J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci Talk ‘Star Trek’ Secrecy

While promoting his forthcoming NBC series Believe at the recent Television Critics Association winter press tour, Star Trek Into Darkness director and executive producer J.J. Abrams spent a few minutes with IGN discussing the extreme care taken to protect story secrets from last year's Trek movie.

jj"I don't try to maintain the mystery box... [but] I do think it's a mistake to ruin stories for audiences," the director said. "In [Into Darkness], fans of the series are aware that he's either Khan or not, so it was probably a mistake not to just say he was Khan and get past it.

But the problem in the movie is that there's an hour in the film that the characters don't know, so I thought, 'If the audience was told will it ruin the experience?' But the truth is it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference in that regard."

Back in December, Abrams commented to MTV that it may have been a "smarter" choice to admit to Benedict Cumberbatch's role as Khan Singh in the recent film.

Into Darkness co-writer Roberto Orci was also on hand at the TCA press tour and also gave his take on the Khan secret and the pre-release misdirection used to protect the film's plot.

orci"I do agree with [J.J.] that you want to preserve the storytelling experience for an audience," Orci said. "You don't want to give away twists, and we designed it as a twist. Alex [Kurtzman] and I, though, like to be very transparent about the process and things that are going on...

It was a mistake. I think it's easy to Monday morning quarterback. Like I said, we can't blame anybody or him for wanting to maintain or preserve the integrity of the story for an audience...

I will point out that online I never lied about it. I think I was the who said, 'Yes, it's that kind of character,' and, 'No, it's not that one.' When [Karl Urban] went out and misled everyone... [Laughs] That's the one rule I have with the audience; I'll misdirect, and I'm happy to pull some tricks, but I don't lie to the audience."

The third installment of the rebooted Trek film series is expected in 2016.

Source: IGN

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  • SpaceCadet

    I can’t fault the guy from denying a key plot point from the then forthcoming movie. Why do people need to know all the details? I hate spoilers and don’t get why people would actively want to ruin the mystery of the movie they are about to watch. I love going in and being surprised and not knowing what to expect. I went in not knowing if Khan was a character and I feel all the better for it.

    • Hey berto

      Here’s the problem with all that though.. These guys went around right after ST09 talking about how great Khan was.. He was the ‘Joker’ of this franchise (I disagree). How they planned a post credits scene but decided against it.. Gushed on how they hoped to one day use the character, but would only do it if the story demanded it. They write STID and are running around all coy about the villain.. He’s canon but won’t confirm or deny who it is. It turned into such a game and by the time the first stills were released, no one bought the John Harrison bit. The film comes out and it’s the worst kept secret. Then, they completely botch the character. They shoe horned him in because they could, and they should’ve left it alone. So I agree with what you’re saying, but it got too ridiculous to deny, and they did anyway. Wasted opportunity with a great character.

      • mbmarquis69

        I couldn’t agree more. I used to defend Abrams for keeping the details of his projects secret. I used to say the same thing people are saying about STID. Some mystery makes a movie a better experience.

        But in the case of STID, they put the cart before the horse. They didn’t write a story that demanded secrecy because it was full of awesome and compelling twists and surprises. They manufactured the mystery from the start. Trying to make it a “thing” that people would talk about. They used a formula instead of inspiration and it backfired. The movie still made lots of money, so that’s not how it backfired. How it backfired is that they killed much of the goodwill they created with the 2009 movie. They wouldn’t be backpeddling now if they didn’t think so as well.

        • Hey berto

          Agreed, but I’ll take it one step farther and say I’m not so sure they were as smart as they thought they were. It seems they were so enamored with themselves that they got Khan in the story, they didn’t think through the effects of how they got him in.

  • Bryce

    I mean, it was a poor story choice and movie in general, but I don’t mind the secrecy, given that it was sort of a mystery to the characters and basically an irrelevant nod to anyone who isn’t a Star Trek fan.

    • Tod Abbott

      Agreed. The problem wasn’t that we didn’t know that John Harrison was really Khan, it was that the story didn’t need it to be Kahn. Khan was clearly just forced onto a story they’d already come up with.

      Khan is (was) the biggest gun in the Trek movie arsenal. It’s a shame they didn’t keep the powder dry until they had a story that would really do something powerful with the character.

  • Wes

    Now can people move on from the whole thing?

    • archer9234

      That won’t happen. ENT is still bad mouthed till today.

      • shanebroughton

        But ENT and VOY truly are rubbish!

        • archer9234

          You’re just keeping the complaining alive, LOL.

        • Mike C.

          You’re half right.

  • Masterironfist

    I always try to avoid spoilers, watching movie trailers these days is especially bad, they basically show a scene from every part of the movie. I think its better to have a mystery.

  • Timy

    To be fair Ori did throw some hints out to fans such as mentioning he was reading the Eugenic Wars Books.

    • pittrek

      I can’t understand how could somebody be surprised by the reveal. Does nobody listen to the director commentaries? The commentary track of Star Trek (2009) ended with them saying that the original version was supposed to end with a shot of the Botany Bay in space

      • Daniel Ireland

        This doesn’t make any sense. MOST people haven’t watched that so naturally they wouldn’t have that knowledge.

        • OphidianJaguar

          Are we talking about the general public or trek fans? Cuz I don’t know any trek fan that buys a Star Trek DVD or blu-Ray just for the movie and does not watch the commentaries or bonus material.

  • Mike C.

    As long as these guys continue to maintain they never lied to audiences, I will continue to maintain that they did. Semantics, Bob.

  • Sykes

    It wasn’t the secret that made ST12 a disappointing affair. It was the execution.

    • Brian C. Bock

      Amen. SPOILER…. Having Kahn not be the main villain was a terrible idea. Actually, using Kahn at all was a waste. And the laughably bad death of Kirk scene that they then undercut two scenes later with miracle blood from Kahn just shows how little story telling integrity and guts this regime has. What made the original Wrath of Kahn such a classic and a fan favorite was that when you left the theater, it was like a gut punch. You knew they had to bring him back, but it had impact. Same goes for Empire Strikes Back. Luke found out Darth is his father, he’s missing a hand, Han is frozen and carted away, and the Rebel Alliance is on the run. The story was satisfying, but unsettling at the same time, which is why many people find it to be the best of the bunch. These people didn’t have the creativity to come up with their own characters or their own plot or dialog. What are they going to do next, hook up with Sybok and search for God?

  • archer9234

    I didn’t complain about the hiding stuff in general. I love when things are kept a secret. But hiding Khan out of all the stupid hints and obvious things fans do know, was made me hate that bs he pulled. It be like hiding Spider-Man is Peter Parker. This is common knowledge. Unless you’re really a newbie, and avoided all contact with the franchise, It wasn’t a spoiler.

  • shanebroughton

    I want some MOAR TNG Blu-rays!

    • Daniel Ireland

      YES! And DS9 :D

  • Platitude

    I thought the movie was great. Yeah, it probably would have been fine to have not kept it a secret. But whats done is done, lets stop worrying about the last one and start talking about the next one!

  • BarleySinger

    He won’t lie to the audience, but he will show his lack of mastery over 3rd grade science. Think about his show “Revolution” in which all the electricity ‘just stops working’ from an invention. If you can stop the electrons from flowing normally, then you also stop the electron-transport mechanisms that fuels LIFE; worse yet…all the atoms on planet earth would fly apart.

    I despise Abrams version of TREK. I hate the way he consistently destroys so many good ideas (everything he has touched to date) by throwing in really stupid ideas to “mix things up” when he loses interest. He said it himself – he “gets bored easily” and his version of dealing with his own boredom, continuously destroys good ideas.

    His concepts are are also unbelievable, his science is abysmal and his follow though is poor.

    Why oh why couldn’t he have just made a DIFFERENT and NEW movie series? A totally different “space shoot-um up” where there was no existing cannon, and no need to rewrite ? Maybe his “Revolution” world can get some electricity by harnessing the energy from Gene Roddenbury “spinning in his grave”.

    HINT – if you can’t work within existing cannon, then don’t do films in a preexisting world.

