JJ Abrams Reveals Star Trek Into Darkness Plot & Theme Details + Talks Lens Flares In 3D

Believe it or not, but the speculation and buzz for Star Trek Into Darkness we see in the US some other countries is not universal. In some markets the uber-secret approach to promoting the film just doesn’t work. An example is Japan where in an interview found by TrekMovie’s Tokyo correspondent, producer/director JJ Abrams actually provided some details about the film’s plot and themes. Get the spoilers below and also find out what Abrams had to say about lens flares in IMAX 3D!

 

Abrams: John Harrison is average guy in Starfleet with ‘secret agenda’

A couple weeks ago JJ Abrams, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Pine traveled to Tokyo to promote Star Trek Into Darkness to the Asian press. Traditionally Star Trek has not performed well in non-English speaking countries and Paramount is hoping to make improvements with Into Darkness. For example, in Japan Abrams’ Star Trek only hit 4th place in its opening weekend and ended up ranked 85th for the year with just $5.8M (compare that to Terminator: Salvation which made $34M and ranked 17th).

So in a newly released video interview with GyaO! (unfortunately not available for streaming outside of Japan) you can see how JJ Abrams takes a different approach than his usual hard-to-get super-secret style. Abrams explained the film in simple terms and emphasized how Japanese film-goers didn’t need to have seen his 2009 Star Trek to enjoy Into Darkness. And in so doing he ended up providing some new details…

JJ Abrams: So this movie doesn’t require you have seen the first movie. The characters are a group of people who have recently come together and find themselves up against this incredibly terrifying force. His name is John Harrison and he is sort of an average – that is what makes him so scary – he is just an average guy who works in an organization called Starfleet, and he turns against the group because he has got this back-story and this kind of amazing secret agenda. After two very violent attacks, one in London and one in the US, our characters have to go after this guy and apprehend him. And it is a far more complicated and difficult thing then they ever anticipated. "Into Darkness" is very much about how intense it gets and really what they are up against.

There has been a lot of talk about John Harrison and his relation to Starfleet. Now it appears that Abrams confirms that Harrison isn’t just ‘sort of’ or merely ‘appearing’ to be part of Starfleet, he actually is a member of Starfleet and he has turned against Starfleet. And of course Abrams talk of Harrison being an ‘average guy’ with a ‘back-story’ and ‘secret agenda’ should spark much fan discussion.


Abrams says John Harrison turns against Starfleet and has a terrifying secret agenda

In addition Abrams has now confirmed that the there isn’t just one terrorist attack but two and specifically London and one in the USA (quite possibly San Francisco, home to Starfleet Academy and Starfleet HQ, and seen in both of the released trailers). London’s skyline can also be seen in the teaser poster (amid rubble) and in the opening of the nine-minute Into Darkness preview currently in IMAX theaters with the The Hobbit


London (from teaser poster) and San Francisco (from Announcement Trailer) – both locations of attacks in Star Trek Into Darkness

The director had more to say about the film, specifically about the themes and the title "Into Darkness."  Abrams made it clear that despite the ‘dark’ title, this is still a film about hope (as fitting with the themes of Star Trek)…

Abrams: I love movies that are big and unabashedly a huge fan of big pop mass appeal movies. I do love that. I love being in a theater packed with people and everyone gasping at the same time and having that communal experience. I don’t like going to the movies to feel bad. I don’t like going to the movies to feel depressed and feel diminished. The reason you go to the movies is to feel bigger and stronger and happier. So this is a movie that they certainly go ‘Into Darkness,’ but I would be the wrong director if it was about characters staying there. This is very much a movie about hope, about love, about romance, and about facing something that is truly terrifying and finding a way through the connection of your family and surviving and being stronger afterwards.


Abrams promises that love and hope prevail in "Star Trek Into Darkness"

Abrams talks 3D and lens flares

The video interview with Abrams was done jointly by a journalist from GyaO! and Japanese visual effects artist and film director Shinji Higuchi (Floating Castle). The two directors expressed their admiration and respect for each other and also talked a bit of movie-making shop. Higuchi asked Abrams about working with 3D…

Abrams: I had never done anything in 3D and frankly it was a format that scared me a little bit because I really loved the sort of purity of the 2D, but I have to say – especially because we filmed in IMAX – doing a conversion to 3D with some new techniques with people who have done amazing conversion work on movies like Titanic, has actually opened up some doors to some really creative and really fun moments. So I am becoming a little bit of a convert to it.

