Will J.J. Abrams really make Star Trek 2: The Rehash Of Khan? Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman told an interviewer there's "a 50/50 chance" Khan will show up in their sequel. Here's why it's a terrible idea.
I had been meaning to write this "keep Khan out of Star Trek 2 (or 12, rather)" blog post for a while now — but honestly I thought Orci and Kurtzman were just kidding about including him. The script for the next Trek, at this point, consists of a few Gorn cartoons on a cocktail napkin, and they're barely batting ideas around. So it's easy for them to hint at all sorts of fan-favorite stuff: Sure, maybe the sequel will include the Doomsday Machine and V'Ger blasting each other. Why not? Anything's possible at this point, and it doesn't do any harm to answer "maybe" to every question. And of course, if the fans get particularly thrilled about one of these trial balloons, then that tells them something.
But now, it sounds as though the Fringe co-creators may actually be considering resurrecting Khan, who's still sleeping in his little suspended-animation capsule in their revamped timeline. So just in case they're really serious about this, here's a list of reasons why a new Khan would be a terrible, epically bad idea:
You can't improve on the original.
They don't make villains like they used to — and that's not just a cranky observation. It's really true. If you think about it. Khan is almost emblematic of what we no longer see in movie and TV villains, for several reasons. He's suave, in a way that nobody is suave any more. (Can you even think of a Hollywood actor who's suave now? Maybe George Clooney.) He's ruthless, and willing to do whatever it takes to win, and to prove his superiority. His arrogant swagger isn't just bravado, it's ideological: he believes, deep down, that he's the pinnacle of human evolution.
And you can't discount the Ricardo Montalban factor. His "Corinthian leather" showmanship is easily mocked, but he was one of a hundred bullies, bureaucrats and demagogues who went head-to-head with Kirk. And there's a reason he's one of the few we remember. (Remember Anan 7 from "A Taste Of Armageddon"? I didn't think so.) Montalban brings all of his gravitas, charm and menace to the role. I can't think of an actor working today who could do the young Khan justice, and it would be hard to imagine a modern-day summer movie that could make Khan as compelling as he was.
And remember, this wouldn't be the batshit-crazy, revenge-driven Khan from the movie. It would be the smooth-as-silk younger Khan from the episode "Space Seed."
Say goodbye to the freshness.
Abrams' Star Trek reboot threw armfuls of candy at the fans, to distract them from the fact that this was a whole new Star Trek. You had the Kobayashi Maru, the classic lines like "I am, and always will be your friend" and "I'm giving her all she's got," the Orion woman, Pike in a wheelchair, and so on. The constant hand-holding got a little annoying, because I'd rather see a movie that's concerned with telling a story than with placating a minority of OCD fans. But it was okay, because behind all of this clutter, there was a fresh story.
Even though Nero was a weak villain, he was at least something new, and he had a few really great moments. But it's hard to imagine a storyline starring Khan that wouldn't feel a bit warmed-over. It would be the opposite of the first movie: a few fresh ideas, wrapped around a core of fan-pleasing deja vu. Pass.
He'd probably be just one of two or three villains.
It'll be hard enough to avoid the traditional "sequel = villain multi-ball" syndrome in this film, in any case. It's hard to think of a recent sequel that hasn't had two or three villains. The pattern goes like this: the original film has the hero's origin story, plus one villain. The second movie lacks an origin story, so the writers throw in a second (or third) villain to compensate. Boom, you're in the movie business.
But for some reason, the addition of Khan makes me even more certain the new movie would end up having more than one villain. (Despite all those tantalizing hints that there might not be any villain at all.) After all, Khan has already starred in one movie as a solo villain. So how do you distinguish between this film and Wrath Of Khan? I know – why not have Khan plus a couple other villains. Like, say, Khan and the Squire of Gothos both giving the Enterprise hell. Or Khan teaming up with the Klingons! That would be awesome! Er, no.
Khan would need to have some kind of trauma.
It's another iron-clad rule of modern-day villainy. The villain can't just be a shithead who wants to rule the universe — a modern-day reinvention of Khan would need to be emotionally scarred. And he'd probably have daddy issues, or some other childhood trauma motivating him to go around trying to take over starships.
You certainly couldn't have a villain who's motivated by ideology — not in this day and age, and not in a Hollywood blockbuster. In "Space Seed," Khan wasn't just a random maniac: he was the product of a genetic engineering project to create the ultimate Nietzschean superman, designed to rule the world. Just like Doctor Who's Daleks, Khan is intended to conjure echoes of the Nazi "master race" ethos. He's a warning about the dangers of meddling with the human genome too much, but he's also the product of a social movement that believed in his rulership. Strip all of that away, and he's just another snarling maniac.
The new Kirk doesn't have the gravitas.
One huge reason why Khan is such a swaggering, charming, magnetic figure in "Space Seed" is because he has to stand up to William Shatner's Kirk, who'd long since perfected his own brand of both swagger and smarm.
Not only that, but the episode comments explicitly on the differences between the two men: one from the barbaric 1990s, the other from the civilized, egalitarian 23rd century. Khan's forcefulness and brutish charm ("I take what I want") are contrasted with Kirk's more domesticated manliness. Yes, Kirk is a sexist tool as well — but compared to Khan, he's a sensitive new-age guy. The episode hammers home the comparisons: Kirk keeps his masculinity under layers of manners and irony, whereas Khan's is right out there in the open. And that's why Khan is so fascinating to Lt. Marla McGivers: she sees him as a throwback to a rawer, more unrefined version of masculinity.
I'm sure Chris Pine's "young hooligan" version of Kirk will grow on me, but I don't think he'll ever have the same "gentleman scholar" vibe that Shatner managed to convey. If you put Pine up against a young Ricardo Montalban, I'm not sure he could really hold his own. And most of all, I don't think you could create the same contrast between the more civilized Kirk and the barbaric Khan.
But the main reason I'd rather not see Khan come back is:
No more excuses for dyslexic bloggers to misspell his name as "Kahn."
Seriously, it makes me think that Madeline Kahn is going to jump out and start showtuning the Enterprise crew to death. Anything we can do to prevent that, we should do.