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The Conversation: Should Benicio Del Toro Play Khan in the Next ‘Star Trek’?

Intentionally just after Hollywood closed for business last night, Latino Review’s El Mayimbe posted an obvious yet widely feared rumor: “Benicio Del Toro is playing none other than… KHAN NOONIEN SINGH” in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek sequel. That’s the Khan of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, by the way, for the cool kids out there. Yet before too many bloggers could even pass the unconfirmed report, as they tend to do with breakneck speed, HitFix’s Drew McWeeny posted a denial straight from Abrams mouth that Del Toro as Khan is “not true.” And that was that. No further discussion, debate or speculation. 

Just kidding. It’s the Internet, guys. Also, as Eric D. Snider astutely tweeted: “Nerds debating STAR TREK casting choices on the Internet on a Friday night: THIS IS WHY THERE ARE STEREOTYPES.”

The debate is multifold. Some note that it’s possibly still true, recognizing El Mayimbe’s track record and his expectation that there would be rebuttals and denials, as well as Abrams’ usual secrecy and Hollywood’s tendency to deny (ScreenRant points to early Zod-in-Man of Steel dismissals). Others are arguing under the hypoethetical that it’s true, about the laziness of empoying Khan for the sequel, on how Khan could be employed for the sequel, if he must be, and a number of other things that a Trek-ignorant such as myself doesn’t understand. 

A few initial celebrity responders have shown excitement (Matthew Modine and Rob Liefield) and eventually the discussion took a silly turn. My take, as someone who probably doesn’t know enough about the franchise to comment, is that it should be a new villain, one with an angle as relevant and allegorical to current global events as possible. Also, he or she should not be played by Del Toro (who is at least confirmed to play whoever the main bad guy is). She should be played by Carrie Fisher. Just because that would really annoy William Shatner. And probably Fisher, too. 

Sorry, it’s just hard to take this whole thing seriously. But if you do, Cinema Blend has a poll going on right now asking if Del Toro should play Khan. “Hell yes!” is the winning side right now, but it’s very close. 

What are people saying about the Benicio Del Toro as Khan rumor? Here’s The Conversation heard around the blogosphere and Twitter: 

I stand fit to believe that Khan is the most logical conclusion for the villain in the next piece. The screenwriters have said that they’ve wanted a movie that echoes the thematic escalation and complexity of The Dark Knight. This may sound simple enough, but to have more complex themes in a story, you need some type of antagonistic force to provide challenge for the heroes, which in this case would be Kirk and his crew. That’s why I think everyone assumes that Khan is the only logical next step. He’s a villain that challenges Kirk in a physical and mental capacity. These two are like the two Kings in a chess match, both are important and the true key to their groups success. – The Red Hood, Comic Book Movie

This massively widespread belief that every Star Trek sequel must have Khan as the main bad guy because somehow he has become the Lex Luthor, the Daleks or The Joker of the Star Trek universe isn’t really healthy for the franchise and I fear that the longer this goes on, the worse it is going to get. Star Trek 3, 4, 5 or 6 shouldn’t include Khan either. – Matt Holmes, WhatCulture!

I want to believe Abrams. From a pure ego stand-point, no Khan backs the info we received. More importantly, I want to believe Abrams knows how Goddamn lazy it is to throw that character into the equation this soon after the 2009 reboot brought the franchise back from the dead and, for the first time in its history, made it cool to like Star Trek. – Jamie Williams, Think McFly Think

It’s really for the best if it’s not true. By doing a reboot on an alternate timeline, the creators of the new Star Trek opened up an endless number of possibilities. If they had chosen to do Khan again it would simply be a remake of Wrath of Khan and what’s the point of that? – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

Personally I hope it’s the latter; the new Star Trek franchise should establish its own storylines and villains, not just “modernize” the old tales people already know and love (or tolerate, if you aren’t a big Trekkie). – Jonathan Sullivan, The Film Stage

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. […] 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. – Matt Goldberg, Collider

I have to believe the guys making this film have something more interesting in store.  Now, that’s not to say that it’s impossible they’d use Khan, but why just tell the same story with him?  What clearer way could there be to show that this is a new timeline than to find the Botany Bay, thaw out Khan and his soldiers, and have them end up becoming allies to the Federation?  You could make a powerful film about the assumptions we have about people that would really play with an audience’s expectations if you wanted to, and it would make it very clear that just because a familiar name or face shows up in this continuity, there’s no guarantee that you know what’s going to happen. – Drew McWeeny, Motion [Captured] (HitFix)

The new Trek was supposed to strike out in a new direction, not just retread old characters and plotlines. Drew McWeeny makes an obvious point, though: the new Star Trek film takes place in a different timeline than the original series. With the flexibility to take each character in radically new directions, who’s to say that Del Toro will even be attempting to play the same Khan that Montalban did? – David Chen, /Film

To get geeky on this, Star Trek broke a lot of timelines from canon and while it’s the year 2258 but the time Chris Pine’s Kirk is in command of the Enterprise, in the prime Star Trek universe, Kirk doesn’t encounter Khan until 2267. So a younger Khan, played by Del Toro, fits for a new take on their first encounter. – Rob Keyes, Screen Rant

Our guess is that, since this is a relatively “new” universe Abrams and co, are developing, it’ll be an all-new character. But then again we don’t know how many great Trek baddies are in the canon since we’ve tried to develop solid interpersonal relationships with actual human beings in the last few decades. – Drew Taylor, The Playlist

I for one am relieved, as I believe the Khan role belongs to Nestor Carbonell, who is also Richard Alpert, Batmanuel and the mayor of Gotham City. I prefer to believe Del Toro is playing a Horta. – Hercules, Ain’t It Cool News

@MatthewModine: Benicio will kill it! right on. great casting choice.

@robertliefield: Awesome!!

@Arkeenta: Benicio Del Toro is supposed to be Khan in the new Star Trek sequel!?! Awesome, he’s such a versatile actor, I can’t wait.

@MikeBarbre: Good casting for Khan.

@hunterlurie: that could be his best villain role since License to Kill

@FyodorFish: Benicio del Toro’s playing Khaaan in nuTrek? Such ridiculosity can’t be true. It’s most definitely, most certainly not right.

@GarryS: Benicio del Toro would be a great Kahn in an alternative universe.. Bury the trek canon further so the new can prosper IMHO

@sharksarecool: After seeing what Abrams did in the first one, Pretty sure Del Toro’s character in Star Trek 2 will be called ‘Varth Dader’

@JHoffman6: Funniest thing about Benicio as Khan is this: they cast a Latino b/c Montalban was Latino. But the character is an Indian Sikh.

@mattsinger: Well…it’s a reboot. He could be Latino this time, no?

@devincf: timeline change happened after Khan’s time! Also his name is Khan Noonien Singh.

@mattsinger: Maybe his real last name was Del Toro and he changed it to Singh.

@joshtyler: The real problem is they shouldn’t be doing Khan, they should be telling new stories. Creatively bankrupt.

@klowenberg: Thank goodness JJ Abrams denied rumors Benecio Del Toro is playing Khan in Star Trek 2013. Khan is a great character, but why redo?

@EDouglasWW: I have it on good authority that Alice Eve is playing Madeline Khan in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek sequel

@EricDSnider: I think you’ll reconsider your objections about STAR TREK when you find out Benicio Del Toro is playing *Madeline* Kahn.

@MattGoldberg: Madeline Khan I can deal with. I’d be really impressed if it was Chaka Khan.

@mousterpiece: I can’t wait to hear his version of “I’m Tired.”

Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.

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