Thoughts on 30 minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness

We've seen a good half hour of JJ Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness. Here are our thoughts...

As the release of Star Trek Into Darkness edges ever closer, the promotional wheels are picking up speed. Having been rightly impressed with the 9 minute preview back in December, we were now given the chance to see a much fuller 30 minute preview, which covered the opening 28 minutes and showcased some footage from later on in the film.

So, let’s not beat around the bush. What did we see? Spoiler warnings, obviously. And proper spoilers. We’ve held back on a few things, but if you want to see the film cold, you should not read on.

Still here? Here’s what happened.

The film opens with the Nibiru sequence we already mentioned, although this time we get to see the end of it. We won’t go so far as to spoil what actually happens (except to say that it’s not an early death for Spock) but it’s a thrilling sequence from start to finish, and one that – and this is almost painful to say – should actually look fantastic in 3D. Not because stuff flies out of the screen at you (although it does) but because the shots have depth and scale and are almost too big for 2D. And even though the sequence is tense and loud and visually stunning, it manages to end on a humorous note that defuses the tension and reminds us that this is all really one big adventure.

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Of course, that’s not necessarily how everyone sees the Enterprise’s escapades. After the sequence where Noel Clarke’s character meets Harrison (Cumberbatch) (again, covered last time) the action returns to Kirk and Spock, who are heading to a meeting with Admiral Pike. Kirk thinks they’re going to be given the mission he’s been gunning for – a five year deep space exploration mission – but no. They’re getting a dressing down for what they did on Nibiru. Turns out Starfleet can’t put up with Kirk’s insubordination and rule-breaking any longer, and they’re removing his command and sending him back to Starfleet Academy. Kirk’s angry with his superiors, but most of all with Spock, whose truthful report contradicted the “smoothed over” version of the log he submitted.

Meanwhile, we see Clarke. He’s accepted Harrison’s offer and his daughter is apparently cured. But now he has to hold up his end of the bargain. Again, we’ll stay quiet on what it is, exactly, but let’s just say that it’s a shocking scene, and one that manages to feel relatable despite being set in the Star Trek universe. If Abrams has done anything with Star Trek (and he’s done a lot!), he’s managed to give the world some actual texture – it’s utopian in appearance, but there’s more going on than just Starfleet gloss, and that matters here.

The action cuts back to Kirk, who’s drowning his sorrows in a dive bar when Pike approaches him with an offer that takes the edge off their previous encounter. Starfleet has given the Enterprise back to Pike, but he’s come up with a way to get Kirk back on board. Kirk agrees to do what Pike wants, when suddenly they’re called away. Clarke’s actions in London means Starfleet needs to convene its Captains to organise a manhunt, and Kirk tags along – but as the scene unfolds, he realises a few moments too late that the real threat isn’t what they think it is…

We’ll keep quiet on any more details than that for now for fear of spoiling the really big surprises, but here are a few interesting things we noticed from the footage:

Rules are going to be a theme: Kirk doesn’t follow them, and while he points to his performance record, declaring that he hasn’t lost a single crewman yet, Pike dismisses that as “blind luck”. Since Cumberbatch is playing a former Starfleet officer, it’s likely that a large part of their conflict will be over whether the rules of Starfleet serve a greater good or not. After all, the entire opening sequence is entirely built around illustrating why the Prime Directive needs to be followed. Kirk thinks the rules don’t apply to him. Did Harrison think the same?

Speaking of Harrison…: Any inkling you might have left that Harrison is Khan (or even Gary Mitchell) can probably be dismissed by now. In the footage we saw, he’s called Harrison by name, and it’s even shown on screen for good measure. He could working for Khan – it’s at least plausible that he’s an augment of some kind (he’s clearly got some kind of extra-human strength, agility and probably intelligence) but to be honest, we’re happy to admit that he’s probably not the man himself. If nothing else, he hasn’t once shown his chest on screen.

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The Enterprise takes the kind of beating that it might not come back from: An action scene taken from later in the film shows a battle-damaged Enterprise plunging towards Earth with Spock in command and the crew battling to restart the engines before it hits the surface of the planet. As with the action on Nibiru, Abrams manages to contrast the human drama inside the ship with the sheer scale outside – in this case, by showing what happens when a Starship spins towards a planet with its gravity switched off. It’s truly mind-bending stuff. Indeed, for the first time, it’s the kind of action sequence you always wanted to see in Star Trek, but which a TV show never had the budget to replicate. Easily the best part of everything we saw, and with a wholly unexpected ending. We wouldn’t be surprised if the next Star Trek film needs a new Enterprise…

And while it might seem like we’ve seen a lot of this film by now, there’s still a lot more to look forward to. We didn’t see the Klingons from the trailer. We didn’t see anything of Alice Eve’s character, Carol Marcus, or Peter Weller as her father Admiral Marcus (although he was mentioned). We don’t learn what Harrison’s plan is, what his motivations are, or whether he’s acting alone. We don’t even know how the newly-disbanded Enterprise crew gets back together (Spock is transferred to the USS Bradbury following Kirk’s dismissal.)

But we do know that this looks like a sequel done right: bigger, better, much more of it. Two months to go…

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