Friday in London, Paramount Pictures screened an extended look at "Star Trek Into Darkness" at the BFI IMAX cinema, introduced by producer Bryan Burk and including the opening 28 minutes of the film plus two other extended sequences. What they showed of J.J. Abrams’ belated sequel, which arrives four years after he rebooted the franchise with 2009’s "Star Trek," was thrilling stuff, even if you don’t count yourself a colossal (or even casual) Trekkie. That, as Burk explained in his intro to the footage, has always been their primary goal with this sequel: to make a film that appeals across the board.
So what did we witness? Anyone not keen on spoilers turn away now. The film kicks off with a high-octane bang and the crew of the Enterprise in the midst of a gonzo mission on a primitive planet with white-mud-caked inhabitants that ends with Kirk (Chris Pine) deciding to save the life of Spock (Zachary Quinto) while defying Star Fleet’s core principles.
Back on Earth, Kirk is stripped of his Captain’s rank while a London-based Starfleet engineer – and father with a very sick daughter – makes a Faustian pact with Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain John Harrison that results in him decimating a building in a suicide bombing. Kirk – who is shown enjoying some inter-species action with a pair of alien babes – attends an emergency meeting at Starfleet HQ, which then comes under attack from Harrison who blasts the building from a hovering craft and seemingly decimates Starfleet command.
The essential takeaway is that "Star Trek Into Darkness" is going to be a faster, more furious action ride than the first, but without skimping on the humor or affectionate characterization that’s been key to this sci-fi franchise’s success. If they can fit all that into 28 minutes, it bodes gloriously well for the rest of the film. (The two other unrelated scenes featured a battle-scarred Enterprise being sucked into the gravitational pull of a nearby planet, with mega-mayhem aboard the ship; and Spock pursuing Harrison in a frenzied foot chase that ends atop a flying vehicle.)
Thrilling stuff, and it whetted the appetite to see the rest of the film, particularly in 3-D (today’s screening was 2-D) which Burk promises will blow our socks off in the way that "Avatar" managed and so many other tentpole blockbusters have failed. Cumberbatch seems like he’ll make an inspired villain. Is he, in fact, the fabled Khan? No one’s saying yet but with his revenge-seeking mindset against Starfleet, we’ll hazard a guess: yes.
Afterwards, we caught up with Burk, who’s part of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot posse and has been with him on everything from "Alias" and "Lost to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." The producer is in the midst of an 11-day, 11-city world tour that kicked off in Mexico City and finishes in Tokyo, a globe-trotting blitzkrieg he says was inspired by the indefatigable Jeffrey Katzenberg at his DreamWorks pinnacle.