This weird second circuit of people admitting that Into Darkness had some pretty big flaws continues with the man of the moment, JJ Abrams! The director might be riding high when it comes to Star Wars right now, but when it comes to realizing the mistakes of his last Star Trek movie, Abrams is refreshingly candid.’
The admittance comes from a stellar interview Abrams did for Buzzfeed, examining his past films, up to and including The Force Awakens. The Into Darkness section is equal parts the director defending the ultimate outcome of the movie but also being refreshingly honest that ultimately, when it came to the story, he did the best with what he had. Abrams acknowledges that the first Star Trek had a clear, intentional storyline—that it was about Spock “unabashedly” coming to accept Kirk as his friend and comrade—something Into Darkness didn’t have even when it began filming:
I take full responsibility for this — I was encouraging the writers in certain directions, and we were working on the script and putting it together. But by the time we started shooting, and this was literally at the very beginning of the shoot, there were certain things I was unsure of.
Any movie, any story has a fundamental conversation happening during it. There’s a fundamental argument; there’s a central question. And I didn’t have it.
But it’s when talk turns to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan that Abrams gets really down to it. Despite the absolute denial from the director and the marketing at the time, the majority of the film’s audience had already pegged that Cumberbatch would play a new version of the iconic Trek villain, rather than a mysteriously nebulous character called “John Harrison.” In trying to keep that detail a secret anyway, Abrams said the film ended up lacking a strong story thread:
At the end of the day, while I agree with Damon Lindelof that withholding the Khan thing ended up seeming like we were lying to people, I was trying to preserve the fun for the audience, and not just tell them something that the characters don’t learn for 45 minutes into the movie, so the audience wouldn’t be so ahead of it.
I felt like, in a weird way, it was a little bit of a collection of scenes that were written by my friends — brilliantly talented writers — who I somehow misled in trying to do certain things. And yet, I found myself frustrated by my choices, and unable to hang my hat on an undeniable thread of the main story. So then I found myself on that movie basically tap-dancing as well as I could to try and make the sequences as entertaining as possible.
Thank god I had the cast that we have, who are so unbelievably fun to watch. And an incredible new villain in Benedict Cumberbatch… I would never say that I don’t think that the movie ended up working. But I feel like it didn’t work as well as it could have had I made some better decisions before we started shooting.
It’s nice to see the director be so honest, and he’s right—with a little more thought, there were some good ideas in Into Darkness that never just quite came together, on top of the whole Khan thing.
But as nice as it is to hear all this, it is a little weird that this is all coming out now, in the run up to Beyond. Either way, you should check the link below to read the full interview—there’s plenty of interesting nuggets about Super 8 and (non-spoilery) details for The Force Awakens.