Latino Review is reporting that Benicio Del Toro's character in Star Trek 2 is none other than Khan Noonien Singh, once played by Ricardo Montalban.
And so most of my hopes for the sequel deflate.
If this rumor is true - and Latino Review has a killer track record (even when the scoops are denied by the filmmakers) - it shows just how small JJ Abrams and crew are thinking. Between this and the decision to shoot in 3D, it's obvious that Abrams is essentially bending over backwards for Paramount on this movie. The first Star Trek did well enough, but it wasn't an out of control runaway hit, and I imagine the sequel costs even more, so they have to guarantee even bigger box office.
There are a couple of funny things about this:
- Khan is not hispanic. He's a Sikh. The hiring of Del Toro is because of Montalban.
- Khan wasn't an obvious choice for the original Star Trek II. Basically Harve Bennett watched every single episode of the original series because he thought Star Trek: The Motion Picture lacked a good villain, and took a shine to Space Seed; while it was always regarded as one of the better episodes of the series, Khan wasn't quite the iconic villain he is today.
What made Khan iconic was the fact that his quest for vengeance led to the death of Spock. It seems unlikely that Star Trek 2 will be a remake of Star Trek II, so it's probably a riff on Space Seed - except made more EXTREME for 3D movie purposes. I bet they get Chris Pine to yell 'KHAAAAAAAAN!,' though.
If they are just riffing on Space Seed then Alice Eve, who was recently cast, might be playing Lt. Marla McGivers, a member of the crew who falls for hunk Khan and betrays the Enterprise. Maybe this time she'll be having a romance with Kirk to make it more EXTREME for 3D movie purposes.
Maybe I'm selling the film short, but nothing Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman or Lindelof have done so far shows me that they're the kinds of guys willing to take big creative risks (Lost, which Abrams had little to do with, is all about ending on a huge non-risk). Drew McWeeny floated the idea on Twitter that maybe Khan won't be a bad guy this time, but getting nerdy for a moment I don't see why he wouldn't be. Khan was frozen BEFORE the events that created the new Star Trek timeline, so he's still the exact same dude. He'll still wake up a superhuman tyrant with a bunch of 21st century followers. He'll still wake up with a need to dominate and control, and he'll still want to get control of the Enterprise, no matter if he's waking up five years earlier. Remember, the very first thing he did upon waking up in Space Seed was put a knife to McCoy's throat. There's no reason his reaction would be different in a different timeline.
The only difference will be how the crew of the Enterprise deals with him; since Kirk was generally perfectly nice to Khan in Space Seed, I don't know different the crew will respond this time, even with less experience.
Of course the circumstances of finding the Botany Bay could be different - maybe the Klingons find it or something - but Khan will be Khan.
The biggest mistake that Abrams and company will be making by using Khan is demanding comparisons to Wrath of Khan, which isn't just the best Star Trek movie but is one of the best science fiction action movies of all time. That excellence is largely thanks to the weight of years behind the crew, as well as the enormously effective death of Spock. No matter how good Star Trek 2 might end up being, it can never match what works about Star Trek II (this is so confusing).
And so I dial back my expectations for the next Trek. Maybe this new timeline will see the quality gauge of Trek films flipped - now it will be the odd numbered movies that work while the even numbered movies are not that great.
I'm hoping to be wrong. I was REALLY wrong about Star Trek, so it's only fitting that I should be REALLY wrong about Star Trek 2. I'm going to try and apply some of the New Optimism to future news stories about Star Trek 2, but this particular break has really gotten me down.