to your comment? This is what people do when they do not know what to say anymore.

Guest on May 22, 2013


I fail to see why it matters what color his skin is. As long as he plays the part well. Its not like they got Larry the Cable Guy to play Khan. They picked a good actor to play a good character.

Ryan Gonzo on May 21, 2013


lmao - thank you so much for that vision.

avconsumer2 on May 21, 2013


I agree with you on the actor himself. He is a GREAT actor. However, he really doesn't fit with the Khan image at all. Just like the new Chekov.

Zanpher on May 21, 2013


Tbh I'm glad it wuz kept secret despite the rumours I literally gasped when he said his real name

Gursh on May 20, 2013


I thought all that smoke and mirrors stuff was bullshit from the moment I first heard about Benedict Cumberatch's castings. I guess I can see it from their POV, but when we (nerds) all started to call them out and JJ kept deflecting and redirecting, it was total bullshit. I suppose to a layman who never knew anything about the film, it may have been a surprise, but for everyone who was following its progress, it was an Apple-level surprise (READ: not a surprise).

DAVIDPD on May 20, 2013


too bad their marketing departments just s--t all over it: showing klingons, the big ship (we know what scotty will find at the 90thsomethingminute...) and stuff like this.

mike on May 20, 2013


Valid points all around. Interesting that you didn't comment on the modern trailer.These probably irk me the most, considering I agree with you on all the "mysterious" elements being awesome, but I also love watching trailers, most of which (these days) flat out end up ruining the actual film for me.

Jdavidbeatty on May 20, 2013


I'm glad they kept it under wraps. I tend to love being tricked when I see the movie after thinking I know what's coming from watching the trailers. *SPOILER* Pearce being the Mandarin, Ben being Khan, and famously, Eckhart being two face, are all great examples. It makes you second guess everything you thought you knew, and then opens up all these possibilities you weren't counting on. That's when it makes the remainder of the movie such an intriguing mystery.

JBrotsis on May 20, 2013


Ben Kenobi being Obi-Wan.

Luis Eduardo Ortiz on May 20, 2013


I hear tell that Clark Kent is in reality Super Man.

Dan Hibiki on May 21, 2013


dammit... those glasses, I thought he was moonlighting as a xerox repair man - this just ruins the suspense and mystery :)-

SavageHawk on May 21, 2013


The main reason I initially thought they were doing Khan was when it was reported Benicio Del Toro had been almost cast as the villain. Visually, I'd buy him as a young Ricardo Montalban. I am someone who doesn't watch trailers til after I've seen the movie and avoids plot spoilers, so I appreciate Bad Robot keeping his identity a secret. BUT! It was obvious Harrison wasn't his real name, So it was obvious that there WAS a secret. So I was expecting a reveal as to his identity. I didn't think it was Khan because they'd told us it wasn't AND because I thought Khan would be an awful decision. Out of anything you could do, why would you make it Khan? So I was pretty staggered and disappointed when the reveal was Khan. Even more so when they took those plot elements from TWOK. Sadly, he movie became a joke to me. So in the end they kept their secret, except their secret was that this film was going to be clever instead of great an engaging. That's my 2 cents anyway.

SV7 on May 20, 2013


You had spoilers in the opening paragraph come on now

Cody W on May 20, 2013


I tried my very best to avoid spoilers for Star Trek, but the discussion about Cumberbatch being Khan was all over the place, I think it would have been nearly impossible to avoid. Even back when it was just a rumor, even if it's not confirmed it still sticks in your mind as a possibility and somewhat ruins the fun. Maybe if they released these movies in the US at the same time the rest of the world gets to see it, we'd have a better chance of not being spoiled. Because despite my best efforts, the same thing happened to me with (SPOILER) IM3 and the Mandarin - of course, I didn't know that Ben Kingsley was going to be a drunk actor named Trevor, but I did know in advance that Guy Pearce was the real Mandarin. I will say that at FS you all do a good job of not spoiling things. But other sites don't seem to care as much as you do about keeping the moviegoing experience fresh and exciting.

John on May 20, 2013


Ethan, this is the most ironic and upsetting article I've ever read on Firstshowing and though I'm a loyal reader, I may be going elsewhere in the future. I saw Star Trek tonight, but an hour before I went I saw this headline and you singlehandedly ruined the surprise for me and spoiled the villain. Just by reading that he "hid" the villain I could infer that Harrison was indeed Khan and I am very upset that you would post a spoiler as a headline on your site. Up until reading that headline I was convinced that Abrams was not using Khan for all the reasons you mention in your article, but once I knew he had tricked the public I knew exactly who the real villain was. I am very upset and I beg you to please refrain from posting spoilers for a 3 day old film in a headline on this site, no matter how small you may think they are. I still loved the film, but I would have loved it more had I not come to Firstshowing today.

