If you’re going to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at midnight on Thursday (or at any point thereafter) on IMAX, then be sure to bring a tricorder along with your lembas bread, because you’ll be setting your phasers to “fuck yeah” when you’re treated to 9 whole minutes of advance Star Trek Into Darkness footage prior to the film. If you’re the type that just can’t wait to see it for yourself, then you’ll be pleased to know that I saw the footage on Sunday evening and it’s worth the price of admission.
J.J. Abrams showed up before the screening and specifically (and kindly) asked us to avoid doing a scene-by-scene breakdown. While I do cover quite a bit of ground here, there are details and scenes that have been omitted because part of the fun of going to the movies is, well, actually seeing the footage for yourself. Abrams also noted that for all of those people out there worried that this is the gritty, Dark Knight-ified Star Trek film that “it’s very doom and gloom, but it’s fun too.” After watching the initial footage – well, I’m inclined to agree. While I’ll do my best not to ruin any of the fun, you should be advised that there are probably minor spoilers ahead.
Benedict Cumberbatch is…just as mysterious as ever. Is he Gary Mitchell? Is he Khaaaaaaaaan? Is he the Ghost of Redshirts Past? At the beginning of the preview, we see a couple grieving over their sick child (Doctor Who‘s Noel Clarke and 24‘s Nazneen Contractor). Clarke takes a stroll outside to get some fresh air where he is approached by a stranger who says that he can save their ailing daughter. A stranger named Benedict Cumberbatch. Considering this takes place in London, Stardate 2259.55, and we saw Clarke as Mickey Smith in the Doctor Who episode “Age of Steel” choosing to stay behind in a futuristic version of Cardiff with advanced technology, it lends credence to the popular fan theory that Benedict Cumberbatch is the Twelfth Doctor and is here to prevent Kirk and company from accidentally activating the Cybermen once again. Or maybe the Enterprise is a Dalek. Sounds plausible, right?
Remember that red forest from the teaser trailer? It’s not a rejected set from The Lorax…
…it’s the Class-M planet Nibiru, and we see Kirk and McCoy clutching a scroll, running away at top speed from some very, very peeved indigenous peoples with chalk-white makeup and the pointiest spears this side of the Horsehead Nebula. They’re an alien species – humanoid, caked in white war paint, with big black eyes and clad in strips of yellow fabric for clothing. It smacks of Raiders of the Lost Ark in a good way, and the post-converted 3D is put to good use as our stalwart Starfleet saviors tear through the jungle and spears hurtle over their shoulders towards the screen. It’s clear that although Abrams didn’t shoot it in 3D, the cinematography kept the post-conversion in mind. Michael Giacchino’s score isn’t completed yet, but the music he put together for the preview footage, especially during this thrilling sequence, hits all the right notes and gives the on-screen action momentum. But all of this is a diversionary tactic to lead the population away from a volcano on the brink of eruption…
A volcano into which Spock descends! Dangerous? Sure. Logical? Probably not, but Spock knows best. This is all part of their overarching Prime Directive – the volcano must be rendered inert or else it will destroy Nibiru’s Legends of the Hidden Temple Temple Guards-in-training. Shit hits the proverbial fan, and our 9 minute introduction to Into Darkness ends with Spock doing his best impression of Willem Dafoe in Platoon and Kirk left with a difficult choice to make. His fate is left uncertain as the preview footage gives way to a mini-teaser trailer. I imagine this will play a larger part later in the film, but the reasoning behind the need to save Nibiru is still nebulous for now.
So, long story short, you don’t really learn much from the first 9 minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness except that it looks like a hell of a lot of fun. Oh, and the Enterprise can go underwater. Apparently, that’s a huge issue for some people. Does anyone have a GIF of a pair of “Deal With It” sunglasses slowly falling onto the Enterprise? [EDIT: The answer is “yes.” Thanks to Bennett!] Most importantly, this early look at Into Darkness offers a good balance of action, humor and stunning visuals that is enough to have me working on a Starfleet Advent Calendar to count down the days between now and May 17th, 2013.