…so director/writer J. J. Abrams noted in an interview that the reveal that Benedict Cumberbatch’s character in Star Trek Into Darkness (from now on I’ll refer to it as STID) was Khan was perhaps not handled as well as it should have been:
I think Mr. Abrams states the obvious by this point and, no, I’m not trying to be snarky. In fact, this is perhaps why Mr. Abrams has succeeded as well as he has in a business as cut throat as the one he’s involved in. It shows he’s capable of looking around, assessing, and adjusting.
I’m certain there are plenty of directors who in his shoes would never in a lifetime admit something they did was “wrong” in any way. For that matter, there are plenty of people in many other lines of work who would be loathe to admit they ever did anything wrong (I have yet to hear a mea culpa for anything that occurred during the previous Republican President’s term).
I suspect that those working behind the scenes of STID came into the venture clearly wanting to put their spin on the Khan storyline. Unfortunately, they got so wrapped up in trying to “surprise” their viewers of the character’s identity that they ultimately tripped over their own feet in that reveal.
The fact is that the original 1982 Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan had the villain’s name in its title and yet other than die hard Star Trek fans, few knew who the heck Khan was or why he was all “wrathing” on the Star Trek characters. But the movie filled you in on all the information you needed in very short order. In his introductory scenes, Khan and his group were given a complete backstory that allowed audiences to know he was a very dangerous and clever villain. By the time Captain Kirk and Khan were about to cross paths for the first time, my stomach was in a knot, knowing that Kirk and his crew were innocently walking into a lion’s den…and there was a real doubt as to whether he would be able to survive that first encounter (check out Kirk’s reaction to seeing Khan at the five minute mark).
Excellent, excellent stuff.
But STID tried to hide Khan’s character from audiences until he was face to face with Kirk by the film’s second half. Then, when Khan reveals his identity, actor Benedict Cumberbatch delivers the line as if it is some major revelation…yet in this Star Trek universe, this is the very first meeting between the characters and therefore the whole thing is decidedly anti-climactic.
In The Wrath of Khan, Kirk is surprised, amazed, and more than a little horrified by the return of this very bad man. In STID, however, since the characters haven’t met this person before and have no knowledge of his backstory until he tells them, this big reveal is a big…nothing.
In the end, all that effort to hide the identity of the villain proved useless or, even worse, distracting from the overall film.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I enjoyed STID when I saw it in theaters but thinking about the film and the passage of time have certainly dulled my enjoyment and thoughts of the film. I’m not completely down on it, however, but feel that while it did succeed in certain respects it surely did fail in others.