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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

KHAAAAAN

J.J. Abrams: Keeping Khan’s Identity Secret Was a Mistake


“It ended up coming off like we were being coy. We were just trying to not ruin the thing. The truth is that after one screening everyone knows whatever it is. The idea was that for the first hour of the movie the characters in the movie don’t know, and it felt like if there were articles about KHAN! it would take away from the story. 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 if we had just come out with it.”— J.J. Abrams, admitting that all that secrecy surrounding the Cumbervillain was maaaaaaybe a bit much. But it’s the studio’s fault, because who do you think he is? An A-list director who has some degree of control over these things and is also notoriously obsessed with secrecy? Pssht.

BRB. Eyerolling into the final frontier.

(via: Badass Digest)

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  • Will Beaty

    This sounds petty, but I suddenly have some hope for Star Wars. Some.

  • http://bytestemplar.com/ Fortyseven

    Overthinking: you’re doing it. (Re: rationale for keeping it secret in the first place)

  • http://thescienceofobsession.tumblr.com/ R.O.U.S.

    I get the reasoning about trying to attract new fans (it’s annoying, but I get it). But at some point they should have given up the gag and just admitted to it, the whole thing became rather ridiculous.

  • http://www.skreee.de/ Skreee

    Yeah, it was ridiculous, and slightly put me off Abrams. Nice to see he got it.

  • http://www.subterror-radio.com/ DJ Shiva

    Whatever. I hadn’t been spoiled and the reveal was fun as hell.

  • Anonymous

    Why shouldn’t it be a secret? Why do writers, directors, storytellers have to spill what they know before the story comes out?

    Maybe the fans and the internet need to stop picking at every piece of information and begging for more before the story comes out. They wouldn’t have to lie and keep hiding things, if there weren’t 50,000 people constantly asking.

  • http://bayareageekguide.com/ Mike Chen

    It sure would have worked better if he was just a frozen dude from the Botany Bay and then you got a little Easter Egg of CG Montalbon in a tube at the end. Everything could have executed exactly the same and it would have been a nice nod to fans without the big secrecy or skin color confusion.

  • Anonymous

    I agree. I think it being Khan in the first place is a mistake. His history with Kirk made him interesting in the original movie. Here, he’s just some guy.

  • Anonymous

    Keeping it a secret wasn’t a problem. I want my entertainment to be spoiler free. If the movie had actually been written well, this would have been a great geek-out moment, when he reveals who he really is. Like [spoiler redacted] showing up at the end of the 50th Doctor Who special. That was brilliant, and the entire theater was thrilled to see that. Instead, all the Wrath of Khan references were so heavy handed and blunt that the only way you wouldn’t have known what was coming is if you had fallen asleep or walked out of the theater because the movie was so bad.

  • Anonymous

    My first thought on reading this – just have a pod that failed, and use the real Montalban. What can I say, I have a morbid sense of humor. :P

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Agreed. I actually liked not knowing who he was at first. It felt novel. But then the movie started and it was immediately obvious what the Big Reveal was going to be. And then, when it happened, it was just kind of meh. You can’t build a plot twist up that much and then not deliver something *amazing* without it being a complete let-down.

  • Joshua Barber

    Or give me a throw away line that he had alteration surgery (because reasons).

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, keeping it a secret. THAT was the mistake, not the entire plot or anything. “f 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.” Instead, we won’t tell anyone and that way they won’t KNOW that it’s limiting until after they’ve already bought a ticket! Genius! (As a bonus, we’ll make it so that even if you ARE a fan of the series and know who Kahn is, the crew in the new “alternate” timeline don’t, and we won’t put in anything that really explains it to them, so the “reveal” will be…incredibly anticlimactic and pointless.)

    (Let the fans-of-Transformer-type-action-movies comments about what a great movie “Into Drekness–sorry ‘Darkness’” was commence…)

  • Jamie Jeans

    Whitewashing Khan was a mistake. There was a good movie in there somewhere in Into Darkness, but you did not have to bring in Khan OR whitewash him.

