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?

Oh.

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.

Shipshape

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... 

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