On Sunday evening, director J.J. Abrams presented a first look at the opening nine minutes of "Star Trek Into Darkness," the follow-up to his reboot of the long-running sci-fi saga. And both hardcore Trekkers and casual fans will be happy to know that the preview -- which will be screening in IMAX in front of "The Hobbit" starting on Friday -- is a fun, energetic reintroduction to the Enterprise crew that leaves you wanting more.
The footage starts off on Earth, specifically 23rd Century London. A sullen-looking married couple wake and head off to a hospital, where their daughter lies unconscious in a bed. The father (Noel Clarke of "Doctor Who") later stands on the terrace looking out when he hears a low, rather ominous voice who announces that he can save the girl. It cuts to reveal Benedict Cumberbatch (TV's "Sherlock" -- apparently Abrams watches a lot of BBC), who we know is the villain of the film, but the identity of the character he plays is not disclosed in the preview. So we've most likely got several months of speculation still to come on that.
Then it cuts to another planet. It's the site of that reddish jungle that can be seen in last week's announcement trailer. The scene joins Kirk (Chris Pine) and McCoy (Karl Urban) right in the middle of a mission to save the planet's indigenous people. But since the aliens don't yet have advanced technology, Starfleet's Prime Directive mandates that the crew can't be seen to interfere. That means that Spock (Zachary Quinto) has to secretly drop into an active volcano to stop it from erupting and killing the species.
Abrams did say before the footage began that there had been a lot of talk when the teaser was released that the new movie looked too dark and morose, and he assured us that while it was called "Into Darkness," it still was a lot of fun. This opening scene backed up his claim. It's a joy to see the whole Enterprise crew back together, and everyone -- including Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov -- gets a moment to shine.
The preview ends on a cliffhanger, with Kirk and Spock at an impasse as someone's life hangs in the balance. There is also a line of dialogue that quotes "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" directly, with Spock telling Kirk, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." And that is either another hint that Cumberbatch is actually playing Khan or just Abrams messing with our heads (I'd say the odds are 50/50). Combined with the shot in the Japanese teaser which recalls Spock's death scene in "Wrath," it also adds fuel to the rumor that everyone's favorite Vulcan won't make it out of this second movie alive, either.
As you would expect from Abrams, the creator of "Lost," the footage leaves you with more questions than answers, and you'll be dying to see more.
[Related: Does Spock die in 'Star Trek Into Darkness'?]
Also worth noting about the preview is that it is in 3D, and Abrams really seems to know how to use the extra dimension. The red vines of the jungle create a real sense of depth as Kirk and McCoy flee through them, and there's one shot that could seriously induce vertigo in anyone with an extreme fear of heights. But Abrams also doesn't seem restricted by the 3D either, and the footage looks and feels like a true continuation of the first film.
You'll be able to see the 9-minute preview for "Star Trek Into Darkness" exclusively on IMAX showings of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" starting on December 14. There will also be a new trailer in other theaters this weekend as well. "Star Trek Into Darkness" beams into theaters on May 17.
[Related: Find showtimes and tickets for 'The Hobbit']
Watch the announcement trailer for 'Star Trek Into Darkness':