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Josh Has Seen the First Nine Minutes of the New Star Trek Film!

December 19th, 2012

As excited as I was to see The Hobbit this past weekend, I was equally excited to take a gander at the first nine minutes of J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek sequel, being released this summer!  Certain IMAX showings of The Hobbit had the first nine minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness attached at the beginning, and, no surprise, I made sure to catch one of those showings.

Without ruining anything for anyone, a brief description:  The sequence opens playfully, with the same “binging” Star Trek sound effect that opened the 2009 Star Trek film, but this time the sound doesn’t herald a starship in space but rather something much more mundane.  The next two minutes had me wondering whether this really was the Star Trek clip, as we see a husband and wife visiting a sick child in a (rather futuristic) hospital.  It is here that we get a glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character.  Of course, when he is asked “who are you?”, we don’t get an answer — instead, we cut away to Kirk and Bones in jeopardy on an alien planet.  The rest of the nine minutes is an extremely fast-paced, frenetic sequence in which Kirk and Bones use themselves as bait to lure a group of primitive aliens away from an about-to-erupt volcano, while Spock dives into the volcano itself in an attempt to use some sort of Starfleet doohickey to de-activate the volcano and rescue the primitives.  Of course, things immediately go wrong, and the sequence builds to a classic Prime Directive choice, a Star Trek II-esque no-win scenario.  The clip ends on a vicious cliffhanger.  It’s going to be a LONG wait until we get to see what happens!!

Overall the footage was fantastic.  Visually it was stunning, made all the more-so on a huge IMAX screen.  As a long-time Star Trek fan I am giddy at seeing Star Trek adventures told on a broad canvas, with a BIG budget.  (Most of the classic Trek films were made on shockingly low budgets.)  There are some fantastic shots in this sequence, and I found it impossible to tell where the sets and costumes ended and the CGI began, which is just as it should be.  The sequence is gorgeous, it’s intense, and it’s fun, which is exactly the tone that Mr. Abrams and co. struck so well in their first Trek film.

My worry is that we’re going to see in this film the type of carelessness in the script that I felt plagued the 2009 Star Trek film.  That film sacrificed science for “cool,” and as I argued back in my initial review, the over-all plot was filled with holes.  Trek purists and anyone who cares about real science had problems with the shot in the last Trek film of the Enterprise being constructed on Earth, even though it was a cool, wow-inducing shot.  (The whole principle behind the Enterprise’s design is that is created for outer space, not for navigating a planet’s atmosphere.)  Well, already in this nine-minute preview we have an equivalent of that moment, when we see the Enterprise hiding out UNDER-WATER ON THE PLANET.  Huh???  OK, you want to hide your starship from the pre-industrial civilization on the planet, I get that.  So why not keep it WAY UP IN SPACE, in orbit of the planet??  Right?  In the last movie our heroes seemed to have access to more powerful transporters than we ever saw before (future Spock was able to beam Kirk and Scotty across vast distances), so surely the Enterprise could beam up Kirk and Bones from orbit.  The idea of the Enterprise, which is a HUGE vessel the size of a city, landing in an ocean is a ludicrous image — surely the giant space-ship would displace a massive amount of water, causing an enormous flood, right?  Not to mention the fact that a vessel designed for the vacuum of space would surely not be able to survive the intense pressures underwater, despite futuristic Star Trek technology and shields or whatever.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a smart scientist-guy arguing the point.

(And by the way, as one of the commenters on that article mentions, Futurama made fun of this idea over a decade ago, in their 2000 episode “The Deep South” (get it?) in which the crew discovers an underwater city.  Here’s the classic exchange from that episode: Professor Farnsworth: “Good Lord! That’s over 5000 atmospheres of pressure!”  Fry: “How many atmospheres can the ship withstand?”  Professor Farnsworth: “Well, it was built for space travel, so anywhere between zero and one.”)

So, yeah, that bugs me.  I want my sci-fi to be fun and exciting AND ALSO to be smart and make sense.  Is that too much to ask??  We’ll see.

These clips do NOT give us any clarity on whether Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan or not.  In fact, the unexpected context in which we see his character really muddies the water.  I have no idea WHO he is playing!!  (It’s possible he is going to use genetic engineering to save the couple’s baby, which would tie into Khan’s story as a product of genetic engineering, but how would Khan be ensconced on Earth already…?  I dunno.)  I did absolutely love the dilemma Kirk is faced with at the very end of the clip, and I wonder if Kirk is going to find an easy way out here in the prologue of the film, but that by the movie’s climax that choice is going to be flipped around on him.  (This would be very similar to the original Star Trek II, in which Spock “dies” in the Kobayashi Maru test that opens the film, and everyone jokes about Kirk’s penchant for cheating death, but by the end of the film he really is faced with a no-win scenario with no easy escape.)   Frankly, I like the idea of that sort of thematic parallel with Star Trek II, and I hope the film avoids any more obvious re-do’s of scenes from that iconic film.  (The first international teaser trailer of course has already tantalized fans by showing a shot that mimics the iconic moment from the end of Trek II in which Kirk and Spock are separated by glass, but I suspect that is misdirection and that we’ll discover that brief clip will be from a very different context in the finished film.  We’ll see.)

For now, despite some lingering worries, I can say that I was very pumped indeed at the end of this nine-minute prologue.  I am counting the days until the release of the complete film!!  I would really love to see J.J. Abrams and co. take things to the next level with this sequel.

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