Like a Navy SEAL raid, the first teaser trailer (excuse me, "announcement trailer,") for Star Trek Into Darkness snuck upon us before dawn. As luck would have it I was up super early, so I got my inaugural look at the first new Star Trek footage in three years just as God intended: groggy, bleary-eyed and on my phone.
Of course I immediately ran to my most high-def of computer monitors and watched it sixteen times in a row. I then immediately began to parse every pixel of the screen - is that a bat'leth? Are those ears pointy? What type of ship is crashing into water? Who is speaking at the solemn-looking gathering?
Thing is, we don't know. And we won't know for some time. (Even after some press people in LA got to see 9 minutes of IMAX footage.) But that doesn't stop a true Star Trek fan from immediately getting on the Internet to pontificate what absolutely, positively has to be the (still intentionally) ambiguous plot of the film.
I took a stroll through the comments section here at StarTrek.com as well as at TrekMovie, Badass Digest, hollywood.com and even communed with the Great Link that is Twitter. Here's what an afternoon of that'll learn ya:
- Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan!
Talk of Khan being "Kirk's Joker" has been brewing since the moment the final (awesome) credits rolled on Star Trek (2009). When word leaked that Benecio Del Toro was being considered for the role, people figured that the Hispanic actor would be an appropriate pick to follow in Ricardo Montalban's footsteps. (Of course, Khan Noonien Singh was supposed to be Sikh, but let's not get into that.)
For those who say that Cumby (and let's just start calling him Cumby, okay?) looks nothing like Khan as we know him, I agree. But let's take a look at some of the costume design. Here's a shot from the trailer:
Take a look at his collar. Now here's a still from 1982.
Different color, sure, but that puffy ribbed thing? That can't be a coincidence. (Cheers to eagle-eyed reader Johann Albrechtsen for catching this.)
Evidence of Cumberbatch playing Khan also stems from the teaser's undercurrent of vengeance. (Vengeance is, after all, similar to wrath.) Plus, Cumberbatch says he has "returned" to have his vengeance. This sounds like a guy who was sent away on the Botany Bay in the 1990s and is now back. Plus he returns call Earth "your world." It could mean that he is talking about the world at this point in time, not as a place in space. The "what would you do for your family" certainly hits home - many of his followers died on the Botany Bay.
Then there's that last shot in the trailer, clearly meant to evoke the "I am and always shall be" moment from The Wrath of Khan.
And he can't be playing Gary Mitchell because Gary Mitchell died in the ongoing comics. He was killed and Roberto Orci has definitively stated that the comics are canon.
- Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Gary Mitchell!
He can't be Khan because Simon Pegg said he wasn't and Karl Urban let it slip that Cumby is Gary Mitchell. And actors have never, ever lied about a character in a fanboy franchise before. (Cough, Marion Cotillard as Talia al Ghul, cough.)
In one shot Cumby is wearing a Starfleet insignia. Gary Mitchell was in Starfleet. It could be that he felt betrayed by Starfleet after an "event" changed him into a man with great powers. (One theory pushed by someone named Tsteeves is convinced that the Into Darkness of the film's title is a reference to what famously happens to Gary Mitchell's eyes after encountering the Galactic Barrier.)
Many point to Alice Eve's character as evidence - her hair sure looks a heck of a lot like the 'do Sally Kellerman was wearing when she played Elizabeth Dehner opposite Gary Mitchell.
Hardcore canon sticklers who were willing to buy all sorts of changes in the last film point out that the events of the Botany Bay would be unaffected by the destruction of the Kelvin. Therefore, Khan can *only* be played by Montalban. (They may be right that Cumby is playing Mitchell, but these people need to chill.)
- Benedict Cumberbatch is playing. . .someone a little different than what we know!
Why would Gary Mitchell need a weapon? Maybe his powers aren't quite as godlike this time? Maybe that shot that we think is Kirk and Spock at the very end is actually involving Mitchell, who is trapped in some sort of chamber and left for dead and THAT'S why he wants vengeance?
Maybe he isn't Khan, he's Joachim? Lots of people think this, pointing to Peter Weller's yet-to-be-seen character as Khan, and it is actually Khan dying in that last shot, not Spock. Joachim (played by Cumberbatch) is now on a tear against Starfleet for vengeance.
(Or maybe that shot is Captain Pike dying of Delta radiation, and the somber gathering we see is his memorial?)
Commenter loghaD comes in out of left field and says that the jumping fight with the big glowing thing reminds him of "Return of the Archons. (I mean, they are wearing cloaks.)
Hell, I say the red leaf planet that Kirk and Bones are running through made me think of the spore-happy Omicron Ceti III from "This Side of Paradise."
Noted cybernerd Silas Lesnick ranted on Twitter that whoever Cumby is playing, the twist will be that he is actually fighting for good, and that in the final reveal he'll turn out to be Khan even though we thought he was dead, like Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins.
Lastly, take a look at the shot of Cumberbatch sitting in the captain's chair. Doesn't it kinda look like he has pointy ears? M0riar1ty thinks that he's actually playing Stonn, and that he was working with the Romulans to have his appearance changed. Now he's playing the Federation against itself to close the time-loop to bring back T'Pring!
I have no idea what he's talking about, yet I love it. And I love that this teaser has inspired so much debate.
The joke is that just a few days later a press event in Los Angeles was held where some fancy-pants people got to see 9 minutes of IMAX footage and then... not tell anybody about it afterwards.
Two important things came out of it – Alice Eve is playing Carol Marcus (a win for the Khan camp, but doesn't rule out the Mitchell camp) and Benedict Cumberbatch is playing…John Harrison.
John Harrison? Huh? This is either a) a fake name that Abrams and company are leaking or b) just one of the already-known characters, just called something different. (If it walks like a Gary Mitchell and talks like a Gary Mitchell but is called John Harrison, he's still Gary Mitchell.)
Or it could just be a wholly new character that isn't rooted in Star Trek canon at all.
In a few months we'll look back on this conversation and laugh, but for now let's celebrate that there's a new Star Trek film coming and none of us really know what the heck it's about.
Set your phasers to speculate! Lemme know your theory below.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.