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At London 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Junket, Early Abrams Gleanings

Photo of John Anderson By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood May 6, 2013 at 1:13PM

This particular scene occurs so early in "Star Trek Into Darkness" that a spoiler alert doesn't really seem necessary, but if you don't want to know anything about the 12th film in the franchise, which opens May 17 (as if anyone didn't already know) stop reading now.
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'Star Trek Into Darkness'
'Star Trek Into Darkness'

This particular scene occurs so early in "Star Trek Into Darkness" that a spoiler alert doesn't really seem necessary, but if you don't want to know anything about the 12th film in the franchise, which opens May 17 (as if anyone didn't already know) stop reading now. 

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.)

This article is related to: Star Trek Into Darkness


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.