  • http://bayareageekguide.com/ Mike Chen

    That’s what I also considered. A simple throwaway line about how Starfleet genetically altered him further and that affected his pigment.

  • Dave

    The Khan story really WAS shoehorned in: http://www.themarysue.com/original-star-trek-villain/

  • Anonymous

    Taking over ST was Abrams mistake.

  • Anonymous

    yeah, it was a big reveal for the audience, but it didn’t work for the story since they have no idea who Kahn is.

    It’s bad planning to base a major plot point and emotional turn on fan service.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see how having Cumbo play Kahn is any different from having Montalban do it. Neither one of them is Indian, and they’re genetically engineered anyhow so their skin color is irrelevant.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair the “reveal” was probably the worst kept secret in movies this year.

  • Sabrina

    THIS! There was absolutely no reason to name the character Khan. It added nothing to the story and only made certain scenes ridiculous and unintentionally funny/annoying.

  • http://aidan.info.tm/ Zack Casey

    Yeah, the huge amount of references kinda spoiled it.

  • Rob Payne

    The difference is that, essentially, for all we know, Cumberbatch is playing the exact same character as Montalban in the TOS episode “Space Seed.” Some timeline stuff got changed, but other than being awoken alone, Khan was the same Khan, except now he was a doughty English gentleman instead of a swarthy Mediteranean strongman. A precedent was set, but at least picking an actor who could potentially be of Middle Eastern descent would have nullified that complaint.

    The reveal completely takes many people out of the movie… for the remainder of the movie. Other plot holes would still be there, but they’d be less annoying if this giant one wasn’t the movie’s apparent reason to exist.

    ETA: The precedent sentence; for clarity.

  • Sanjay Merchant

    Eh, that Khantroversy is long over, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Anonymous

    I just don’t see the color of Khan’s skin being the problem. Benedict Cumberbatch is exactly as Indian as Ricardo Montalban, which is to say not at all. The bigger distraction by far is the fact that this villain has been recycled into this movie in the first place for no reason other than to drum up hype for this sequel. Khan doesn’t need to be there for the plot to work, in fact his presence makes things entirely too convoluted.

  • Matt Graham

    I heart you.

  • Saraquill

    The casting choice bothers me, as non-caucasian actors already have a harder time finding plum roles, and casting someone like Cumberbatch as Kahn is denying a job to a person who already has a limited offer pool.

  • Michael Albright

    Ordinarily I’d agree with you, but they re-made Wrath of Kahn, and then sold us a Star Trek movie with an enigmatic villain who stays ahead of the crew of the Enterprise at every turn. I kept watching ads and going, “so, he’s Kahn. Or, if he’s not Kahn, he might as well be.”

    Not every damn thing in movies has to be kept secret; it wouldn’t have spoiled the movie to tell me he’s Kahn at the outset; all it would have done is properly brace me for the ridiculous ending. Seriously; the cast had no reason to know who Kahn was, anyway, and the target audience of Abrams’s Star Trek franchise is not Star Trek fans, so the impact of the reveal was completely lost anyway. “My name is Kahn Noonien Singh.” “Who?”

  • Jeyl

    I surprisingly wasn’t against the idea of using Khan. For me, the original Khan was always a tragedy in and of himself. He was given a world to conquer and even thrive upon, and due to circumstances unknown to Kirk, that world ended up breaking him and his people. That idea of returning to a world built by super humans is now forever lost.

    But why care for something like that when your producer/writing buddy says “Khan is the JOKER of Star Trek!”? A statement that is so misguided and so incorrect that you have to wonder how much Star Trek Damon Lindelof actually watched.

    They just didn’t get his character at all.

  • Jeyl

    I just can’t accept this Khan to be “THE” Khan from the original. Nothing about his motives or actions is comparable to the original, and the “Prime Spock” reveal of who he was is even more incorrect. Not hesitate to kill every last one of the Enterprise crew? Dude, the guy did worse than hesitate. he GLOATED to Kirk. And who the heck came up with the “genocide of anyone deemed not superior” come from? The original Khan was literally admired by those even on the Enterprise, and what little history there was of the period, he was the tyrant who committed no massacres and waged no wars.

