RT was one of a number of news outlets treated to a sneak peak of Paramount’s upcoming Star Trek in London this morning, with director JJ Abrams himself introducing both the first theatrical trailer, and four scenes from the movie that haven’t been seen anywhere else in the world.
Abram’s firstly told us (rather surprisingly) that he was never the biggest fan of Star Trek – “it was always someone else’s thing – not mine”. However, what he did appreciate was both the show’s “sense of optimism” and its “promise of adventure”, but felt that it was just that – promise – that was never actually fulfilled in either the TV show or the films. So his goal for the film he told us was to address this – make it as action-packed as possible, but also make it both “fun and real” – seemingly his buzz-words for the day. The scenes we were then shown were obviously designed to reflect these twin ambitions. (It goes without saying that what follows involves detailed description of specific plot details, so if you don’t want spoilers stop reading now!)
SCENE 1: YOUNG KIRK
A caption tells us the first scene we saw takes place in “Iowa” – and shows us Kirk (played by Chris Pine) as a young man. He is riding through corn fields on his motorbike and goes into a busy bar, where he catches sight of beautiful young Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Kirk’s clearly had a few too many shandies by this point and starts trying to chat her up, eventually impressing her with his knowledge of alien linguistics – her specialist field at Star Fleet academy. “You’ve got a talented tongue” he tells her. We didn’t understand why this was funny but the rest of the audience laughed.
Before he can move in for the kill however four of her over-protective Academy buddies start picking a fight with him, and naturally a bar-brawl ensues. Beginning fairly comedic (at one point Kirk is pushed hand-first towards Uhura’s chest – she’s not impressed), things eventually become rather savage, with Kirk ending up pinned on a table getting his head completely smashed in.
At this point Captain Pike – famous for being the first captain of the USS Enterprise – enters the room and hostilities cease. He later begins having a heart-to-heart chat to a by-now-extremely-bloodied Kirk, where they talk about his dad and why Kirk himself hasn’t joined Starfleet, even though his aptitude tests are “off the scale”. He tries to persuade him to join the academy, saying: “your dad was captain of a Starship for 12 minutes, in that time he saved 800 people, including your mother. I dare you to do better”
His words obviously hit home, because the next day we see Kirk joining up with Starfleet, boarding a shuttle next to a building site where the massive new Enterprise is being built.
SCENE 2: THE ROMULAN TRAP
The next footage we were shown shows off some of the fun and comedy Abrams wanted injected into the series. Introducing the scene, he told us by this stage all the characters had been assigned ships, but because of some intransience whilst at Starfleet academy, Kirk doesn’t get an assignment. However Dr. McCoy (played by Karl Urban) knows of a loophole to sneak him onto the enterprise – namely that if you’re a medical officer you can take any patient you’re treating with you onboard a starship.
The scene starts with Bones giving Kirk an inoculation that has some strange side effects, namely making his hands massively swell up – to much laughter from the audience.
Meanwhile, we also get our first look at Anton Yelchin’s Sulu on the bridge, (his Russian accent is pretty over-the-top), who detects a massive lightning storm on the edge of Vulcan. Captain Pike immediately resolves to warp to the planet and rescue the inhabitants.
This is announced across the ship, and when he hears this, Kirk suddenly realises it’s all a big trap orchestrated by the Romulans, and their dastardly leader Nero (played by an unrecognisable Eric Bana), who are hoping to lure the Enterprise to the planet and then destroy it. Despite his tongue swelling up as a result of the drugs Bones injects, Kirk manages to persuade Uhura that he’s talking sense and the pair barge onto the bridge, despite Kirk not actually being a crew-member.
He recounts the story of his dad’s ship – the USS Felkin – which raced to a similarly massive lightning storm, only to be confronted by a massive, heavily-armed Romulan vessel that hasn’t been seen since. After hearing Kirk’s reasoning, Spock concludes: “his logic is sound”. Uhura listens for any chatter coming from Vulcan “I pick up no transitions” – “that’s because they’re being attacked!” Shouts Kirk. The ship jump out of warp space, and the crew suddenly find themselves in the midst of a massive space battle. The scene then (rather annoyingly) cuts out.
