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Poopy Head
Posted on Tuesday 23 April 2013 at 8:33 pm

Movie Marketing

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This post contains one spoiler for Star Trek Into Darkness, specifically the identity of the villain. It is a discussion of movie marketing, specifically the decisions to explicitly hide information as a strategy, more so than a discussion of Star Trek, but a spoiler is at the heart of the post. I do not know any other spoilers for this film and would prefer not to know so please don't mention any others in comments.

The first full reviews of the new Star Trek movie are hitting the internet. Full disclosure: I never cared much for classic Star Trek. It is like Lord of the Rings for me: one of those things that should be right in my sweet spot given my love of science fiction and fantasy but that I just never got. I liked the first reboot movie fine. It is a perfectly fun little summer adventure movie with a sci fi theme that has little resemblance to classic Star Trek. I plan to see the second movie in theaters, something I rarely do, and expect I will be entertained in the same manner.

This post isn't really about the movie itself. It is about the marketing. Everyone connected with this film has spent the best part of a year loudly and repeatedly insisting that Benedict Cumberbatch's main villain is not this alternate reboot universe's Kahn. They refused to announce the character's name for the longest time and when they finally did, it turned out to be John Harrison, a name often used in original Star Trek productions for the one-offs fated to die. The reviews from people who have seen the movie are coming in and they're saying the villain is called John Harrison at first but it is revealed that is an alias and he is Kahn.

Assuming this is true, and I've no real reason to doubt it other than I don't like it, this annoys me. Greatly. I've been annoyed by the whole "We're not going to name him!" thing all along. I'm even more annoyed that it looks like they've been lying all along, and rather vehement lying with constant refrains of "We swear it isn't Kahn! How many times do we have to tell you that it isn't Kahn!? Stop asking! It isn't Kahn!" I know some hardcore old-school Trek fans are annoyed at the idea of bringing back Kahn and automatically assume the new version can't be as good as the original and will ruin the character or whatever. Most people assuming that already think the first movie ruined the entire universe, though, and while they are entitled to their opinions and I do understand them to a degree based on my own trepidations regarding the new Star Wars movies, I'm not sure they're adding much new to the conversation at this point. Since I never cared for original Trek and have never even seen the original Kahn movie, I don't personally care about any of that at all.

I've seen some complaints about the idea of Cumberbatch playing Kahn due to a racism concern. The main argument here seems to be that Kahn is supposed to be a genetically modified superior being and having him played by a basic European white male introduces an historically problematic note of assumed racial superiority that wasn't there when he was played by Ricardo Montalbán. The counter-argument to that is that Ricardo Montalbán was of fully Spanish heritage and therefore a basic European white male himself. Of course, that is a cheap argument given that Montalbán was seen at the time as almost Hispanic, therefore not really white in the eyes of US Americans at the very least, and was always classified as something of an exotic or ethnic actor. Plus I think his Kahn was supposed to be Indian, maybe, further complicating the issue. So clearly a complicated set of issues that can be debated and discussed, though I think they should be addressed from the starting position of no one involved is being racist but maybe we can all use this to ask questions about underlying racism inherent in our society and world history and how we should address and interact with that. But I don't actually care about any of that either for the moment because those are the kinds of conversations that can really only be had after you've actually seen the execution of something not based solely on a character's name.

What I do care about, what annoys me, is the game everyone involved in this has been playing with the audience. What is the bloody point in dragging it out with the "We're not telling!" nonsense? What is the point in lying about it being Kahn? Is it somehow supposed to make the movie better if we don't know he's Kahn? I have a hard time seeing how that is going to make any difference. It didn't matter that I knew Chris Pine was playing Kirk, Zachary Quinto was Spock, Simon Pegg was Scotty, etc. Why should this matter in a way the makes it worthwhile to have done this? Was it just to generate interest? I've got to tell you, I haven't seen people all excited for the movie just for solving the mystery of Cumberbatch's character's identity. The whole thing is just stupid and I don't understand the purpose to it. It seems like playing games with the fanbase, actively trying to trick and delude the fanbase, is the marketing strategy here and I don't understand it. All it has done for me is annoy me. It hasn't made me any more or less likely to see the film. It has made it more likely that I'll be annoyed when the big revelation actually occurs in the film, more likely that I'll be pulled out of the film and remember all the marketing bullshit, but that's not a good thing for the filmmakers. So what's the bloody point? What have they gained by doing this that could not have been better achieved by just saying a year ago that the villain was going to be this alternate universe's version of Kahn but, hey, keep in mind this is an alternate universe so expect things to be different?

Wow. It's been a while since I've done a long fandom rant. That felt kind of nice. It's nice to act like something completely unimportant is important rather than worrying about the really important things in the world for a bit.
Feeling: annoyed
Exploring: Bed
Listening: Act Your Age


donutsweeper at 12:41 am on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
He's Kahn? Really? I have to say I don't care either way, I saw the reboot movie and I've seen most of TOS but I don't care either way about any of the characters. But after all that 'we won't say' and 'he's not Khan, nope definitely not' that's just ridiculous.

