J.J. Abrams Regrets All That Star Trek Into Darkness/John Harrison Misdirection

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

By Rudie Obias | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old



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

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 goes on to blame Paramount Pictures for wanting to withhold this information from the audience in all of 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. Abrams continues:

“‘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.’

It seems like J.J. Abrams is a victim of his own success. Much like M. Night Shyamalan, audiences now expect 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 feels like Abrams has 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 Khan secret in Into Darkness was stupid and it hurt the movie, especially since by the time of the release it wasn’t much of a secret. Hopefully Abrams won’t pull anything similar in Star Wars: Episode VII.

Meanwhile, J.J. Abrams talked about director Joe Cornish as the potential new director for Star Trek 3. While Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot have yet to pick a director for the third installment in the Star Trek reboot series, Joe Cornish is believed to be at the top of the list for the new directing job. Abrams says:

‘I don’t know if Joe Cornish is the guy. My guess is that’s up in the air. I adore him and love him and can’t wait to see what he does next,’ Abrams said. ‘Hopefully it will be Star Trek. Whatever it is, he’s brilliant. Attack the Block was one of my favorite movies of the year when it came out.’

At the moment, Paramount has yet to announce a release date for Star Trek 3, but writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are returning to write the film’s screenplay.

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