Star Trek Into Darkness: trailer analysis

Feature James Hunt 7 Dec 2012 - 06:42

We’ve now seen the first teasing trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness, but what does it all mean? Here’s James’ analysis…

Until now, the most complete glimpses we've had of Star Trek Into Darkness involved papped shots of Benedict Cumberbatch in a jumpsuit and a single poster that, er, independently arrived at the destroyed-city-logo gimmick of The Dark Knight Rises. It's fair to say they've been keeping things under wraps. So what can we learn from the new Star Trek trailer now that we've finally gotten a glimpse behind the curtain of secrecy?

Across The Universe

Or rather… not.  The trailer literally opens with a shot of San Francisco, famously the in-universe home of Starfleet. Indeed, the bulk of the footage here appears to take place on Earth.

This isn't the first time Earth's been threatened in a Star Trek movie, nor is it likely to be the last - but it's interesting that Abrams decided to go there so quickly. It's easy to see the attraction – relatable stakes for the audience, recognisable locations for the posters, that sort of thing. But wouldn't it have made a little sense for Star Trek to do a little Star Trekkin' first?

Previous Trek series actively avoided spending much time on Earth. It was, after all, little more than a utopia at the centre of a vast, peaceful Federation, which meant very little drama happening locally. Considering it spins out of a series that pledged every week to "Explore strange new worlds" and "seek out new life and new civilisations", what we've seen of Star Trek Into Darkness so far looks a little too provincial. Is it wrong to find that disappointing?

Dark Trek

If Batman has taught us anything, it's that being dark is gritty, grown-up and far, far cooler than letting yourself be optimistic or hopeful about anything. And that's why Star Trek Into Darkness appears to be taking its title literally.

Abrams' original film was many things, but dark was not one of them. With its bright lights and abundance of lens flares, the visuals in 2009's Star Trek embodied the wide-eyed optimism of the utopian future Gene Roddenberry imagined. This trailer goes about as far in the opposite direction as is possible. At one point, Spock appears to be making an away mission to hell.

Again, it's a different direction for Star Trek. Where the series once aspired to bring peace through negotiation, mediation, pacifism and intellectualism, this is once again a fighty, shooty, explodey Star Trek where everyone involved will be pushed to their limits, and beyond.

Still, at least reliable goofball Simon Pegg (returning as Chief Engineer Scotty) will be around to lighten the tone with his cheeky faux-Scottish smile, right?


Mirror, Mirror

The identity of the Star Trek sequel's antagonist, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, has been a closely guarded secret. Annoyingly, this trailer doesn't do a huge amount to support to help us come down on either side of the available options.

The idea that it could be Khan, the genetically-enhanced superman, is a popular one. The theory is supported here by talk of vengeance, and an eyebrow raising scene in the Japanese Trailer, apparently reprised from Star Trek II: Wrath Of Kahn. But shots of Cumberbatch in full Starfleet uniform further support the more popular theory that this is Gary Mitchell, a former Officer turned mad god.

The original Gary Mitchell was an Enterprise crew member who went insane after being bestowed with god-like powers which caused him to turn on his former crewmates. There's little evidence of super-powers here (only an unlikely Jedi-style leap) but madness? That's all over the place. Cumberbatch's voiceover is the best thing about this trailer, an insanity-tinged warning (to Kirk? Or to all of Earth?) that he has returned to have his as-yet-undefined vengeance.

Of course, Mitchell, as a former Starfleet Officer-gone-rogue, would make a good foil for Kirk, the rogue-turned-Starfleet Officer. Finding a villain to rival Khan was always going to be difficult, given that the rebooted of Kirk lacks the lengthy travels and on-screen experiences of the original, but a similarly fresh-faced dark mirror of Kirk would be a good place to start…

tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh’a’

You know what's weird about this trailer? Barely an alien in sight. Even the crowd scenes at Starfleet HQ seem strangely Sapiens-centric. Except… could it be?

It totally is! Anyone who's seen the deleted scenes from Abrams' first Star Trek knows that the reboot Klingons sport strange metallic full-head helmets, not unlike the one this blur is wearing. And the presence of what any Trek fan recognises as some kind of Bat'leth means one thing: everyone who said Abrams was saving the Klingons for the sequel was right.


The biggest crime of this trailer is that we barely see a thing of the real star of Star Trek: The Enterprise. Aside from a shot of the ship apparently ditching in the ocean (and another ship that probably isn't the Enterprise rising out of the water) this is a Star Trek that doesn't appear to be interested in space opera.

Still, you've got to save something else for the other trailers, and it's possible that the ship crashing ISN'T the Enterprise at all. We sort of hope not, in fact, because destroying the ship is something that only really works when you've seen enough of it to really care. When the original Enterprise was destroyed, when the Enterprise D was destroyed – these mattered, because we'd seen them week in, week out, for years. The Abrams Enterprise getting trashed in its second outing just feels a little careless.

