By Drew Taylor | The Playlist May 14, 2013 at 12:57PM
This week, one of the most hotly anticipated (and deliberately mysterious) movies of the summer movie season boldly goes into theaters nationwide. "Star Trek Into Darkness" is director J.J. Abrams' follow-up to the ridiculously entertaining 2009 "Star Trek" reboot, which introduced audiences to a younger, sexier Enterprise crew and turned the occasionally lifeless original series into a zippy space opera. The first film was the best kind of surprise -- Abrams only had a single feature under his belt (the somewhat disappointing "Mission: Impossible III") and had yet to solidify his magic-loving geek-cred persona into an identifiable, Steven Spielberg-like brand. "Star Trek Into Darkness" is less of an unknown quantity in that respect, but Abrams and his confederates have tried, tirelessly, to keep the movie shrouded in mystery, offering all sorts of red herrings and deliberate attempts at obscuring plot details from being delivered prematurely. (Read our spoiler-free review here) Still, there are some things we can tell you about this new "Star Trek" experience. And so, without further ado, we will deliver five things you might not know about "Star Trek Into Darkness." Because in space, no one will hear you nerd out.
1. Benedict Cumberbatch Came Very Close To Not Playing The Mysterious Bad Guy
Most of the speculation surrounding "Star Trek Into Darkness" centers on Benedict Cumberbatch's mysterious bad guy John Harrison, who has somewhat preternatural abilities and a wild flop of hair that seems to become more unhinged the angrier he becomes. Cumberbatch will also be the thing that most people talk about walking out of "Star Trek Into Darkness" –- he's that good. Cumberbatch's Harrison is the kind of rich, commanding, star-making performance that comes all too infrequently (especially in a jumbo-sized studio blockbuster). But what's interesting is how close Cumberbatch came to not getting the role at all.
Abrams' first choice for the villain was actually Benicio del Toro, who came incredibly close to claiming the role before negotiations with Paramount over money stalled and ultimately faltered. (This is when rumors of the villain being the infamous baddie from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," initially appeared, mostly because Ricard Montalban, a Mexican actor, immortalized the Khan character in both the original series and big screen sequel.) When del Toro passed, Edgar Ramirez, star of "Carlos," quickly became the frontrunner (Jordi Molla from "Bad Boys II" and Demian Bichir from "A Better Life" were also considered). When Cumberbatch was finally decided on, it threw people off for only a moment, instead of Khan most assumed he would be playing another canonical character – Gary Mitchell, who in one of the show's earliest episodes was revealed to be an old chum of Kirk's who gains godlike powers after coming across something called the "Galactic Barrier." This was further stoked by comments that "Star Trek Into Darkness" costar Karl Urban made about Cumberbatch being an "exemplary" Gary Mitchell. Even days after the film had opened overseas Cumberbatch was playing coy on David Letterman's show, suggesting that the true nature of his character (and his familiarity with the 'Trek' audience) would be revealed throughout the course of the movie. We'd like to see del Toro stonewall with such utter efficiency.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" looks fucking amazing in IMAX 3D. There's a moment at the beginning where we literally ducked and things like the warp drive sequences stun with an additional layer of you-are-there dimensionality. But the movie wasn't shot in 3D and, even a few months before shooting began, Abrams was outspoken in his disinterest in 3D. Hilariously, a lot of this had to do with his love of rapid-fire whip pans -- a noticeable stylistic flourish in the first film and tempered (if not altogether removed) from the sequel. In early 2011, about a week after Cumberbatch had been cast (if we're getting all 'Trek'-y about the canonical timeline), Abrams told Vulture that he wasn't really all that into 3D. "I have nothing against 3-D in theory. But I've also never run to the movies because something's in 3D," the director said. Abrams then went on to describe a major hurdle: "I'm a big fan of whip pans, which is very hard to do in 3D." Still, a movie intended for 3D and later robbed of it does have some inherent value to him: "You know, when I was in New York fifteen years ago, and I sort of had the flu, I remember turning the TV on. There were these kids in a very dark, kind of muddy movie that was on a local channel, talking about making out. Then you cut to them walking in the forest, and somebody had a paddle-ball, and they were doing it right to the camera. It was like this weird, experimental Fellini movie. I was like, 'What the fuck is this movie?' And it was 'Friday the 13th Part 3' in 3-D — without sex, violence, or 3D! It was genius." Sadly, no one will get the same surreal experience watching "Star Trek Into Darkness" in 2D, even with the unnecessary paddle-ball sequence.