  • mjdavid

    I was a bit disappointed they decided to bring in Khan, but the movie was a big draw and made a lot of money. It also introduced new fans to Star Trek, and isn’t that the best possible outcome even if you’re someone who doesn’t care for Abrams’ re-imagined Star Trek universe? I have a young nephew who saw ‘Into Darkness’ in the theater. He then found all the series on Netflix and promptly delved right in. My brother is not a Trek fan so my nephew had never been introduced to any of the series. After finishing the original series and becoming obsessed with Star Trek he asked for the TNG blus for Christmas. This is likely a very common occurrence. I may not like everything Abrams has done to Star Trek but I am grateful to him for introducing it to new audiences. This will only help Blu-Ray sales. More blus purchased = more opportunity for future releases.

    I’m really hoping the third film doesn’t mirror anything from ‘The Search for Spock’. If they’re going to retouch older ideas I’d rather see them grab a few lesser-known plot points from ‘TOS’ and weave them into a central plot that’s brand new and has never been attempted on Trek.

    As for spoilers – they are what they are and I don’t think it’s possible to keep much under wraps anymore. I try very hard to avoid a lot of spoilers but Khan was the worst-kept film secret ever, IMO.

  • James

    I watched it with a mate who’s into his Trek, but doesn’t visit Trek websites or keep up with movie news, so he didn’t know Khan was the big bad. When it was revealed, he was so pumped and then when old Spock made his cameo, we both sort of pointed at the screen and were just like….YES!

    It was great. For my part though, I visit Trek Core, Trek Movie, Trek Web, Trek Collective and more! pretty much everyday. I wish that I hadn’t found out that Khan was the baddie. That said, I loved the movie and can’t wait for the next one – hope they go for a lighter tone like The Voyage Home.

  • AdmNaismith

    I don’t much care about spoilers, though I find Mad Men- or Breaking Bad- type spoilers harder to take than what Bad Robot plans to poorly rip-off next.

    If Michael Straczynski has taught us anything it is that knowing what happens doesn’t matter so much as how you get there.
    Knowing the movie was to be about Khan’s rise and rule, that would have been one thing, but shoe-horning him into an anemic action picture wasn’t the journey that character demanded.

  • Huffy

    Say what you want about the Abramsverse, but it’s those movies that led me to Trek. As a 19 year old kid who had virtually no interest in science fiction at all I thought the first movie was great, so I’ll always have an appreciation for the new franchise. That said, I went back and watched TOS, TNG, and am now halfway through DS9 and VOY. So before you go knocking J.J. because it’s not your thing, just remember that J.J. MADE STAR TREK RELEVANT AGAIN. I owe my fandom to ST09. There may be plot holes and such, but the movies are entertaining and (I think) resonate really well with people my age. (TOS was the best though IMO.)

  • David Ellis

    I thought Star Trek Into Darkness was actually the best Star Trek movie ever… It did what the other 11 didn’t do and gave the audience everything they could have ever asked for from a) a summer blockbuster, b) an entertaining 2 hours and c) a Star Trek movie. If some “fans” can’t get beyond their own ideas on what Star Trek has to be in order for it to be “Star Trek” then thats an issue with the fan not the film.

    • David Ellis

      The second best Star Trek movie was Star Trek 2009 with Star Trek First Contact coming in at 3rd for me. I also sometimes think that people who don’t like these JJ Abrams movies, are judging it against what we’ve come to know about Star Trek through the TV… You can’t do in 2 hours what a TV series can do over however many years or episodes it runs for. The two are completely different types of entertainment and as a result Star Trek movies are nothing like Star Trek TV episodes, they have never been nor will they ever become the same thing in the future.

      • David Ellis

        As for revealing or not revealing Khan… Did it hurt the business the movie could of made? I dunno. I think the announcement that Abrams was going to do Star Wars was more harmful and leaving 4 years between movies was even more harmful to the box office business it could have done also being sandwiched between other big mainstream movies probably didn’t help it either… I reckon had Into Darkness released during a less crowded period it would have crossed 1bn dollars US.