J.J. Abrams Regrets His Biggest Star Trek Into Darkness Mistake

Would Into Darkness have been better without the John Harrison mystery?

By Rudie Obias | Updated

star trek khan

To some people, Star Trek Into Darkness was either the most disappointing or the best movie of the 2013 summer season. The Star Trek sequel’s box office performance was considered moderate when compared to studio expectations, but some believe the film would’ve performed better if audiences knew what they were getting into before they watched the movie. Namely, they should have known the nature of the film’s villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

About an hour into Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s revealed that Cumberbatch’s John Harrison was, in fact, just a pseudonym for his true identity, Khan.

J.J. Abrams made a big deal about Star Trek Into Darkness‘s villain’s identity before the film was released back in May. Every time he was asked a question about the character he would reply with a clever misdirection or just flat-out lie about Harrison’s true identity. In an interview with MTV, Abrams now says he feels it was a mistake to keep Khan’s identity a secret before the film was released.

J.J. Abrams said about Star Trek Into Darkness, “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.”

Abrams then went on to blame Paramount Pictures for wanting to withhold this information from the audience in all of Star Trek Into Darkness‘ promotional materials. The studio allegedly didn’t want to alienate general audiences by putting such a big spotlight on a character from established Star Trek mythology.

On this Star Trek Into Darkness front, J.J. Abrams continued, “‘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,’ he said. ‘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.”

With Star Trek Into Darkness, it seems like J.J. Abrams was a victim of his own success. Much like M. Night Shyamalan, audiences expected a twist to be in one of his films, whether it be the return of Spock in the first Star Trek reboot or the monster in Super 8.

It felt like J.J. Abrams had to manufacture a mystery, just to keep in line with his brand of “mystery box” storytelling in his films. While it didn’t work in Star Trek Into Darkness or Super 8, Abrams found success with this plot device in Mission: Impossible III and his first Star Trek.

Keeping the Khan secret in Star Trek Into Darkness was stupid, and it hurt the movie, especially since by the time of the release, it wasn’t much of a secret.