Is Benicio Del Toro Playing Khan in STAR TREK 2? [Updated]

     December 2, 2011


Last month, we reported that Benicio Del Toro would be playing the villain in Star Trek 2.  Even before Del Toro’s casting, there has been non-stop speculation on who director J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman would choose as the baddie.  The name that kept popping up in fanboy circles was Khan Noonien Singh, the memorable antagonist from arguably the best Star Trek movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  I thought this was a terrible idea, but unfortunately, it may have won the day.

Latino Review is reporting that Del Toro will play Khan in the upcoming sequel.  Hit the jump for more on Khan and why I hope this news is wrong.  [Update:  Abrams has commented on this rumor.  Hit the jump for what he had to say.]


[Update: Abrams tells Drew McWeeny at HitFix that Latino Review‘s story is “Not true.”  Drew notes that Abrams “has never directly lied to me about something.  He’s demurred when asked some questions, and he’s played coy about some things, but outright fabrication does not appear to be his bag.”  In case Abrams is outright fabricating, you can read on for my thoughts on making Khan the villain.]

In Star Trek: The Original Series, Khan is introduced in the episode “Space Seed”.  He is a genetically engineered human who was bred to conquer and was a benevolent but iron-fisted ruler in the vein of Alexander the Great.  He was eventually deposed but he and a handful of his followers escaped on the spaceship Botany Bay and went into suspended animation.

Flash forward to the year 2267 and his ship is rescued by Captain Kirk and the USS Enterprise.  When Khan attempts to create a mutiny, Kirk is able to stop him and exiles the villain to the hostile planet of Ceti Alpha V.  Wrath of Khan picks up this storyline and is a grand revenge tale that has some of the most memorable moments in all of Trek lore.

And J.J. Abrams and co. want to compete with that?

As I’ve said before, Khan is a villain who comes out of the original series.  Since the new movie established that a new timeline was created, there’s no reason to be tethered to anything the original series or movies did.  Abrams has the creative freedom to take these memorable characters—who are being played by a terrific new cast—and send them on a fresh adventure.

This is not a fresh adventure.  This feels like it was done for the fanboys who cling to the familiar like a security blanket.  Even more maddening, the popularity of the reboot gives the filmmakers license to branch out.  Why not pull another villain from the series?  You can still appease the old guard by making that reference but still have enough leeway to try something new.  Here are the options I see if they use Khan:

star-trek-khan-ricardo-montalban-image-011) He’s a villain and the movie has to live in the shadow of Wrath of Khan.

2) He’s not a villain, but he’s still in the movie, which makes you wonder “What’s the point?”  Khan is not an essential Trek character.  He’s not Kirk, he’s not Spock, or anything close to a main character.  He’s appeared twice in the main Trek storyline (I’m ignoring extended universe stuff like novels).  Khan is a popular character, but he’s not an essential character.

@kingbry7 brought up the thoughtful point that if the Joker can return for a rebooted Batman franchise, then why can’t the same be done for Khan?  First off, Batman and Joker have decades upon decades of history and constant struggle.  The two characters are inverses yet have disturbing similarities.  When it comes to the movies, Tim Burton‘s Batman isn’t that good so it’s not like they’re treading on a classic.  The Joker is a character that allows a storyteller a better understanding of Batman.  He’s a perfect antagonist and one that will never leave the caped crusader.

Khan had two really great fights with Kirk.  Captain Kirk had a lot of other great fights and met a ton of interesting antagonists, but Trek isn’t a one-man show and Kirk is not Batman.

I trust Latino Review, but I really hope they’re wrong on this one.  If J.J. Abrams manages to outdo Wrath of Khan, then more power to him.  But my he doesn’t have to.  He can boldly go where no Star Trek film has gone before.

So why wouldn’t he?

Around The Web
  • wacko3205

    If anyone can pull it off…this team kan…can…Khan…whatever.

    Just please YES YES YES…put a bad silver mullet wig on Benecio Del & let him mumble & grimace his way through the script.

    Charge up that lil’ Bad Robot so he can cut a path through the cornfield & go head to head with the almighty Treksterz!!! Let him piss off all the fanboys (myself included) & geeks (myself included) AGAIN!!!…ruin all of our childish, childhood memories…AGAIN!!!…cuz at the end of the day…that shit workt like a dang charm.

    I hate it for all the haters but Abrahms Star Trek was the MFN shiznit!!!

    • Old Soldier

      I’ll keep an open mind, but if Khan says “shiznit” I’m out.

  • Strong Enough

    Matt superb analysis..

    but I recall Damon comparing Star Trek 2 to the Dark Knight this is from an article

    “Kurtzman and Orci previously revealed that they had settled on a front-runner for Star Trek 2’s villain and that the antagonist would play a larger role in the story. Although the duo claimed to be open to the idea of using Khan, the villain’s identity has yet to be confirmed.”

    this is what Damon had to say about the movie

    “We’re looking at a movie like The Dark Knight, which went one step beyond Batman Begins… It was really about something, and at the same time it was a superhero movie. We don’t want to abandon all the things that made the first movie work…but we also really want the movie to thematically resonate.”

    So their is no doubt Del Toro is Khan and their trying to make him out to be as dynamic as the Joker. They want a strong villain to carry the film. I like that their taking a chance instead of running away from it. JJ made the impossible on the first one. Del Toro and JJ will be supurb.

