ByEleanor Tremeer, writer at
MP staff. I talk about Star Wars a lot. Sometimes I'm paid for it. More ramblings on Twitter @ExtraTremeerial
Eleanor Tremeer

Star Trek Into Darkness is hardly the best loved Trek movie. In fact, it was voted the worst movie of the entire 49-year-old franchise by fans, beating the previously most-hated film Star Trek: Nemesis. With a star studded cast and an action-filled plot, it's hard to understand why Into Darkness failed to make an impact on the fanbase. Recently, both director J.J. Abrams and producer Damon Lindelof have reflected on the film, and neither of them had particularly positive comments to make...

The Problem With The Mystery Box

J.J. Abrams certainly loves to keep us in the dark about his films' biggest plot twists. His tendency to tempt fans with puzzles has even earned its own trope name, the Mystery Box, but as Slate points out, the box usually contains exactly what you'd expect. The most amusing thing about the Khan twist was that he was a mystery box... kept in an actual mysterious box.

Star Trek 2's mystery box-ception.
Star Trek 2's mystery box-ception.

In the case of Star Trek: Into Darkness though, everyone already knew what was in the mystery box. Thanks to early casting rumors and multiple leaks from the set, the news of Khan's casting sparked criticism before it was officially announced. Abrams quickly assured fans that this casting rumor was incorrect, and Cumberbatch wasn't playing Khan. Except he was.

According to producer Damon Lindelhof, this strange no-he-isn't-yes-he-is dance was one of the major flaws of Into Darkness:

"When we did Star Trek Into Darkness for example, we decided that we weren’t going to tell people that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan. And that was a mistake, because the audience was like, ‘We know he’s playing Khan.’ That was why it was a mistake."

Played by the excellent Ricardo Montalban, Khan was the iconic villain of one of the most popular Trek movies of all time: Wrath of Khan. The original movie also featured the death of Spock, which Into Darkness paralleled with Kirk's death.

Although intended as an homage, the parallels to Wrath of Khan are considered by many to be one of Into Darkness' greatest failings. Some fans criticized the movie as unable to stand on its own merit, and now even J.J. Abrams has commented on this issue.

Telling A New Story

When speaking with Wired about the challenges of adding a story to an already expansive franchise, Abrams talked about his personal issues with Into Darkness:

"I didn’t want to enter into making a movie where we didn’t really own our story. I feel like I’ve done that a couple of times in my career. That’s not to say I’m not proud of my work, but the fact is I remember starting to shoot Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness and feeling like I hadn’t really solved some fundamental story problems."

During the Celebrity Nerd Off earlier in November, Abrams again talked about Into Darkness, saying that there were "too many nods to Wrath of Khan."

Colbert and Abrams compete for the nerd crown
Colbert and Abrams compete for the nerd crown

Overall, it seems as though Star Trek: Into Darkness' biggest problem was that it repeated past Trek too much, while also deviating from the "essential Trekkiness" of the story, as one executive producer revealed to The Hollywood Reporter.

But if you're worried that the future of Star Trek will be bogged down by these issues, fear not! Star Trek: Beyond is already looking pretty darn awesome, and with Idris Elba playing the new villain, we're certain Beyond won't repeat Into Darkness' biggest mistake.

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