Abrams also addressed his famous lens flares, now in 3D…

Abrams: When we made the first Star Trek we never added lens flares, it was always ‘in camera.’ And I do love them and I know I get beaten up some times because of it. But it actually works pretty well in conversion

If you have seen the nine-minute IMAX 3D preview of Star Trek Into Darkness (currently in IMAX Digital theaters showing The Hobbit) you can see that the director has toned down his famous flares a bit (or at least in the opening of the movie.


Abrams on the set of "Star Trek" showing how they make the flares
– promises they work in IMAX 3D for "Into Darkness" too

The Into Darkness director also said it was "obvious and inevitable" he would have a future collaboration with Higuchi and possibly shoot a film in Japan some day. The pair ended the interview by exchanging gifts (a Japanese tradition). Abrams gave Higuchi a hand-made wooden USS Enterprise.


Abrams shows off his gift of a statue from Higuchi, who holds his USS Enterprise gift

NOTE: Trekmovie will try to provide an update with the full video of Abrams interview along with another Japan interview with Chris Pine. So stay tuned. Thanks to TrekMovie’s Tokyo correspondent Tatsumi Nageta for providing the Japan interview content from GyaO! for this article.

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Darkthunder
December 22, 2012 2:41 pm

In other words, one of the most hated aspects of the 2009 movie, is most definitely making a comeback in ‘Into Darkness’, without any reduction in amount or intensity.

Smike
December 22, 2012 2:43 pm

Lense flares in 3D…Oh dear… The one reason I was glad it would be converted to 3D was to get rid of those lense flares…But he still keeps them…

Ahmed
December 22, 2012 2:47 pm

OK, he is NOT Khan. Hope that settle the endless discussion & move on to speculations about the secret agenda & the reason behind the attacks.

Vorus
December 22, 2012 2:54 pm

If you think it can’t be Khan, just because JJ says he is working in Starfleet, you must not have seen the first film. They change stuff just because they can, whether it makes any sense or not. Delta Vega? Capt Pike’s Age? How Transporters work? Whether SF knows what Roms look like? All changed with little to no in-universe explanation.

I’m not exactly in the “Khan Camp”, but I won’t discount the possibility just off that one quote.

MORN SPEAKS
December 22, 2012 2:56 pm

I was a pretty staunch believe it was Khan, but I guess now after this I’m not. It must be a new character, but those are definitely Khan and his brethren in those cryo tubes. So, was your source wrong Anthony?

I'm Dead Jim!
December 22, 2012 2:57 pm

Wow! It looks like Higuchi got the short end of the gift giving stick., a wooden Enterprise? C`mon JJ!

Ran
December 22, 2012 2:58 pm

“This is very much a movie about hope, about love, about romance, and about facing something that is truly terrifying and finding a way through the connection of your family and surviving and being stronger afterwards.”

Sounds like he is talking about “Sophie’s Choice”. At the end of the day, it will be a movie about pyrotechnics courtesy of ILM.

December 22, 2012 2:59 pm

It must be nice for everyone who worked on the first movie to have the director of that film declare that it completely irrelevant. I myself consider continuity an important aspect in story telling. It solidifies that when characters do something important, it will actually matter later on. If your not going to honor or acknowledge things from the last film, well, you’ll probably end up with characters doing things that are out of character. I.e. Even though Prime Spock tells NuSpock that his life will be meaningful and important, NuSpock would rather die in a volcano than let some scroll worshipping natives get a glimpse of a
Space ship.

Aurore
December 22, 2012 3:03 pm

“….His name is John Harrison and he is sort of an average – that is what makes him so scary – he is just an average guy who works in an organization called Starfleet, and he turns against the group because he has got this back-story and this kind of amazing secret agenda…”

“…. I don’t like going to the movies to feel bad. I don’t like going to the movies to feel depressed and feel diminished. The reason you go to the movies is to feel bigger and stronger and happier. So this is a movie that they certainly go ‘Into Darkness,’ but I would be the wrong director if it was about characters staying there….”