  • Eric Montoya

    Either you love Into Darkness (as I absolutely did) or you don’t. Trying to defend it at this juncture is a moot point.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe I should also have a pony. But this is never going to happen. As such, I have not bought charming pony-sized accoutrements, devoting my life to my future pony-possessing state. I find it useful to accept the reality that I will never have a pony.

    It’s kind of idiotic to make your movie revolve around an OMG SHOCKING SECRET. People are going to figure it out extremely quickly and then spend every minute leading up to the heart-stopping reveal going “For Christ’s sake, get it over with.” See also: Jon Snow.

  • Sally Strange

    Agreed; also, consider that the casting took care to have the characters resemble the actors in the original series, at least superficially – but no effort at all was made to have that resemblance with Khan. Why? It makes no sense.

  • Omegasama

    It would have been so much cooler if he was just one of Khan’s henchmen rather than Khan himself. That way they would have bypassed all the white-washing and created a badass new villain. Also, would leave a hook for Khan for a later movie, instead of shoehorning in one of the biggest villains in the Original Star Trek into the second instalment of a rather new reboot.

  • Not So Young Democrat

    Khan was always played by a white actor so I don’t see how casting Cumberbatch is any more of a whitewashing.

  • Not So Young Democrat

    I think the problem was that this became such a big “secret” that people went in expecting the reveal to be significant in some way. They had acted like the Cumbervillain was such a big secret that it was kind of like “Okay, who is he?” Then you see the movie and it was “Oh, it’s Khan like I thought all the time, big deal.”

  • Not So Young Democrat

    The problem for STID isn’t that they tried to keep a secret but that the secret didn’t live up to the hype. They built this up like the Cumbervillain’s identity was going to be some big important reveal but then it turns out to just be Khan.
    The reveal didn’t live up to the hype.

    But Khan was always a poor choice for a villain in the piece. He worked in Wrath because they had established the character with Space Seed. He’s not just some random villain causing mayhem, he’s a guy gunning for revenge on Kirk specifically. But that’s all gone in the rebooted timeline so who cares about Khan?

  • Matt Kayser

    I only just got around to seeing this film recently (despite liking the first iteration of this new series quite a bit), but I thought it was very paint-by-numbers. Making it a reinterpretation of TWOK just exacerbated this. A very boring film for a summer tent pole.

  • Jamie Jeans

    Ricardo Montalban was NOT white. He was Latino.

  • Anonymous

    Original Khan was cast in the 1970s for gods sake, there is only so much ground Rodenberry was able to break. You are effectively arguing that whitewashed casting in an old show is a precedent for doing it now. Can’t wait for a 55 Days in Peking remake with white guys playing all the Chinese, I’m sure that will go down a treat.

    His name is Indian, he should be Indian.

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

    The failure of the original series to be as representative as it should have been, is NOT an excuse to perpetuate the mistake, ESPECIALLY when it’s 2013 and we DAMN WELL KNOW BETTER

  • http://www.wulfmojo.com Wulfy

    I was quite happy, indeed looking forward to the idea of using Khan (Wrath of Khan being essentially the only original Star Trek movie I liked). The problem was that the movie had so many random bits and pieces going on that the involvement of Khan become solely homage to the original Wrath of Khan, copying lines and so forth. Instead they should have focused solely on the character of Khan and done something interesting with him.

  • http://thescienceofobsession.tumblr.com/ R.O.U.S.

    did you just

  • http://thescienceofobsession.tumblr.com/ R.O.U.S.

    That’s exactly why it didn’t work. When the entire universe started suspecting it was Khan, that is the point where JJ should have just said, ‘ok yeah you got me’ instead of ‘no it’s absolutely not Khan.’ Then the build-up just gets completely out of proportion to the reveal. Who WOULDN’T be disappointed?

  • Anonymous

    1. We knew it was Khan before it came about because of being so coy about it.
    2. Have Benedict be someone else, like Khan’s #2. Story works the same. (maybe even better)

    3. Don’t mess with Klingon makeup!!! Why change their appearance? This is SUPPOSED to be the universe, just different timeline. Or also change Vulcans, like make them taller or something… seriously!

