CinemaCon: ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Footage Has Kirk, John Harrison Forming Uneasy Alliance

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Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto debut 18 minutes of "Star Trek" goodness at CinemaCon

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and other members of the "Star Trek Into Darkness" squad took the stage at CinemaCon on Monday to debut 18 minutes of footage from the hotly anticipated sequel.

The thrilling 3D sequences included a daring rescue of Spock from an erupting volcano, as well as a scene in which Capt. Kirk, the brash figure Pine plays, must forge a temporary alliance with John Harrison, the Shakespearean tinged villain portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

The later was probably the more bravura and emotionally charged, featuring a dazzling setpiece that finds Kirk and Harrison hurtling between two badly damaged spaceships while dodging debris. Before they can don space suits, however, Kirk must put aside his hatred of Harrison in order to save his crew.

"I will do everything I can to make you answer for what you did, but right now I need your help," Kirk tells Harrison.

The other piece of footage that Paramount Pictures, which is producing the film, debuted at the annual exhibition trade show was likely selected to highlight director J.J. Abrams' use of 3D. "Star Trek Into Darkness" marks the first film in the series shot in 3D, something co-writer Damon Lindelof said Abrams was initially hesitant to employ because he feared it would be "gimmicky."

It's too early to declare "Star Trek Into Darkness" a bold step forward in the format like, say,  "Life of Pi" and "Hugo," but the glimpses at CinemaCon show how immersive 3D can be when used by a visual stylist like Abrams.

Not only did volcanoes erupt, sparks and cinders bouncing off the screen, but Abrams camera also followed Kirk and Dr. McCoy as they evaded a tribe of alien creatures while racing through fields of brilliantly red foliage. The colors work to enhance the extra-dimensionality.

In a moment reminiscent of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"s' famous plunge into raging rapids, the two ship-mates find themselves at the edge of a cliff overlooking a pounding surf. Their jump into the choppy waters may not be quite as iconic, but it certainly makes for a compelling trailer.

The film's stars and Lindelof were careful not to reveal any spoilers or to give any indication if — as has been teased and postulated about by fanboy blogs across the internet — Harrison is just a pseudonym for Khan Noonien Singh. For those not steeped in U.S.S. Enterprise lore, Khan was the elegant and deadly villain at the heart of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

In a case of art eerily imitating life, Pine acknowledged that the film and the methods that Harrison uses to exact his revenge on Starfleet mirrors the kind of devastation experienced at the Boston Marathon this week.

"Terrorism is a big part of our lives," Pine said.

He went on to note that Harrison "…manipulates and uses fear to his advantage" in a way that forces Kirk to question his own abilities as a leader.

Kirk will tackle those doubts when "Star Trek Into Darkness" debuts on May 17, 2013.