Except, it keeps proving to be impossible. Even after six months, the creators and the movie get increasingly problematic with every word that is uttered. From Caitians that look inexplicably like Asian sex kittens, to Roberto Orci removing himself from Twitter due to fan blowback, there has been no short of controversy between the fans and the movie’s creators.
So let’s play what are we quibbling with now. J.J. Abrams recently did an interview with MTV where he answered questions about keeping Khan secret. His answer was this:
“I feel like the goal was to not ruin it for anyone that went to go and see it. But the fact is it ended up coming off like we were being coy. Like we were trying to like act like we were more clever than we are or something, and all it really was an attempt to not ruin the thing.”
So, he’s right in this respect. No one was surprised that it was Khan in the movie. I wrote a manifesto on every comment ever said running up to the movie, and how it couldn’t be anyone but Khan and it turns out I was right, as were the majority of the fans. At a certain point, it felt like the creators were just toying with us, saying “here are some very obvious hints that Benedict Cumberbatch is Khan, but he’s not!”. So yes, it did come off as a little coy.
He then goes on to say,
“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 or something if we had just come out with it.”
Really, though, I don’t think the problem in this is the fans being annoyed at the poor attempt of deception.
I think, what it comes down to, is that if they thought that revealing Khan as the villain would spoil the movie, they’re not writing the movie correctly…. or honoring the primary premise of the alternate timeline in the reboot movies…. like… at all. If somehow saying “this is Khan” makes it so the entire movie is a copy of an older one, it means you missed the mark on how you presented Khan in the reboots. Also, we’ll ignore the patronizing aspect of not angling it towards existing fans, and go for the fact that if the movie was supposed to be for everyone, what does it matter if Khan is in it at all? The fans would squee, no one else would really care. After all, if you don’t know Khan, you don’t know Khan.
I suppose what it really comes down to, where it really irks me, is that the premise of the reboot movies were supposed to be an homage to a series we loved so much but with stories that clearly took other routes. That was why the first reboot movie was so good. It took what we had, and wrote entirely new stories and played and enhanced old ideas. Even if Khan were in this movie, his timeline would have changed considerably enough that we wouldn’t be getting the same story at all. So what would revealing Khan’s identity spoil?
Instead, and this is more so than the movie before it, we were treated to a sequel that was unabashedly directed at fans, and I mean unabashedly in all capital letters. The inclusion of Tribbles, flipping the Spock death scene, nods to Section 31… that was all for fans. There were more references in this movie to the series than the first, so… I have to know. Just what got lost in translation between the production team and the marketers? A minor scandal, if one at all, but an interesting one to take note of as it may show us what sort of movie we will see when the third one rolls around.
You can see JJ Abrams’ answer in full here: