Damon Lindelof has heard our demands to know the true identity of Benedict Cumberbatch‘s villain in Star Trek Into Darkness. And he’s looked down and whispered “No.”
In his own words, here’s why maintaining the Cumbervillain’s Cumbersecrecy is so important:
The audience needs to have the same experience that the crew is having. Kirk, you’re Spock, you’re McCoy, so if they don’t know who the bad guy is going to be in the movie, then you shouldn’t know. It’s not just keeping the secret for secrecy’s sake. It’s not giving the audience information that the characters don’t have… [If fans found out the Cumbervillain's identity now they] would have a five-second rush of exhilaration followed by four months of being completely and totally bummed out that they can’t tell anybody else and that, when it gets revealed in the movie, it will have been spoiled for them. That’s why they’re called ‘spoilers,’ they’re not called ‘awesomes.’
As much as I’ve been frustrated in the past at J.J. Abrams & co. not just telling us who the villain is already, I’ve got to side with Lindelof. Sure, knowing who the villain is going in wouldn’t change the story. If it’s a good story, it would still be good. If it’s a bad story, a big surprising twist won’t rescue it *coughShyamalancough*.
But there is something to be said for maintaining a little bit of mystique so the tone of the movie—not just its plot, but the moviewatching experience as a whole–isn’t compromised. I, personally, am fairly up to date on spoilers for most of the big upcoming releases. I have to be, scanning Google Reader for entertainment news all day, and by and large it doesn’t bug me. But, even given my former whining about the Cumbervillain’s secret identity, I have to admit I kind of like the idea of finding out for first time in a theater, during the movie, as the characters do. And it’s not like you can just tell the spoiler to a few people. Once one person not sworn to secrecy knows, the whole Internet does. I admire Lindelof, Abrams, etc. making the creative decision to keep the villain’s identity under wraps and then sticking to that.
That said, while Lindelof’s reasons for keeping the Cumbervillain secret are, I think, good ones, there is the question of whether it’s practical. The level of anticipation with this villain reveal is insane, and I’m kind of worried that the eventual reveal won’t live up to that.
And then there’s the issue of spoilers. With the movie coming out in some places a week earlier than others, some of us are going to be spoiled against our will. It’s going to happen. And it just feels like a bigger deal with Star Trek Into Darkness than with, I don’t know, Iron Man 3, given how much Abrams, Cumberbatch, and Lindelof are building it up as the be-all end-all of awesomesuperduper character reveals. If I’m going to be spoiled, I’d rather it be via something official than by reading an unmarked spoiler the day before I see the movie.
I hope you’ll forgive the coarse metaphor, but you can only lose your spoiler virginity once. I’d love to maximize the effect by crossing that line as the characters do. But in this day and age of extreme interconnectivity the studio’s determination to maintain such an extreme level of secrecy seems like it’ll backfire one way or another. I hope it doesn’t.
One thing’s for sure: You spoil me, and I go KHAAAAAAAAAAN!!!! on your ass. That’s a promise.