At the outset of the story, James T. Kirk and Co. have brought the USS Enterprise to Nibiru, a planet of war-painted aboriginals and a volcano that's about to erupt -- and, along with it, Mr. Spock (Zach Quinto). Defying the Prime Directive -- that the Federation can in no way interfere with the development of a planet's civilization -- Kirk raises the Enterprise from its watery hiding place, saving Spock but delivering something of a shock to the hostile tribe of spear-carrying natives, who proceed to chatter hysterically, while drawing a hieroglyphics-style outline of the ship in the sand. It's a close-to-profound moment, watching the birth of a myth -- and maybe even a religion -- and imagining how it must have been for primitive peoples, dealing with powers beyond their ken. Like journalists dealing with studios, probably.
The film carries a whiff of Kubrick about it, and Abrams, from the film's junket this weekend in London, said he did glean inspiration from "2001," especially for some of the spaceship scenes. Regarding the opener, however, he had other ideas.
"What I loved about that moment," he said, "was it just sort of said 'These are the most primitive 'Star Trek' fans' -- the ways they were honoring the ship, bowing to the Enterprise, it just felt like, 'that's what the hardcore 'Trek' fans seem to do.' I love the idea that you had this primitive species that got to see this incredible ship rising out of the ocean and in a way they were the audience's proxy, in terms of wanting to show how awesome that ship is. And it was kind of fun to sort of play their reactions to this thing."
Kind of a prehistoric Comic-con.
"Exactly," Abrams said, with a laugh that suggested: "Not exactly, but close enough."
No one in London wanted to give too much away, of course, especially the cast. "Honestly, I am under the spell of paranoid secrecy," said Benedict Cumberbatch who plays the film's key villain and could barely talk about it. One wonders why a studio bothers to run such an elaborate junket for a film that's going to make $8 trillion dollars in any case. "From your lips to God's ears," said Quinto. (More Abrams intel at the NYT.)