The next scene we were shown was another cracker; it introduced another contemporary spin on an iconic character, and brought back a legend from the original series. Introducing the footage, Abrams told us that Kirk was now marooned on a distant planet “‘cos he pissed of Spock” who kicked him of the Enterprise, which by now he is commanding. Then Simon Pegg – who plays ship’s engineer Scotty – took to the stage to basically gush at how honoured and excited he was to be playing the part. He told us he was “pant-wettingly excited to be in the movie” and that he felt like he wanted to cry.
Cut to the scene, and we open in a steamy, dark looking colonial outpost style building. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy, as the older Spock – who has seemingly travelled back in time – walk in and find Pegg’s Scotty, along with a green-faced alien, midget sidekick, moaning about how he had been stuck there for six months and had been eating nothing but “Federation protein packs”.
It seems the reason Scotty’s stuck there is that during the course his ground-breaking experiments with transporting matter through warp space is he tested his “methods on the admiral’s space beagle… which was a mistake.” The old Spock tells him that the reason his experiments’ have failed is because “you haven’t discovered it yet”.
The older Spock then tells Kirk he must make his way back to the enterprise and relieve his younger self of his command, because – intriguingly – his leadership is “emotionally compromised.” He doesn’t tell him why, and demands Kirk promise not to tell the younger youthful Spock what happened. We end with Kirk saying his goodbyes, and Nimoy – in a moment sure to tingle the spines of trek fans everywhere – telling him to “live long and prosper”.
SCENE 4: DESTROYING THE DRILL
The final Trek nugget we were allowed to see was a long, action set-piece presumably near the end of film. Abrams told us that by this stage of the film, the dastardly Romulans were using a ruddy great energy/lightning drill to bore into the centre of Vulcan, and that Kirk, Sulu and another star fleet officer – Olsen – were tasked with space jumping out of a shuttle craft onto the drill to destroy it.
We begin with Captain Pike telling the men they need to destroy the weapon, and then making Kirk “First officer” – much to Spock’s chagrin – before leaving Spock himself in charge of the Enterprise. They board a shuttlecraft and begin flying towards the Romulan vessel. The young officers talk before they make their jump, Olsen – character who is clearly a nod to the faceless red uniformed characters who always met a premature demise in Star Trek away mission – says he “can’t wait to kick Romulans ass!” Meanwhile Kirk asks Sulu what combat training he had done. “Fencing” is his reply. Kirk looks worried.
When they make their jump, Pike heads straight for the Romulan ship. The trio are sent jumping towards the drill at high speed in a spectacular scene that fully showcases the film’s massive effects budget. Kirk and Sulu safely parachute onto a platform on the edge of the drill, but Olsen isn’t so lucky, smashing into the side of the platform and getting sucked into the energy beam. Sulu and Kirk then battle a couple of Romulan henchmen, with Sulu given a chance to show off his swordsmanship skills, as the pair set about destroying the weapon.
They do, but then evil villain Nero dispatches a red bomb into the hole left by the drill that will “significantly alter the makeup of the planet” – essentially turning Vulcan into a black hole. The pair jump off the drill platform towards the platform below and Chekhov frantically has to use his maths skills to teleport the pair – mid-air -back to the Enterprise. We were left with the knowledge that the black hole will envelope Spock’s home-world “within minutes”.
Before we saw this footage, info on Star Trek had been pretty thin on the ground; with only a sketchy teaser trailer showing the new look Enterprise, and a few images being released to the online press. To suddenly go from hardly any info at all, to a seeing a significant chunk of the movie, was initially jarring but ultimately rather exciting.
The casting feels spot on – Chris Pine – despite not looking, sounding or acting anything like William Shatner (perhaps no bad thing) seems to inhabit the role of the younger, more rebellious Kirk. The supporting characters also feel right – with Eric Bana’s turn as villain Nero apparently especially brilliant. The one character that the footage we saw didn’t really give us a sense of was Spock himself – Zachary Quinto certainly looks the part, but we’ll have to see if he can emulate Leonard Nimoy’s serious gravitas and wry sense of humour in the role.
As you would expect from an Abrams super-production, the film feels spectacular, with the glimpses of the space battles we saw promising to be awesome and unlike anything seen in previous Star Trek outings. The scenes we saw were also quip heavy, with banter between the cast set to be major feature of the film, Spock and Kirk’s fractious relationship is due to be especially prominent.
How well Abrams can make this action and spectacle gel with the humour and character work could decide how successful Star Trek is.