______

I like it.

Tell me more….No, be quiet.

On second thought, I can wait…for the movie to be released.

:)

(Very interesting interview with GyaO!)

Karen
December 22, 2012 3:05 pm

I like the flares. There is a kind of purity about them. But then I enjoy the process of film-making, so the flares work for me.

Ed Waters
December 22, 2012 3:06 pm

I still don’t buy the identity of the bad-guy. JJ is very clever…

I’m sticking to my theory. It fits too well.

December 22, 2012 3:07 pm

ILM‘s Michael DiComo about Lens Flares in Star Trek 2009:
Anamorphic lenses like Panavision come with certain artifacts and signature distorsions. There are certain ways that flares happen in anamorphic lenses, so when we blow up these giant mega spaceships with huge explosions we need to mimic the trademark anamorphic lens flare, a long horizontal blue line. Let‘s say you have a shot on the bridge of the Enterprise with all those bright lights. When the highlight moves toward the edge of the lens it does this unpredictable magical and beautiful thing. It flares up and creates all sorts of aberrations and reflections within the lens. Our compositing team developed a lens flare toolkit for all starships. We also created those flares by filming a flashlight on a dark stage to combine these real anamorphic shots with the ones we mimic in our software. But the look adds greatly to the scope of Star Trek.

Bird of Prey
December 22, 2012 3:11 pm

Conclusion: John Harrison is DEFINITELY NOT KHAAAAN!!! (The latter being neither an average guy nor a member of Starfleet!)

December 22, 2012 3:13 pm

I still refuse to believe even half of those lens flares are practical ‘in camera’ flares.

And yeah, it makes me sad that he didn’t take the criticism of his overuse of a nice technique to heart. Lens flares are fine, cool even. Lens flares taking over the movie IN EVERY FREAKING SHOT, are most certainly not okay.

Very disappointing.

njdss4
December 22, 2012 3:13 pm

More evidence to make it seem like this is an original villain. I hope it’s not just more deception.

I’m not happy to hear about the lens flares. Give it a rest already, JJ.

I' own every ST movie except 5 and ST 2009
December 22, 2012 3:20 pm

Yea lens flares is what Paramount allowed that will take away just a bit from this movie, they make the movie feel fast the first time but after you see it once then they become not so welcome to speed up the movie anymore, cuz now you know what comes next. Imaging buying the thing after a while you might not want to see it, if this happens to me I’ will never buy the third ST movie if it has the same effects no matter how good it is.

Look at it this way if it makes me unhappy to drink celery juice, yet I’ have to because that’s the price to get what I’ want, then why pay for more the next time around. I’m talking about buying DVD’s, and I’ have to drink just because he likes the juice, well it won’t happen. I’ prefer to see the movie on tv once every 4 years or more then to pay for flares.

Movie makers should consider longevity before they put stuff out, I’ will never buy pearl harbor the movie and will only see it once every 12 years maybe, ST should not be done in such a way that you can skip an episode, I may skip these movies in less then 10 years from now, even if I love this one, I’ loved the first one yet I’ have never bought it, I’ wonder why!

Brandon
December 22, 2012 3:26 pm

“Abrams: I love movies that are big and unabashedly a huge fan of big pop mass appeal movies. I do love that. I love being in a theater packed with people and everyone gasping at the same time and having that communal experience.”

Translation…

“I could care less what fans want. It’s about ME.”

Ensign jack
December 22, 2012 3:33 pm

SECTION 13!!!!

Garth Faction
December 22, 2012 3:33 pm

Average people don’t have “amazing secret agendas.” His words are self-contradictory… he is what appears to be average but isn’t.

Lord Garth taking Harrison’s place… here we come

flake
December 22, 2012 3:36 pm

John Harrison is not your average guy, hes able to leap 20ft into the air and resist a Vulcan neck pinch…. hes SUPER!

Ensign jack
December 22, 2012 3:38 pm

Im telling you guys, this is a section 13 movie!!

Stargazer54
December 22, 2012 3:38 pm

I’ll put up with lens flares and some canon tromping as long as we get a good Trek story about courage, sacrifice, tolerance and living for a principal.