Anything else?

There's a lot to take in here. The strangely militaristic appearance of Starfleet during an address by Kirk (complete, even, with what appears to be an airforce flyover). The odd lack of uniforms that suggests many of these missions will be unsanctioned. We know from the synopsis doing the rounds that Cumberbatch is a threat to Starfleet from "inside" the organisation – will he succeed in isolating Kirk and the others from any support network? And what is that planet full of red vegetation?

It's safe to say that this instalment of Star Trek will be very different from the last, which was very different from those that preceded it. Not content with reinventing Star Trek once, it seems like JJ Abrams might just want to have another crack at it... 

Disqus - noscript

Any ideas who Alice Eve is? And I was saddened by the lack of Spock, but I suppose since the last film was primarily his story (though only just) it would make sense for this one to at least appear to be Kirk's.'s just a trailer.

If Cumberbatch is Gary Mitchell, I'm thinking Alice Eve might be Dr Elizabeth Dehner from the same episode. I've seen other people say she might be Yeoman Rand as well but I'm not convinced as she's wearing blue not red and doesn't have a truly ridiculous hairdo.

When I saw 4 jet-type aircraft fly over the city I wondered where they were when the Romulans were cheerily drilling into the planet in the first Trek film

It seems to me that a darker theme reflected in a more militaristic Star Fleet is a natural progression from the first film. Romulans from the future turned up with planet destroying capabilities AND wiped out an entire fleet in one go. Of course the reaction would be to rebuild and restructure in preparation for 'all eventualities'.

I wondered if she might be Dehner, or also maybe Yeoman Rand. Nice to see I'm not alone. Dehner might make sense in the realm of a kind of love triangle between Kirk and (if-he-is) Mitchell, but there would have to be more than that to the vengeance if it is the case.

Mitchell is an interesting idea, and there is already some precedence set to introduce him. He turns up in the IMG comics that were released as sequels to the first Abrams film. I won't say what happens in those comics because of potential spoilers, but it could set him up for a nice vengence filled return.
Its probably also worth noting that an entire prequel to the first silm was done in a series of comics, explaining where Nero came from and what happened to him in the run up to the opening sequence of the film. So there is a small history of using comics to tell a backstory to the film.

what about Carol Marcus

While it could all be miss-direction I don't see Benedict being Gary Mitchell after this trailer:
For one Orci has gone on record as saying Mitchell is not in the film (which could be misdirection in the style of Batman)
The comics are confirmed as 'canon' and have already dealt with Mitchell in such a way to make a return very slim (unless they are removing the canon status of the comics)

We see Benedict do some powerful things, but not god-like, (notice his lack of glowing eyes) coupled with reference to 'your world' (implying at least some detachment from 23rd Century Earth/ Starfleet)

On the other hand the trailers talk of vengeance sounds very Khan-esque, along with the clear end of Japanese trailer reference to Wrath of Khan, it raises the question of why create all these comparisons to Khan if you are going to use him?

(The uniform is also easily explained, Khan wears a StarFleet shirt in both Space Seed and a jacket in Wrath of Khan, his lack of rank or uniform colour would further make Mitchell unlikely)

oooh, good shout Matthew! I really liked my idea of Antonio Banderas as Khan, I'm sure it will be met with criticism and ridicule but I'm sticking with it!

I like that idea. But will he have THAT chest?

Films are a more isolated, individual medium than a television series. I would hope that Into Darkness goes for a different style and tone than the previous film. I *like* that most of the Star Trek films feel different to one another, and the ones that aren't very good are the ones that adhere too harshly to what's come before. But that's me -- I'm a fan of Trek, but not a die-hard.

Canon dont matter mate its a new time line all bets are off!

re: Alice Eve - I haven't seen any speculation in favour of Nurse Chapel yet. With the passing of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry in 2008, perhaps the torch is being handed over? And Eve IS wearing medical blues...

I think he's referring to the comics based on the new film timeline.

The thing about all this is, we’re all in an alternate
timeline so Khan or Gary Mitchell may or may not have happened. Also look at
the ship crashing the necell’s are very wide apart, not like the new
Enterprise? We only get to see NCC- on the ship rising out of the water. I
suspect the trailer is designed to decoy the viewer as much as possible.
Cumberbatch is looking good in this already though so it’s going to be well
worth a trip to the cinema :-) I wonder if they have all crossed into the parallel
universe with evil kirk and Spock may explain the uniforms or lack of?

Those are my thoughts too.

Why would Cumberbatch be Gary Mitchell OR Khan? What would be the point of creating a whole new timeline just to remake the same stories again? If he's either, for my money, he's Mitchell, but I don't really expect he's either.

Any apparent reference to WoK is surely at best just subterfuge. If Abrams really was so out of ideas as to simply remake WoK, which I'm certain he's not, I can't believe that he would go so far as to recreate some of the same actual scenes! And, as dashing as I'm told Cumberbatch is to lady-folk, he's hardly the embodiment of a genetically-engineered superman, surely?

