'Star Trek Into Darkness': What Did We Learn From The First Nine Minutes?

J.J. Abrams gives journalists a sneak peek at the sequel's opening scene, including a glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch's villain.

Four years will have passed before the reconstituted crew of the starship enterprise return to the big screen in "Star Trek Into Darkness" (opening May 17), but it seems the adventure has been continuing in the interim — even if we haven't been privy to it. On Sunday night, the first nine minutes of the eagerly anticipated sequel were unveiled in IMAX 3-D to an eager audience of journalists in Los Angeles, and if they are any indication, Captain James T. Kirk and his crew have been awfully busy.

Director J.J. Abrams introduced the footage himself, asking only that the crowd not reveal the minute-by-minute details of the opening of the film. What we can say is this: The core crew and all their relationships are immediately back, front and center. Kirk and McCoy bicker. Spock and Uhura flirt. And Scotty is more exasperated than ever. Meanwhile, the mysterious villain of the film, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, remains just that — a mystery. He is ominous and nameless in his brief appearance at the outset of the story.

What is perhaps most surprising and exciting about the beginning of the film is that despite its title, "Into Darkness" has not forgotten the lightness of the first film. As we literally plunge into a harrowing mission on a far-off planet the crew play off each other in all the right ways, immediately reminding the audience why Star Trek ultimately works — the humanity and the relationships (the adventure and spectacle is pretty thrilling, too).

As for plot, don't expect to walk away from the first nine minutes with a clear understanding of where the story is headed. There are no mentions of Khan, or Gary Mitchell for that matter, though the prime directive is invoked more than once. And perhaps most intriguingly, Spock invokes a very famous line uttered in the classic Trek film, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Trek fans were of course abuzz last week when the first teaser trailer hit and ended (at least in the Japanese cut) with a none-too-subtle nod to the end of that film, in which Spock memorably gave his life for his friends.

If history is any judge, the answers to the many burning questions about the film will come slowly. Abrams likes to perpetuate the mysteries around his projects (witness "Lost," "Cloverfield," and "Super 8") up until the last possible moment. However, with a full trailer on the way and these nine minutes viewable in theaters playing "The Hobbit" in IMAX this weekend, "Star Trek Into Darkness" is slowly but surely coming to light.

Check out everything we've got on "Star Trek Into Darkness."