I’m with JJ on this one. I don’t go to the movies to feel bad either. In this second installment, I want to see something that makes me feel like there is a possible future where we rise above our petty differences. No matter the timeline.

(Meanwhile, ILM’s render servers are busily grinding out shots of exploding ships.)

December 22, 2012 3:39 pm

Well, I feel that if you make a product you’re happy with that you should stick by that product. If we didn’t need to see the last one, why should this new film be any different if they decide to make another one? Would it not be unrealistic to assume that “Star Trek Into Darkness” will be treated the same way? I don’t want to see this movie if they’ll just say I didn’t need to see it.

And it’s not like this is anything new either. This is now the third consecutive Star Trek film that tried to appeal to a wider audience. More so with the last film since it started from scratch. It almost feels like no one has any confidence in Star Trek at all since nothing that’s being said involves what makes Star Trek it’s own unique thing.

Jelly
December 22, 2012 3:39 pm

I never saw the problem with the lens flares. I haven’t watched Star Trek 09 in a couple years but I watched it a lot and they never stood out or distracted me. I liked the natural lens flares. Was JJ saying that with the 3D conversion that they are putting in digital lens flares? I didn’t quite understand that. If so that seems kinda silly to me but I trust JJs judgement more than anyone with this film.

Devon
December 22, 2012 3:39 pm

“In other words, one of the most hated aspects of the 2009 movie, is most definitely making a comeback in ‘Into Darkness’, without any reduction in amount or intensity.”

No. Those are other words, but in the sense that they are your words. How many Lens Flares did you see in the trailers?

Ahmed
December 22, 2012 3:40 pm

@ 22. Ensign jack – December 22, 2012

“Im telling you guys, this is a section 13 movie!!”

There is no Section 13, they are called Section 31.

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Section_31

Peter Loader
December 22, 2012 3:41 pm

Folks, it SECTION 31 and they are not in this movie.

dmduncan
December 22, 2012 3:42 pm

Agreed. He’s more than average. What makes him scary, I think JJ is trying to say, is that you don’t SUSPECT him of being anything but an average guy, and then…

Pop goes the weasel.

Devon
December 22, 2012 3:42 pm

” It almost feels like no one has any confidence in Star Trek at all since nothing that’s being said involves what makes Star Trek it’s own unique thing.” A niche franchise that was on a decline for 15 years before Star Trek 11? Good job!

And no, don’t give us the B.S. line of “A story about the human condition and morals and Gene Roddenberry is a god” crap. Doesn’t work anymore.

Commodore Adams
December 22, 2012 3:42 pm

@10. Anthony Pascale – Boo ya!
————————————–

I’m glad jj came out and said this to end the incessant speculation. It’s not Khan it’s not Mitchell, done, over, “move along home”

Im surprised trek isn’t more popular than it is in Japan.

Exverlobter
December 22, 2012 3:44 pm

I dont know why everybody makes a big deal about those lens-flares.
The first time i saw the Abrams-Film in cinema i did not even realise them!
Then i read all those complaints and saw the film a second time and payed attention to it
It did not distract me at all. I think its an interesting visual.

Peter Loader
December 22, 2012 3:45 pm

Harrison’s amazing backstory has something to do with events that transpired under Pike’s earlier command.

Karen
December 22, 2012 3:46 pm

To Jeyl: Can’t everyone just put JJ’s remarks in context and take them at face value? It was clear when he said “an average guy who works in an organization called Starfleet” that he was reaching out to Asian movie-goers who have never watched Star Trek in any format. Continuity is so important to self-confessed ST junkies like myself that it took me almost a year to watch JJ’s first ST film because I was so sure I would hate anyone else’s interpretation of the franchise. It took a few minutes for me to accept the new Universe created by his first film, but I was quickly on board despite the fact that my relationship with ST goes back to the series opener which debuted when I was 10. Give us all a break Jeyl, these movies are expensive to produce and market. With a solid worldwide audience base we will continue to see more ST in the future. Who knows? Maybe even a new series.

dmduncan
December 22, 2012 3:47 pm

Hopefully the government fans out there won’t look at this film and say,

“SEE? We need MORE security to stop people like that from infiltrating our systems. Microchips! Implanted at birth! It’s the only way to be SAFE!!!”