I agree that the lack of Enterprise and space in general in this trailer are disappointing, but it is just a first trailer and there's no reason to be too downhearted yet!

Looks like the hand that touches the glass Wrath of Khan-style in the Japanese trailer is Cumberbatch's as it appears to be dressed in the same dark top he has on in the still above.

Oh, yes! My guess on who he is... Yeah, I think he's Nimoy-Spock's son.

since this is a new alternate timeline I would really like to see how Kirk and co would cope up against the borg

I can't imagine him having it, but I think back to Assassins and some of Banderas' early roles and I loved his energy. Plus that voice, would pay great homage to the original Khan.

Benny's ears are mighty pointy for a human. More pointy than they are in any other picture.

BTW: In the trailer the jets fly in a 'missing man' formation, as done at a funeral.

I know a driving instructor called Gary Mitchell. Not the same bloke, mercifully.

Exactly what varsas said: IDW have been publishing comics based on classic Trek stories, re-imagined for the 'new' time-line (and over seen by Robert Orci, one of the writers of the current film series.) The first issue dealt with Gary Mitchell (leaving him dead at the end of the comic) so if we are to believe that these stories are canon, and the comics are presumably told what they can and cannot use, Mitchell cannot be the villain.

I remember Benicio Del Toro was originally cast in the Cumberbatch role, I can't believe they would destroy the Enterprise or kill Spock as they haven't had a chance to shine yet and what is the point of going back to the original series cannon if there not going to tell some stories of HOW they get to be legends, which, lets face it they still need to become!

The missing man formation of the aircraft, Gary Mitchell left for dead in the comic.
Could be him coming back in a bad mood.

anybody else think Garth of Izar from tos ep whom gods destroy?

Khan was put in suspended animation in 1996, which happened before the divergence, so his body is out there somewhere, floating about in both realities waiting to be discovered as of c2260. They would stumble across him sooner or later and awaken him to do his unspeakable deeds - which may turn out differently due to the changed nature of the alternate timeline.

I think she could be Dr. Elizabeth Dehner

Section 31.

fair enough

Javier Bardem would be my choice for Khan. He has the right level of presence and charisma plus his voice, look and physicality are spot on.

That's all you got? How about the dead ringer for Dr. Elizabeth Dehner?

I suspect it might be. Cumberbatch does, after all, look a lot like Steve Ihnat

It's Garth of Izar.

--He's insane and genocidal.
--He was a galactic hero of the Federation and the most outstanding student ever at the Academy; the "prototype" for all subsequent ship captains.
--He wants vengeance against the Federation for having him committed.
--He has a penchant for long flowing coats and robes....

Noticed the ears, possibly Sybok?

Are you sure, Oli? If a human from the future were given god-like powers then went insane, he would very likely travel backwards in time to the present day and become a driving instructor.........?

I'm inclined to agree with you, Demongo. There is a (possibly largely forgotten?) Star Trek novel by Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski titled "Garth of Izar", which acts as a sequel to the "Whom Gods Destroy" TV episode. In the novel, Garth seems to be cured of his insanity by the revolutionary new medications which were the Enterprise's reason for going to the Elba II asylum planet in the first place. I won't give any spoliers, because it's a decent novel, but if the events in the movie trailer generally follow-on from the novel, then everything we know about the movie so far would fit rather well... Still, its anybody's guess, I suppose.

The 'Batch's delivery in these trailers sounds suspiciously like Patrick Stewart to me. Evil future Picard ?????

Paramount put the official synopsis online 10 days before this article was written. It tells of the fleet being detonated and Kirk going on a Trek to get the culprit. Disappointing some of the first part of the film takes place on Earth? Didn't the first one? The Enterprise isn't seen? Well if the fleet is destroyed, wouldn't it make sense that the famous ship evaded destruction? Just like the first film of this new trilogy?! This film looks darker? Two species faced extinction in the last flick! Just because there's a lack of lens flare in the trailer, don't go thinking this one is any less chirpy. A minutes worth of footage and DoG thinks the worst.

It's either Garth of Izar, Sybok or Khan.

I completely agree with this article. I am disappointed almost every time the Enterprise returns to Earth. The apparent lack of trekking through the stars in this (and several other) Star Trek movie, reminds of the lack of acts of piracy (save one) in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It simply doesn't make any sense, and it puzzles me that people don't seem to care.

Why all the talk of the Enterprise being destroyed? Seems to me it (or a starship) goes into the river, and then it comes out again, perhaps without the saucer section.

Picard's grandfather was in diapers when Kirk was saving the universe.

Evil future Picard as in a time traveller. With a JJ Abrams befuddled universe, he could throw any old crap into it.

Benedict has hair.

So did young Picard in the TNG episodes Tapestry and Rascals. Anyway I don't think it's him anymore.

But not in Nemesis :P

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