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.

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