"Star Trek Into Darkness"
"Star Trek Into Darkness"

I got an early glimpse on Sunday of the nine-minute prologue for "Star Trek into Darkness" in IMAX 3D, followed by a meet and greet yesterday at director J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot studio in Santa Monica. Abrams additionally screened the new trailer that will go online next week along with special footage that will be kept under wraps until much closer to the May 17 release. The prologue will screen in front of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" beginning Friday at select IMAX theaters

What's definitely reinforced is that Abrams now owns "Star Trek" in much the same way that Chris Nolan took possession of Batman. In fact, if Abrams' popular origin story/reboot was "Star Trek" on steroids, then the prologue is more like "Star Trek" on super steroids. Abrams not only captures the dramatic essence of the original series (in which Kirk, Spock, and McCoy represent the ego, id, and superego), but also channels James Bond and Indiana Jones with a little "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" thrown in for good measure. At the same time, though, Abrams and his writers (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof) ladle in even more humor this time out to defuse some of the darkness.

However, the movie begins solemnly in 2259 with a husband and wife visiting their sick daughter at a children's hospital in London, where the angry father is approached by a dashing stranger (Benedict Cumberbatch), who proclaims that he can save his daughter.

Cut to Kirk (Chris Pine) and McCoy (Karl Urban) rushing to escape from Red planet Nibiru while attempting to avoid detection from the indigenous tribesmen adorned with white paint. Here the IMAX 3D immerses us in the "Raiders"-like action, where we're assaulted with hurling spears.

Meanwhile, Spock (Zachary Quinto) enters the planet's overheated volcano with a deactivator to suspend eruption, but encounters great difficulty, which unnerves the always overheated Kirk. Echoes of "Wrath of Khan" are insinuated here ("The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few") and in the teaser trailer, yet Abrams and his writers refuse to confirm anything, including the secret identity of baddie Cumberbatch. He's been rumored to be arch-nemesis Khan, but his character has now been identified as John Harrison.

We've also learned that Alice Eve will play Carol Marcus, the Federation scientist who had a fling with Kirk in the original series. They wound up parenting a son, David, who was featured in "Wrath of Khan."

The only thing that Abrams confirmed to me was that Nibiru is the same red planet viewed in the background during the original series' opening credits. "Why shouldn't we make use of it?" he smiled. "It's there… we might as well go there."