  • Marie

    That’s so what I was hoping for. In TOS, there was nothing special about Khan’s pod. They could have easily opened another one. I kept hoping it was a different super soldier with a different agenda that hadbeen awoken and thus a throwback with a twist.

  • blu girl

    Thank you! Back then, movies frequently had actors of color portray different types of people if they had a certain “look”- an actor like Montalban might play an Egyptain, Indian, Native American, etc. (not to mention white actors in black/red/yellow face, ick!). It was stupid, but that’s what they did.
    In this day and age, we clearly know better. So why are filmmakers still doing it??? The fact that Ricardo Montalban wasn’t Indian 1967/1982 is not an excuse in 2013.

  • Lisa Liscoumb

    I didn’t love it, and the fact that the villain was Khan was only one small reason why. Other reasons:
    – Uhura was a whiny teenager through most of it
    – too many references to TOS (including telegraphing Kirk’s resurrection via The Amazing Lazarus Tribble (TM))
    – Klingons with Bling
    – no real original thoughts (let’s steal the ending of WoK, but reverse the characters!)
    – let’s invalidate the whole idea of the Federation – why do we need to send starships out when we can simply beam from planet to planet?
    – and, oh yes, let’s not forget – the Gratuitous Underwear scene.

  • Lisa Liscoumb

    Karl Urban was, as usual, fantastic. He truly does channel DeForest Kelley.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly what I thought! I was so sure Abrams was being clever and telling the truth that Harrison was not Khan – i.e. that Khan was still frozen and this was one of his henchmen. It would also explain why no one recognized the guy that incited genocidal war!

    It would have been a great set up for the real Khan to come back later on to wreck vengeance on Kirk and Starfleet. But no. He had to have the immediate pay off of Spock yelling Khaaaaan!
    Too soon. Not earned. Totally wasted.

  • Anonymous

    I would agree with you if we were talking about some other movie – and I hate the fact that I’m defending anything from Into Darkness which was terrible – but we’re talking about Star Trek, and specifically we’re talking about the “race” of a genetically engineered character. Here are the problems.

    We’re told Khan is Indian. That’s it. In the context of the show/movie it means he comes from India. Now I’m sure a lot of people have preconceived notions of what Khan should look like based on this almost useless detail, but there’s no way, and furthermore no reason, we should have any expectations about the character’s appearance.

    The assumption that Khan should have darker features doesn’t take into account a number of facts.

    1. Race is a completely subjective term that has no scientific basis. None.

    2. There exist light skinned, or if you prefer European-looking, people of Indian descent. Not to mention that there are very many different self-identifying ethnic groups in India, so the notion of what does and does not look Indian takes an incredibly narrow view.

    3. Khan is a genetically engineered person, he doesn’t have an ancestry, and therefore does not belong to any “race”.

    Would it have been easier to cast an Indian actor as Khan? Of course. It would have avoided entirely the controversy of Hollywood’s white-washing non-white roles (a pervasive problem that I would argue is not what occurred here). But it would be no more scientifically accurate,

    I admit that it’s highly doubtful Abrams cast Cumberbatch because he was concerned about the science, and probably just selected him because he liked his audition or was an admirer of his other work. Maybe he just wanted to work with him and this was the only way he could figure out how to do it.

  • js

    So in a movie set in a future where humanity has embraced alien cultures, a lot of you think it’s confusing that a guy named Khan is a British dude? 1) Pretty sure O’shea Jackson (Ice Cube) and Shaquille O’neal (Shaq oh you know who he is) must confuse the high holy Hell out of you all. 2) Considering the large Indian population in England the guy could have gotten the name via marriage at some point. What else are we going to complain about? “Boo hoo, This isn’t like the old ones. I don’t like change. Why doesn’t Micheal Dorn get his Worf spin off and bring back the GOOD Star Trek?” . Just enjoy the movie or don’t spend your money on it. If you want to complain about it,don’t waste your time, How It Should Have Ended already hit all the good spots and did it smarter and in a more entertaining way than any of you.