Tonight I had the honor to be invited to a special preview presentation of the opening 9-minute prologue from Star Trek Into Darkness which will be showing at IMAX 3D screenings of the Hobbit next weekend. A detailed play-by-play will be held until next weekend but I can report on comments from JJ Abrams, share my first impressions of seeing IMAX 3D Trek, and go into a bit of minor spoilers (at end of the article).
First Impressions of IMAX Star Trek Into Darkness Preview + JJ Talks ‘Darkness’
The IMAX footage was introduced by Star Trek Into Darkness director JJ Abrams who revealed that this audience was the first to see this special presentation (so apparently it wasn’t shown at the Tokyo press event last week). JJ also briefly addressed the film’s title and some comments in the media about the how this might be a ‘dark’ turn for Trek, saying:
"People say "’Into Darkness’ – lot of darkness, very doom and gloom" and there is a lot of intensity in this film, but it is also fun too, which you will see in this beginning."
Abrams went on to say that he didn’t want those of us invited to the event to spoil the nine minute preview by reporting a play by play, and to let fans experience it for themselves and so I will honor that.
But what I can say is that I was impressed with what I saw in two ways. Firstly this looked like nothing seen before in Trek. Most of the first nine minutes were shot with IMAX cameras and seeing that in IMAX 3D truly is extraordinary. The quality of the visual imagery was on par with The Dark Knight Rises. Also some of the shots shown used 3D to great effect. It wasn’t in your face, but it really brought you in to the strange new world presented in this opening segment. The second way this preview is like nothing scene in Trek before was the scale of the thing. Even more than the 2009 Star Trek, it is just a treat to see the universe that we love so much realized in such a grand (and expensive) way.
And the sounds are equally as impressive as the visuals. Once again the same gang of best in class sound designers (including Academy Award winner Ben Burtt) are on the case. Also the preview features all new music by Michael Giacchino (another Oscar-winner). The music at times was original for Into Darkness, but then there were also flourishes which called back to some of the musical cues and themes from 2009’s Star Trek, including when we see an exciting (and surprising) reveal of the USS Enterprise.
SOME SPOILERS BELOW
To get into a bit more detail, the preview was broken into two sequences, starting with a more quiet and Earthbound bit featuring Noel Clarke, Nanzeen Contractor (playing husband and wife in London). Together they are facing a crisis with their daughter. A sort of montage of moments with the family leads into into a menacing appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch who seems to be offering Clarke a sort of lifeline (which we assume has a price). While these are all new characters (as in not seen in the 2009 Star Trek), this short sequence is quite intense and emotional and really sets a tone for the film.
The rest (and majority) of the preview takes us to a very red-hued alien planet with a serious lava problem ( which we saw glimpses of in the trailer released last week). This sequence features the heroes of the USS Enterprise on a mission where they face one challenge after another all leading up to a big moment. We have Kirk and McCoy dealing with angry aliens and Spock getting very warm in a volcano with the help of Sulu and Uhura. And Scotty seems to mostly be worried about what this planet is doing to his ship. Chekov (at his station in his traditional gold shirt) is also there, offering whiz kid suggestions to his captain.
This second sequence was very exciting and full of cool visuals, new gadgets, new specialty uniforms, and lots for a Trekkie to mull over. It also feels like the opening of a James Bond film, with heart-pounding, fast-paced action. But this was not action for action’s sake. Trek fans will certainly see how this sequence deals with things which are at the heart of what Star Trek is all about. And as promised by Abrams we go from the intensity of the opening family scenes into action combined with some fun light-hearted moments very in line with Trek tradition, with Karl Urban and Simon Pegg getting the best lines.
While I expect Trek fans to come away from this preview excited about the film, I doubt fans will walk away feeling like they know the plot of the film, or the identity of the film’s villain (Cumberbatch). Abrams keeps his secrets close and this opening of the film is no different.
That’s all that can be said for now. More when the sequence goes live in theaters later on in the week. Also check back to TrekMovie tomorrow for a report on the second trailer and another Star Trek press event.