Those of us who were wondering if the nine-minute Star Trek Into Darkness preview attached to IMAX prints of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey would shed any light on the movie’s biggest question — the true nature or identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain — probably shouldn’t be surprised to learn that he remains very much an enigma. That’s to be expected since the preview is taken from the opening of the film. And while the preview doesn’t really add any new evidence to that ongoing discussion, it does do a great job of introducing Cumberbatch’s mysterious character and reintroducing Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the rest of the Enterprise crew.
Below, we’ll break down what happens in the IMAX preview. Needless to say, SPOILERS BELOW THIS POINT!
The preview opens up in a surprising way, so surprising that some might briefly find themselves wondering if the projectionist had queued up the wrong movie. Rather than opening the film with an epic encounter such as the sacrifice of George Kirk in the last movie, we instead begin in the bedroom of a young couple. (Fan-service cameo moment: the boyfriend/husband is played by Doctor Who’s Mickey Smith, actor Noel Clarke.) A quick reveal of the futuristic skyline out their window tells us we’re in London in the 23rd century.
The couple makes their way to a hospital, and we soon learn that they’re visiting their sick — and presumed dying — little girl. We then cut to an outside balcony, where the father is alone with his thoughts, until a dark-jacketed figure approaches. It’s Cumberbatch, and he says, “I can save her.” When the father turns back to ask who this odd stranger is, Cumberbatch simply gives a small, enigmatic smile…
…and then we’re on a distant world (the one with all the red foliage from the teaser trailer), following Kirk and Bones as they haul ass away from the locals. Apparently Kirk has “borrowed” some sacred manuscript, and the red world’s low-tech natives aren’t happy. As Kirk and Bones continue their Indiana Jones-style flight from the spears and arrows of the indigenous population, we see that their temple is located at the foot of an active volcano.
If you recall J.J. Abrams’ infamous three-frame preview, you’ll be correct in assuming the volcano is a key element of this opening sequence. We intercut between Kirk and Bones on the ground and Sulu, Spock, and Uhura in a shuttlecraft above the volcano. Spock is gearing up in the snazzy volcano-proof suit we saw in the trailers, and we learn that he has some sort of technobabbly gizmo that will counteract the erupting volcano. Spock is lowered into the volcano, but Sulu soon has to move away from the volcano because the shuttlecraft is having trouble staying aloft.
Meanwhile, Kirk and Bones are still on the run. Kirk gets the bright idea to leave the stolen manuscript dangling from a tree branch. He had mentioned earlier than all the locals were bowing to the scroll before he absconded with it. This does indeed do the trick: the natives stop at the sight of it and begin bowing. Presuming that won’t delay them for long, Kirk and Bones keep running forward…and straight off a seaside cliff, doing a Butch and Sundance into the waves below.
Jumping into the ocean might seem like an unproductive means of escape, but of course those of you who watched the teaser trailer have probably already guessed that they’ve got the Enterprise submerged, in order to hide from the natives. That makes perfect sense, because for a ship equipped with shuttles and transporters, that’s the perfect place to hide from the Bronze Age natives. Underwater. As opposed to, I dunno, in orbit. Sigh.
At any rate, everybody makes it back to the bridge, Kirk still in his snazzy, Starfleet-issue wetsuit, and they then set about trying to figure out how to rescue Spock from inside the volcano. He still hasn’t managed to “defuse” the volcano yet, and it’s explained that the planet’s magnetic fields are interfering with the transporters or some other gobbledy gook, so they can’t beam him out. Kirk and Spock have a quick argument about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, then Spock settles in and waits to be incinerated. Back on the bridge, Kirk asks Bones, “If I was down there and he was up here, what would he do?”
Bones’ answer: “He’d let you die.”
All in all, it’s definitely a fun way to kick the movie off, and it leaves you wanting more I like that they’re taking a page from the Bond franchise and reintroducing us to the Enterprise crew in the middle of an adventure we’ll probably never learn any more about. It’s a good way to suggest that this sort of thing is just another day on the job.
As for Cumberbatch’s all-too-brief appearance…I actually kind of love it. With almost no lines and maybe 30 seconds of screen time, he exudes a palpable sense of mystery and presence. We may not know who this guy is yet, but there’s no question: he’s formidable.
That’s all for now, folks. Star Trek Into Darkness opens in theaters on May 17, 2013.