IMAX prologue to ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ teases expertly and answers nothing

Earlier this evening, I took the biggest “Star Trek” fan I know to see the nine-minute prologue that will be screened in IMAX venues in front of the release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and based on his reaction, I’d say JJ Abrams and crew have absolutely nothing to worry about when the film hits theaters in May of 2013.

Even now, at the end of the nine-minute presentation, I cannot conclusively tell you who Benedict Cumberbatch is playing.  We do meet him very early in the footage, though.  The film starts with an alarm clock going off, waking a married couple played by Nazneen Contractor and Noel Clarke.  They quickly get ready, peeking out their window at the rainy cityscape of London in the year 2259.  They drive to the London Children’s Hospital to visit their little girl, who appears to be aging prematurely, sick and near-bald, completely unresponsive.  Clarke walks outside to catch some air and try to pull himself together, and someone steps up behind him to say, “I can save her.”  Clarke turns around and we get our first look at Cumberbatch.

Clarke asks, incredulous, “Who are you?” and before we can get the answer to the question, we cut away to a Class M Planet called Nibiru, where we catch up with the crew of the starship Enterprise.  We were asked not to provide a complete blow-by-blow of what you’ll see, but I can tell you that much of the footage you saw in the announcement video last week was taken from this early part of the film, including Bones and Kirk (Karl Urban and Chris Pine) fleeing through a strange red jungle, chased by a group of aliens because they evidently stole a sacred scroll from them.  At the same time, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is onboard a shuttlecraft piloted by Sulu (John Cho), getting ready for his descent into a volcano.  While the Prime Directive is definitely a primary concern for the crew, they are determined to stop the volcano from extinguishing an entire race of aliens who are not yet ready for space travel, and Spock’s the one who has to actually descend into the active and about-to-erupt main crater.

And where’s the Enterprise during all this?  Hidden underwater in one of Nibiru’s oceans, of course.

The stuff with Kirk and McCoy is very funny, and a nice reminder of just how strong the chemistry is with this cast.  Same with the stuff between Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock.  The moment they bring in the main theme by Michael Giacchino is perfect, lovely and thrilling at the same time.  I really love the look of these films, and the alien world is beautifully realized, as is the London of the future.  I like that we pick up with the crew in the middle of an adventure and we see how they’ve come together now with the time that has passed since the end of the first film.  Abrams and his screenwriting team, Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof, all seem to get the dynamic that makes Kirk, Spock, and McCoy such great archetypes, and it really crystallizes in a moment where Kirk asks McCoy what Spock would do if it were him inside the volcano in peril in a situation where any effort to help is going to violate the Prime Directive.  McCoy growls,” He’d let you die,” and there’s no arguing his point.

Obviously the prologue is just a tease, but we’ll have more on the film for you this week as we head down to Bad Robot for a full presentation on the movie.

Who knows?  We may even finally answer Noel Clarke’s question.

In the meantime, my “Star Trek” loving movie buddy tonight, my seven-year-old son Toshi, picked his favorite moment from the nine-minute prologue.  It involves Scotty (Simon Pegg) and a fish, so keep your eyes open for that when the prologue hits theaters in front of all IMAX 3D engagements of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

“Star Trek Into Darkness” beams into theaters May 17, 2013.