Blargh. I wholeheartedly approve your rant.
bratty_jedi at 12:55 am on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I'm still holding out a modicum of hope that the spoiler reviews are people playing tricks, but it doesn't seem to be. There are multiple sources coming in saying they saw it at the Australian premiere.

Also, apparently I suck and it is Khan not Kahn, as I typed it in my entire rant.
donutsweeper at 1:00 am on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I always see it spelled out KAAAAHHHHHNNNN with Shatner's yelling face. I have no actual idea how it's supposed to be spelled. I sincerely doubt it's a trick, unfortunately, it just makes too much sense for him to be the big baddie.

I just finished listening to most recent episodes of "the news quiz" :) Thanks for the posts mentioning it was back.
bratty_jedi at 1:03 am on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I saw a pic of the movie poster for the original Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, is how I discovered I was misspelling it. I agree that the Shatner yelling images are the most frequent way I've seen the name but I can't honestly say if it is KHHHHAAAANNNN or KAAAAHHHHHN or what that I've seen there.

Hooray for News Quiz!
donutsweeper at 1:05 am on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I love Sandi Toksvig, I may go to youtube and pull up the QI episodes she's in and give them another listen.
bratty_jedi at 1:11 am on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I approve of this plan.

Sandi Toksvig is awesome.
QI is awesome.
Sandi Toksvig on QI is therefore awesome squared.
bratty_jedi at 1:48 am on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for that link! That's convenient, which might actually be a bad thing for my dissertation progress.
donutsweeper at 1:49 am on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Oooh. Dissertation. Yeah. Just ignore that link then. :)
Wine gums, envy, pieces of rainbow
qwentoozla at 6:51 am on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I have to agree with you there. I mean, having someone turn out to be someone else as a total surprise can be awesome, but if everyone is speculating that it's Khan and it IS, flat out lying about it does not achieve the same effect. It just seems, I don't know... like they think we're stupid? It's not a real surprise, anyway. No one will be shocked when it's "revealed."

I never got into old Star Trek either, so I don't really know anything about Khan, but his name seems to be "Khan Noonien Singh" which is a pretty Indian sounding name. Which does make it odd that Benedict Cumberbatch would play him. But we'll see how it turns out. (Also, tiny nitpick- Ricardo Montalban is definitely Hispanic. People from Spain are Hispanic.) :)
bratty_jedi at 12:07 pm on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I saw one person who was supposedly at an Australia screening say that there were a few cheers and a lot of groans from the audience there when the name was first revealed.

I definitely think the original character was supposed to be Indian, but I'm not 100% certain. And of course Cumberbatch replaced Benicio del Toro when he stepped out of the part, which gets us back into Montalbán territory.

Fair enough on the Hispanic thing. It just doesn't really mean that in common US conversation since it is basically often used as a polite way of saying "Brown" and not fully European, which is what I was getting at. I suppose I could have said "Mexican" since he was born and raised in Mexico but that, too, would be problematic since there is a difference in the way Mexican is used in the US to denote an ethnic type (often incorrectly applied to people not from Mexico), which he wasn't, and citizens of the nation of Mexico, which he was.
space_oddity_75 at 1:27 pm on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Ah, these are the times I'm really glad I'm not really a member of the hardcore ST fandom (original or reboot)! I used to like TOS as a child, but watching the series and knowing everything about it was never a need I felt. I still enjoy watching random episodes if they come up when I'm channel surfing, but I couldn't care less about character development or trivia, since I was never really invested in the series in the first place.

It's the same with the other spinoffs (TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT) and the reboot movies, really. Even though I watch them from time to time, I'm not invested in any of them, therefore I'm immune to all the craziness that surrounds this fandom.

The fact that Cumberbatch's villain might or might not be Khan in the upcoming movie is irrelevant to me. If he is, then fine. If he's not, who cares? As long as the movie is entertaining, he can be anyone. That's why I don't mind being spoilered: whatever the news, I'm not interested in the saga enough to care. *shrugs*
bratty_jedi at 2:01 pm on 24 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. Like I said, I haven't even seen the original Khan movie (and apparently didn't know how to spell the name) so I really don't care about that. I just don't like the publicity game around it. I'm not sure why it annoys me so much, probably because they're been so loudly insistent that it isn't Khan. It's just stupid.

Just wait for the new Star Wars movies, though...
Actually, had everything happening now with star Wars happened when I was 15 to maybe even 22 or 23, I would have freaked out about what the new movies would mean for the novels, comics, etc. so I do get why people freak out that way with Star Trek, I'm just not that emotionally invested anymore.

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