The Star Trek Into Darkness apology tour barrels on, and in the latest stop JJ Abrams - who has already said he uses too many lens flares and that the Star Trek video game ruined his movie - admits that maybe keeping Khan in the Mystery Box wasn't the best idea. But, he says, it was mostly the studio's idea.
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.
Of course it ended being pretty limiting anyway; the reason we have an apology tour is that the film did worse domestically than the first one. It made more international, but it's hard to say how much of that is based on the fact that international markets have boomed in the years since Star Trek. The fact that everybody is saying they made mistakes does tell us that the film simply didn't perform as hoped.
Part of this, of course, is damage control for Star Wars. The Mystery Box, Abrams' big sham, has been of concern to Star Wars fans who are hungry for information about the movie and who are worried that the film will be less of a story and more of a trick. That's part of the reason why he disowned lens flares, to let Star Wars fans they would actually be able to see the faces of the characters when they sit in the Millenium Falcon.
What I find intriguing is how he throws the studio under the bus on this one. I'm having a hard time imagining a scenario where Abrams - who kept the new uniforms a secret while filming Star Trek - would have been upfront about Khan no matter what. The movie is structured to have Khan be a reveal (it's a bad reveal, poorly handled, but it's a reveal), and we know that Abrams hates giving away information. Anything that gets revealed in an Abrams movie sits in that marketing Mystery Box until opening day, and that's where Khan would have been with or without the studio. In fact I find it hard to believe the studio wanted Khan hidden - he was an actual marketing hook, something the film did not have in any other way.
Let's put it this way: Abrams kept the USS Vengeance a secret and wouldn't allow it to be marketed pre-release, why wouldn't he have done the same with Khan? I feel like what we're seeing here is Abrams and Paramount butting heads as JJ prepares to pack up and leave the studio.