'Star Trek Into Darkness' Nine-Minute IMAX Prologue: Doom, Gloom, and Benedict Cumberbatch
Introducing a sneak peek at the first nine minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness in a special IMAX 3-D presentation for press Sunday night, director J.J. Abrams warned of the "doom and gloom" throughout his May 2013 sequel. "There’s a lot of intensity in this, and a little bit of gloom," he admitted, "but it’s also fun."
In true Abrams fashion, that's about all he said before he exited the theater, taking the truth about who the heck Benedict Cumberbatch is playing in Star Trek 2 with him. (The first nine minutes will debut in theaters on December 14, attached to select IMAX screenings of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Read on for details, speculation, guesstimates, and wild theorizing about what's in store in Star Trek 2 based on the tease.)
What's revealed in the first nine minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness isn't so much telling as it is intriguing, moreso for the Trek fans out there who'll get every little familiar line of dialogue and nod to the O.G. Trek series, of which there are many. But fair warning, Trekkies: Judging from this tease and the footage Paramount has already released, Abrams knows that you're reading into every little clue — and he's playing you like a violin.
Here's why: Star Trek Into Darkness opens in a prologue, in a beautifully shot, blue-tinged London, Stardate 2259.55. A couple (Noel Clarke and Nazneen Contractor) wake up and drive their hover car to visit their child in the hospital. We don't know their names, or hear them speak, but we wonder; could their last name possibly, just possibly, be Singh?
Maybe, maybe not. Their sick child is a daughter (strike that, it's not a young Khan — or is it??*), bedridden by an unspecified illness. The father is approached by a stranger whose voice we hear first: "I can save her." It's Benedict Cumberbatch, and he's the villain, which we know because the camera closes in until his face fills the IMAX screen as Michael Giacchino's score swells with tense, ominous notes.
Cut to the crew of the Enterprise, who we find in the middle of their latest mission on the Class-M planet Nibiru, where Bones and Kirk are racing through vivid red-tinged forests being chased by members of a chalk-faced, spear-chucking indigenous race. From a cruiser flying in the skies above, Spock drops into an erupting volcano to save the planet as Uhura looks on.
Regrouping with the rest of the crew on the Enterprise — which is parked discreetly underwater in the middle of an ocean — Kirk wrestles with a familiar-sounding quandary: Save Spock by taking the Enterprise out of hiding, therefore violating the Prime Directive by exposing the inhabitants of Nibiru to technology they're not ready for, or sacrifice Spock because, as one character indeed utters, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
Kirk asks what Spock would do if their situations were reversed. "He'd let you die," Bones replies, and the opening sequence closes with a cliffhanger.
More previously seen trailer-y shots close out the nine-minute sneak, with Cumberbatch growling lines like "You think you're safe? You are not" and "Is there anything you would not do for your family?" Alas, it doesn't offer any further details of the hands-on-glass shot that had Trek-watchers a'flutter watching the recently-released Japanese trailer.
At this point I've heard about a thousand differing theories as to whom exactly Cumberbatch's villain will turn out to be. My first thought during the nine-minute prologue was Khan, because YOU GUYS THEY QUOTE WRATH OF KHAN, but there's something about that idea that seems just too easy. I'm leaning toward an amalgam of Gary Mitchell and Khan, an idea so crazy it might just work in this new Abrams era of playing in the Trek sandbox without having to stay within previously established canon. Why not make the 'Batch some sort of Mitchell-Khan hybrid? Try this on for size: Benemitchell Khanderbatch. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
It's worth noting that, while Star Trek Into Darkness was post-converted to 3-D, the 3-D footage went over well. There are a good many close-ups and scenes featuring brilliantly vivid, swirling pieces of debris and lava and even, at one point, a barrage of spears raining down around Kirk and McCoy as they run through the jungle in a sequence that so calls to mind Raiders of the Lost Ark that it's probably safe to call it homage.
*This is completely wild, "What if?" speculation, but how cool would it be if Abrams' Trek films did introduce Khan — only as a woman? Discuss.
Star Trek Into Darkness is in theaters May 17, 2013; look for the nine-minute preview attached to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in select IMAX screenings, full list here.