Disinvited
December 22, 2012 3:50 pm

If it is Khan, he must have been tried for his past century war crimes in the Federation future, found guilty, mind-wiped, reprogrammed as “normal” functioning asset of Starfleet. The questions for that plot is who/what restores his memory?

Still, Garth and/or Redjac seem to be in contention too.

With Fans Like These
December 22, 2012 3:52 pm

I’m not fooled by J.J.’s clever word play. It’s Khan. Somehow, it’s going to be Khan at the end. Carol Marcus and Khan in the same movie together… this is the first part of the story that was concluded in Wrath of Khan. Nothing will change my mind. Looking forward to it. The trailer looks incredible.

Aurore
December 22, 2012 3:55 pm

“…. I think JJ is trying to say, is that you don’t SUSPECT him of being anything but an average guy, and then…

Pop goes the weasel.”
______

…Well he did talk about a man with a “back-story and this kind of amazing secret agenda…”

Suh-WEET music to my ears…..

Pegleg
December 22, 2012 3:59 pm

If this means more Spock Uhura wonderment then HOORAH!

dmduncan
December 22, 2012 4:00 pm

38. Aurore – December 22, 2012

Mine too! I love where everything is going. Just consider me the anti-Jeyl.

Ahmed
December 22, 2012 4:01 pm

@ 36. Disinvited – and 37. With Fans Like These –

I take it that if JJ came out in an interview & explicitly stated there is no Khan in the movie, you guys will not believe that as well & come up with all sort of strange theories just to prove Khan is there !!!

Douglas
December 22, 2012 4:03 pm

Thanks for this background on JJ’s Japan visit. It’s fascinating how different the movie marketing is within different cultures. I enjoy learning about things like that from this site. I certainly hope this brings in a bigger market for ST outside the USA.
The translation of the descriptions from JJ make the plot of STID seem more realistic and complex. That bodes well for the movie.
That announcement trailer made it seem like the film was an upscale version of a SyFy Saturday night flick. As if somebody said, “OK, pull the leaver and let another psycho out of the mental institution; It’s time to make a movie”.
The John Harrison character described by JJ seems multilayered, more adult and someone to think about.

Craiger
December 22, 2012 4:04 pm

I was right, Harrison is just a Starfleet officer gone rouge, no Khan or Mitchell at all. I also thought maybe he doesn’t like how Starfleet’s agenda is going and he wants to run it? However I do wonder what those cryo tubes with people in it are for?

Craiger
December 22, 2012 4:05 pm

Actually does this sound like the Skyfall plot?

December 22, 2012 4:08 pm

Germany lags because TOS was called RAUMSCHIFF ENTERPRISE when aired first in the 1970s ;))

December 22, 2012 4:11 pm

Harrison is a grown augment. The guys in the tubes are the other augments, grown from embryos saved by Archer in ENT and frozen by Starfleet. Harrison wants to free his opressed people. That way OrciKurtzman were able to use Eugenic Wars stuff without the overused and expected Khan and Botany Bay…

Ahmed
December 22, 2012 4:14 pm

@42. Anthony Pascale – December 22, 2012

“It may be difficult to understand but STAR TREK is not a powerful brand outside the English speaking world. Yes there are fan clubs everywhere but in general the franchise is seen as something for kids or a joke in many markets. ”

When I was in Egypt, only Star Trek 2009 was released in theaters. None of the previous Trek movies were released, even First Contact went to video directly.

When I went to see Star Trek 2009 the first time, there were just me & 5 other people in the whole theater !! In my second viewing, only 3 beside me were there. And all of them were non locals!!

oh & on Egyptian TV, they aired just the first TNG season & none of the remaining seasons or any of the other Trek series.

So, I totally agree with your assessment Anthony. Paramount need to try everything to get people in these areas to get interested in Star Trek.

Craiger
December 22, 2012 4:17 pm

I think now the interesting thing about Harrison being a regular Starfleet officer having a beef with Starfleet will be to see what lengths he goes to in order to bring them down.

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