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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

KHAAAAAN

Star Trek Into Darkness‘ Writer On Why We Must Remain In the Dark About the Villain’s Identity


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.

(via: blastr)

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  • ieatedpaste

    *Rolls around* But i wanna know! I’ll just forget in a few days! I can’t even remember what I’ve had for lunch the day before!

  • http://twitter.com/DarthRachel Rachel’ghul

    i’m calling BS. thats not how spoilers function in real life. knowing something another fan dosnt is actually a rush (points at GoT Season 3) while its also been said that spoilers can enhance a person’s enjoyment of a story. (though i would never do that to a person. people can google their own spoilers.)

    Abrams is just a control freak who knows his stories rely mostly on the gimmick of mystery for mystery’s sake. it’s getting old.

  • Anonymous

    I’m still going all in on the one guy he could be. Now I’m just waiting for the moment someone picks up that ringing phone so I can yell CALLED IT across the theater (please note, I wouldn’t do that.) . That said… it’s going to be an awesome film. Is it May yet??

  • Anonymous

    I think your assessment of Abrams is a bit harsh. Storytellers like for people to experience their work in a particular way, usually as unspoiled as possible. Imagine if every Harry Potter book were spoiled months in advance, or the revelation that Vader was Luke’s father was discovered by a leaked script a year before the film came out? It would take away the sense of discovery that was meant to occur while watching the story unfold, not months in advance. It would be like a magician revealing the secret to his tricks before he performed them.

  • Ace Stephens

    I disagree with the suggestion that Abrams and Co. are building this up to be “the be-all end-all of character reveals.” It’s the fans that are doing that. I’ve seen interviews with Abrams and the like where they don’t hype anything about a major (more than just in the playing of the story) reveal or there being an alias and yet fans keep bothering them about it. I know it’s “tacky” to blame the fans for it being “built up too much” but in this case I’m doing just that.

    What with all this talk about spoilers, if someone encounters an issue with this “reveal” not living up to expectations due to “fan overhype” imposing questions on subjects personally avoided by the makers of the film, we should just be blaming the spoiled.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KozmikPariah Ryan Colson

    So Lindelof took a cue from Grant Morrison?

  • kazenotaninonaussica

    There’s actually a study that found people enjoyed stories more after knowing the endings: http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/soc/2011_08spoilers.asp

    However, I can understand the desire for secrecy about some things in the movie. The way we are information saturated about a movie before even sitting down in a theatre chair has changed how we watch movies. It makes us go in with certain expectations, or possibly never even see the movie because of those same preconceived notions. The level of hype over this one part in particular is a little extreme, I feel, but sometimes the collective intake of, “Holy moly, that just happened!” can be quite an enjoyable experience. The main story I tell about reading GoT is how I reacted when I read certain parts in book 3, which is all about finding out those huge surprises I didn’t know about (hint: my reaction might have involved book abuse).

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.truxillo Laura Truxillo

    I’ve always been on board with this, really. There aren’t many surprises left in watching movies these days, what with trailers that show you all the important bits, internet speculation extrapolated from the smallest bits of evidence and all. I think it’s nice.

    I mean, when I *Know* I’m going to be watching a movie right after it comes out, I usually just go on lockdown and ignore further trailers and internet talk just because yeah, I would like to experience the MOVIE first.

    It’s a novel approach and the fact that they’ve kept it mum this long is pretty nifty.

    And I don’t see why people are being downright PISSED OFF. Because no one will tell you what the bad guy’s name is? Why do you need to know? He’s not refusing the death of the author, he’s not saying you absolutely have to experience the movie His Way. He’s just saying, Nope, not telling you who it is. Find out with everyone else.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s a good chance it might be Khan but probably Gary Mitchell. They originally had Benicio Del Toro locked in for the role. He totally fits as Khan. Along with the super secrecy seems to point in that direction.
    But I have a theory. Del Toro was slated as Khan. Then he couldn’t do it. So now there’s a Khan shaped hole in the film. So they change the villain. Who’s close enough to a Khan-esque character? Gary Mitchell. So they grab Cumberbatch and off they go. If he’s Mitchell, I fully believe that it was a reworked Khan. There’s no way they would have cast Del Toro as Mitchell, he was definitely cast as Khan. I think they really wanted Khan in the second film because of the original films- which is stupid and cheesy, but it’s Hollywood. So left with no other choice, they shoehorn in Mitchell as ‘close enough’. I would bet money on it.
    (Everything else aside, Benicio would have made an AWESOME Khan.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.truxillo Laura Truxillo

    I think that’s a pretty fair assumption. All they’re doing is not saying. Heck, basically, they’re putting fan knowledge of a movie closer to what it was in the 80′s, when all you had was a trailer and maaaaybe an interview. That’s kind of cool to even attempt.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I’m calling it now. Cumbervillain is George Kirk.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I know just what you mean.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    *mind blown*

  • Rebecca Pahle

    That’s fair. I do feel like the studio is definitely taking advantage of the hype and playing off it, though. The line between creator and consumer is so blurred nowadays (which is good in some respects), and marketing machines have gotten really adept at catering to the fans in a way that yields organic buzz.

    Everyone freaks out about the Cumbervillain… and then JJ Abrams is interviewed and says something about the character’s personality… and then a few weeks later we have a Cumberbatch interview where he’s talking about how great the character is… and then a new trailer comes out and, lo and behold, another press opportunity to talk about the villain whilst being very mysterious.

    Again, I’m not criticizing Abrams and Cumberbatch for this—they’re going to talk about the character in interviews, after all! I don’t think it’s all fans to blame, though. More a feedback loop of marketing-fans-press. (Mea culpa on my own involvement.)

