>> Saturday, October 31, 2015
Look, I don't know. But if I had to guess?
Look, I know Adam Driver--an actor I'm unfamiliar with, ironically, since half his filmography is apparently either in my Netflix queue or in my mental "I still need to see that sometime" list--I know that "officially" he's some guy named "Kylo Ren." And there's photos of him on-set in costume and an entire line of toys. I know.
But I also know that J.J. Abrams spent, like, a year, almost a year, something like that, telling everyone that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing a guy named "John Harrison."
I know that his writers kinda goofed and said they were bringing back a classic Star Trek villain the fans would be glad to see again, the entire Internet collectively said, "Cool, but I hope it's not Khan, because that would be stupid." And the writers and Abrams said, "It's totally not Khan. It's a guy named 'John Harrison.'" And the entire Internet collectively said, "Who the fuck is John Harrison?" and the Trekkies/ers/ites all said, "Fifty years of Star Trek, there's never been anyone named 'John Harrison,' much less a 'classic villain' named 'John Harrison,'" and the collective said, "Oh hell, it's Khan, isn't it?"
And Abrams said, "It's not Khan."
Then there were set photos of Benedict Cumberbatch stalking around dictatorially, and in a holding cell, and doing various other things, and the Internet said, "Are you sure he's not Khan? No, hang on, this is definitely Khan, right?" and Abrams said, "It's not Khan. Stop asking if it's Khan, Benedict Cumberbatch is playing John Harrison and not Khan."
Then the movie came out. With Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan. Though, to be fair, they do call him "John Harrison" during the first half of the movie, up until the dramatic reveal (oops, spoiler) where the camera closes in on Benedict Cumberbatch responding to Kirk and Spock asking him his real name and he hisses, "My name is Khan!" Not that there's any reason the movie ever offers for him to be going around under this pseudonym, since this is an alternate timeline where there's no reason for anybody in the movie to treat Khan differently than he was treated in "Space Seed," the 1967 original series episode where Khan is introduced; in that episode, the Enterprise finds Khan adrift in space in suspended animation, the crew wakes him up, and (realizing almost immediately who he is) treat him with... amused benign indifference, apparently figuring, "What can a guy who's been asleep in a can for two-hundred years do?" (Not much, contrary to what you think: in both "Space Seed" and Star Trek II--The Wrath of Khan, Khan only accomplishes anything when the Enterprise crew slacks off and does things like hand him the ship's instruction manuals or forget to turn on the ship's shields; whenever they start bringing their actual game (any game, not necessarily even their A-game), they defeat Khan by doing things like turning his ship off or flying under him. Dude's kinda like a toddler: mostly harmless so long as you keep an eye on him, but leave him unattended with a Sharpie for five minutes and there'll be Hell to pay.)
I also--possibly unlike some people, I don't know why--I also have a long memory.
Long enough, anyway, to remember that before J.J. Abrams did Mission Impossible III and became the big-name film director he is today, he was a screenwriter and script doctor who in the early-2000s wrote a script called Superman: Flyby for one of Warners' attempts to reboot the Superman franchise. Brett Ratner was going to direct, or McG; both of them were attached to the project at various times, and it burned through a lot of money before being scrapped and Warners' went with what became Bryan Singer's for-better-or-worse love letter to Richard Donner, Superman Returns.
But at some point during preproduction, Abrams script for Flyby leaked online, and got thoroughly and even-more-thoroughly trashed by Ain't It Cool News and other Internet geek sites, because Superman: Flyby was written as if the author didn't really know much about Superman, or even have any interest in Superman beyond the fact he'd been given a fistful of cash to write a movie about some guy named "Superman." It was kind of a Greatest American Hero thing played straight, where this alien gets sent to Earth from his unexploded, just fine planet with a magical suit which allows him to do Kung-Fu so he can fight another alien calling itself "Lex Luthor."
I also remember that when Abrams eventually responded to the dire response his Flyby script got, it was kinda whiny and petulant. I wish I could find the article online, but it looks like it'll take more work than I feel like putting into it. He kinda missed the point of the backlash, though, saying his ideas should have had a chance because they might have been interesting, which could be true except "interesting" and "good" aren't synonyms; and he seemed to have a kinda crazy notion that maybe if his ideas were going to get rejected by fans, they should have been rejected by fans after Warners spent hundreds of millions of dollars filming, marketing and distributing the thing, instead of being put out of its mercy early and gratefully.
(I never watched Lost, so all I can say about that is that I have friends who are still angry that the show's creators, including Abrams, apparently spent years telling everyone that the show would come together in a way that made sense and that the people on the island weren't dead, and from my friends' complaints I take it that (1) it didn't, and (2) they were. If you know what they're talking about, feel free to take it under consideration.)
So I don't know anything, except that I do know that J.J. Abrams hates, hates, hates advance fan speculation and Internet nerds because he feels they burned him with Superman, and so much that he was willing to lie to them on Star Trek. And so I think he's more than capable of casting Adam Driver as a minor or minor-ish character, and letting a few misleading photos of him in a misleading costume leak out, or having him and another actor playing characters who aren't what they seem to be and one occasionally stands in for the other; actually, I'd go so far as to say that I think Abrams is perfectly capable of hiring an actor who doesn't appear in the film at all, who just shows up in costume for set photos for a disinformation campaign, if Disney would let him do it... which seems like something that could go either way, frankly.
So I don't know. I'm probably wrong. But I'm not asking the question everyone's been asking since that poster came out, because I don't know that he isn't. Sure, okay, probably not. Except, thing is, if I had to guess, if you pushed me to guess, I might just guess he is.
I think I just want it on the record that I'm probably wrong, but I also won't be surprised if. So that when, if happens, and I say, "Kinda saw that one coming," and you don't believe me, I can pull up a blog post from Halloween to say, "No, see, I said this would be totally consistent with J.J. Abrams post-Superman: Flyby M.O.." And if I'm wrong, which I probably am, you can razz me, I guess, even though I'm pretty soft on this.