  • Metzner

    • The Orion Syndicate as the villains
    • Large all-star cast as well as many cameos
    • More planets
    • Larger space battles with more starships
    • Kirk having better fighting skills
    • Kirk having several human love interests played by Hollywood’s most beautiful young actresses
    • The Star Trek theme music from the Insurrection end credits used at the end

  • Alex-mansy

    I was about to comment how brazen this hack move was, guess we’ll have to settle for just mediocre level of hackiness.

  • Bob B

    The point the remember is this will not be a remake of Wrath of Kahn. Because of the new timeline it will be a remake of Space Seed.

  • FILMfan

    JJ Trek Strikes Back.

    Where’s the pepto bismol……

  • Agent_Black

    Even though the story ultimately turned out to be a load of ol’ bollocks, this was still an interesting article. Nice work Matt.

  • Whysohappy?

    When Star Trek came out in 2009, what made it special was the quality of impersonations the actors were doing of old, well-known characters. Their ability to take those characters like Spock and McCoy, and almost perfectly impersonate them as younger, fresher people was what made the film special. Let’s be honest here; the story, though good, wasn’t anything mind blowing, and the villain was fairly one-dimensional and under developed. It was the acting (and okay, the special effects were dazzling as well) that drew the crowds and made the movie what it is (admit, Zachary Quinto does a badass spock.)

    So it’s not hard to see the appeal of doing another famous interpretation. Doing a reboot of Khan would bring more nostalgia, and if he were done correctly, great entertainment. Just like the fans ate up Chris Pine’s interpetation of Kirk, they’d probably relish in a new Khan as well.

    However. As the author of this article was saying, just because they can doesn’t mean they should. The whole purpose of creating a new storyline was to free them from the old story arcs and allow them to do something Hollywood currently is having a hard time with: somehing ORIGINAL. Star Trek is not a prequal, or a sequal, like so many movies that come out these days. I wouldn’t evenly technically call it a reboot; its not making it darker or grittier (actually it brought back that serious yet funny atmosphere from the old series) and its not continuing set story arcs. Really, this new Star Trek from J.J. Abrahms is more or less a new series, with new characters, and new story lines (Vulcan gets destroyed, for instance). If this were a comic book it would definitely be called a new storyline and a new series.

    Therefore, there is absolutely no reason to bring back Khan. As was stated, Khan is classic, and trying to outdo the original would be like making a Back to the Future remake (though I’m sure eventually someone will try). I do hope that Abrahms “not true” is as simple and firm as it sounds. Film-makers have a nasty habit of “saying one thing but meaning another.”

    • Alex-mansy

      That’s what I meant. The new Star Trek has bad writing, bad directing and a bad story (also the action was bad too). The only redeeming features are it’s production design, nostalgic acting, Eric Bana and the CGI. (except the new smirky Kirk, he sucks)

      They should just continue with what they got right and stop doing what they got really wrong.

      If Abrams and co start getting ‘creative’ they are going to make a worse film than the first. A shame this Khan idea isn’t true.

  • Flyersfan20

    I know it may not be a classic but did he really say Tim Burton’s Batman isn’t that good?

  • BobaFett

    Not that I’m a trekkie, but I am a sucker for accuracy. Khan, the Enterprise’s historian and the Botany Bay were sentenced and placed on Ceti Alpha V. They did not escape.

    IMO, Del Toro should be a Klingon, and I’d love to see a Klingon/Federation war, possibly with Klingons taking over a Federation starship.

    One of my top 5 moments in the movie series is Kirk Vs Christopher Lloyd and how Kirk manipulates him into destroying most of his crew (and the Enterprise).

  • Edward Lee

    Hmm. Well, haven’t they already let slip that they were scouting locations in Hawaii to use for (what was it?) “a jungle planet of some significant to Trek lore”? To me, that doesn’t quite sound like it’s Khan (what would the purpose of the jungle planet be?).

    • Whysohappy?

      Well, Ceti Alpha V was supposed to be “savage” planet, possibly overgrown. Its possible that in this alternate timeline, Ceti Alpha V doesn’t have its axis tilted, thus allowing Khan to “conquer” the world as he had originally desired. In fact, Spock remarks how interesting it would be to see what has sprung from the “seed [you] have planted this day.” Perhaps Abrams and the writers intend to explore what the world would be like if indeed Khan had managed to conquer it.

      I still stand by my old points; there is no reason to do Khan. However, I do think introducing Klingons is a very, very interesting idea, and one that I think is essential to Kirk and Star Trek in general. At least in the films, the Klingons were the primary antagonists as wells as an integral part of Kirk’s character, and they served to provoke many interesting interactions between his character and theirs. Klingons are one of the most iconic races in Star Trek; I think it is vital they at least make more than nominal appearence in the next film.

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  • Jay McKells

    I hope this doesn’t delay Benicio reprising his role as the wolfman… :(

  • Jeff

    I hope they don’t do Khan. The essay above is very astute in it’s understanding of Khan’s place in Trek. Besides, Ricardo Montalban was something special; Del Toro is a good actor, but he’s not Khan. Javier Bardem, however, is.

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  • Mavro

    Tim Burton’s Batman isn’t that good? Are you sure about that?

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  • seth

    He’d make a fantastic Ant Man. I hope Marvel rumours true.

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