Matt Peloquin on May 20, 2013


Lol That's not their gig , pal . YOU gotta control ur eyes better , or ur internet connection ....

Dominic on May 21, 2013


I've been coming to Firstshowing since they began the site and I can tell you that if Alex wasn't in France he wouldn't have let that headline run. I knew to specifically avoid all Star Trek news prior to seeing the film and I even stayed off Reddit, but to see it while scrolling other articles on the home page of Firstshowing really upset me.

Matt Peloquin on May 21, 2013


If you're going to watch a movie that you don't want spoiled... stay off movie websites, especially an hour before! I have no sympathy.

Johnny Reno on May 21, 2013


I'm always on movie websites and I expect them not to spoil things because I expect them to be take extra precautions. I would expect something like this more from a non-film website.

Matt Peloquin on May 21, 2013


It is literally their gig... pal. Alex generally does a pretty good job of not posting spoilers till after the jump. It's one of the few reasons I visit this site. I recall one previous instance where they screwed up pretty good, but only once. This will be twice - even though I've already seen it, I completely understand, agree, and sympathize with Matt.

avconsumer2 on May 21, 2013


Here's the secret why there is two names:

Diaz Vic on May 20, 2013


But the audience was still ahead of what the crew knew anyway, right from the opening scenes where Khan uses his blood to heal that girl with the uncurable disease. It was pretty obvious right then that he wasn't just some normal guy like everyone else was saying he was. It was pretty much at that point I figured, yep, its Khan.

khel on May 20, 2013


Remember the time,before the internet. When you saw a trailer at the cinema and then didn't see it again until a few weeks before the film came out. Now it's just a click away,takes the fun out of it for me.

Darren Hicks on May 21, 2013


Again , then DON"T CLICK ! how hard is that ? Very Hard cause this is a great place to come . But if u think ur seeing the movie , then it's up to you to control urself . Trailers or spoilers enhance the movie , for me . Or it tells me NOT to go , which is just as important ( or else I woulda wasted $$ seeing " The Man With Iron Fist " in a theatre , for example )

Dominic on May 21, 2013


It wasn't a comment about my self control so STOP SHOUTING. Haha. The point I was making was about the over saturation of the marketing on movies. Instead of a couple of trailers,we now have multiple tv spots then teasers and after all that,2 sometimes 3 full trailers.

Darren Hicks on May 23, 2013


I agree with the guys who argue why they chose a white guy to play Khan. Now,from a producer point of view,it make $en$e given the popularity of Benedict besides allowing him to extend his range. From an artistic viewpoint,it would have been better to give the part to a non white and non black actor Anyway box office numbers are out and the producers were wrong because it won't do much better than the first film. What's next black panther beingplayed by a Chinese actor?

Bo numbers on May 21, 2013


As a staunch spoiler avoider... I have to express my distaste of listing Khan as a confirmed character before the jump. I did well to avoid it before seeing it, it paid off nicely, and I would be furious right now if I hadn't seen the film. Edit... re-reading, it appears he didn't reeeally confirm till after the jump - my bad! Carry on! Edit 2... well... kind of. Regardless, please continue to be respectful of us folks who can't make it to the theater as quick as we'd like.

avconsumer2 on May 21, 2013


We will agree to disagree then. I quite enjoy being surprised by plot twists, reveals, etc. while I'm actually watching the movie - and feel it adds quite a bit if experienced when & how the film maker intended. My most memorable movie experiences were going in completely blind.

avconsumer2 on May 21, 2013


Not really a surprise. Waste of great villan, also really could not stand the classic Wrath of Khan scenes redone.

googlemonkey on May 21, 2013


It would have been more of a surprise if he wasn't Kahn but one of Kahn's crew members.

Bravadojo on May 21, 2013


Sorry for the misspelling of Khan.

Bravadojo on May 21, 2013


There was no secret. Everyone guessed this months ago. And since there's no originality left in Hollywood, even less of a surprise.

mistermysteryguest on May 22, 2013


Umm, he flat out GAVE IT AWAY in a the very few people who know the significance of the number 72. "....and they've been aboard your ship all along."

Dave Melges on May 28, 2013

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