  • SMC

    BC is playing Garth of Izar!!!! Its the only character that fits everything and here is why. Iconic character from canon and is part of starfleet, can shapshift – so can be John Harrison or anybody for that matter, can heal himself – which is how he saves the little girl, in TOS he made an explosive he said was strongest in the universe – blows up London, I believe he is immune to vulcan neck pinch – which is seen in set photo from fight with spock, plot synopsis talks of chess game – in TOS he didn’t know Kirk’s chess response to Scotty, with altered timeline he could have escaped from the prison planet or not even of been arrested and sent there in the first place. I for one would love for it to be him!!!

  • CommentsSectionsAreDumb

    I figured it was Kirk’s step-dad/”Uncle” getting revenge for his ruined Corvette.

  • Anonymous

    I agree it would be great to be surprised int he movie theater, but that’s just going to be impossible, to me, at least. Unless something changes until then, we’ll have to wait a month for Star Trek to be released in Brazil, so… Yup, there’s no way to avoid spoilers at all. Which is why I hope I’ll be spoiled by this website, not Tumblr, for example, in a very through and satisfying way. Please. ^.^

  • Shauni Farella

    What he says reminds me strongly of when i saw terminator 2 in the cinema, and what kept going through my mind early on was ‘this would have been much more suspenseful if the marketing hadn’t made sure everyone knew Arnie was a good guy in this one.’ Mystery and suspense kind of falls flat if you know stuff the characters don’t

  • Lady Viridis

    *googles Gary Mitchell*

    Wait. That one guy with the weird psychic abilities that no one ever mentioned again is possibly the much-speculated about villain? Really? Granted, I’m sure a modern script would make that plot much more interesting and the character more threatening instead of hilariously awkward (which is my memory of the episode), but I’m still not understanding the hype. Especially since I cannot imagine the casual fan or viewer even knowing who fans are talking about.

  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    All I’m thinking is how good Cumberbatch looks in that shirt…

  • Sarah Henderson

    I love that they are keeping John Harrison’s identity secret. It will be exciting to find out the truth in the premiere, and until then, I have been watching everything Star Trek with Blockbuster @Home from DISH. Adding movies to my queue is a quick process I love with my busy work schedule at DISH. I also take advantage of exchanges at a Blockbuster store, with how often I forget to send back something I watched. Seeing these movies has helped with the wait to discover this mysterious new villain’s motive.

  • Ace Stephens

    I essentially agree but, regardless of the fairly clear marketing side, I feel that a (somewhat perceived as) modern inability to “wait for a good thing” has hindered fan appreciation in some forms. Certainly there is cause for and interest in spoilers but when it reaches the point that fans (or individuals acting on their behalf – such as a non-fan interviewer) are continually poking and prodding the makers on one key issue those makers have clearly made an effort not to divulge or “ruin the purity of” concerning the filmgoing experience, I think it’s about time that those fans relax and back off. It’s due to circumstances like these (“pushy” fans) that I wish more fans would question their “overeagerness” to harass creators, demand answers (even when answers are clearly forthcoming) and often be rude – but simply write it off as their love of the material as though that makes such behavior excusable or beyond reproach.

    As far as I can tell, that type of fan or fan behavior appears to have a tendency to contribute to many of the more negative aspects of fandom – hostility, confusion, “fan oneupmanship,” misunderstanding, misplaced expectations, disappointment (in what might have otherwise been considered “amazing”), etc. And I find that very unfortunate. (Although, obviously, fans in general – particularly the enthusiastic ones who can’t get enough but know when to allow themselves to back off in order to be “in for a treat” – are great.)

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but this is the co-writer of Prometheus, “Lost” and Cowboys & Aliens. He doesn’t *get* to lecture people on the nuances of the Art of Screenwriting. The only possible justification for this ludicrous amount of secrecy is if the reveal is something on the level of “The Empire Strikes Back,” where it completely changes EVERYTHING about the series, and again, this is from the co-writer of Prometheus, Lost, and Cowboys & Aliens. If it’s Khan, Gary Mitchell, Gary 7, or anyone like that, then it was a pointless exercise.

    Yes, I’ve seen it argued that it was the fans who worked this up into a big thing, but Abrams et al have hardly done anything to quell it: all great publicity for them.

  • http://twitter.com/Staar84 Erin Carr

    I’m not great with original series canon, so tell me if this isn’t right: Khan was a clone (or genetically engineered), right? Couldn’t he be the person who Khan is cloned from?

  • Anonymous

    Goddamn! That would be awesome! I didn’t even think of that. That would be very cool and interesting.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    The worst trailer spoiler of all time was for Michael Bay’s The Island. It includes a scene consisting solely of Steve Buscemi explaining the major twist in great detail.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Pretty sure Khan was cloned in the 20th century.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    The guy who directed Valentine’s Day? He’s a villain, alright.

  • Jake106

    That’s actually not a bad synopsis. I had completely forgotten about Garth, but it does fit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesse-Melat/1331583316 Jesse Melat

    You know what would have been the _ultimate_ in keeping the villain a surprise? Making an original one.
    But they apparently never thought of that one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesse-Melat/1331583316 Jesse Melat

    I still think it’s Mirror Universe Kirk. Khan requires back story and character development, as does Mitchell to a lesser degree. In other words, _effort_ on the part of the writers. Mirror Universe Kirk (or an equivalent) doesn’t need backstory or setup. He’s an evil big bad and needs blowed up real good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesse-Melat/1331583316 Jesse Melat

    Yep. On the internet the morning after the Midnight Screening.

  • Erin Celeste

    On the Star Trek site they are already selling character posters..Kirk, Spock, and (the one you call Cumbervillan). So, it has been revealed.