The long-awaited teaser trailer for JJ Abrams' new Star Trek Into Darkness movie has finally been released, and I'm disappointed by it. The marketing of this rebooted franchise really frustrates me, because they're still so reticent to trumpet the STAR TREK-ness of the whole endeavour! And why is that, considering mass audiences responded so positively to the first movie? I found 2009's Star Trekinvigorating, lively and great fun. It serviced the Trekkies, while drawing in a fresh audience thanks to its more aggressive Star Wars-y visuals and scale. I don't think there's any reason to be concerned about marketing this sequel as a Star Trek movie now, so why is the Into Darkness trailer wary about showing us the franchise's iconic imagery and sounds?
The USS Enterprise is clouded from view (literally, twice), the primary coloured uniforms aren't noticeable, there are no sound effects that immediately identify what the movie is... and even the "Into Darkness" suffix dominates the words "Star Trek" in the title. I suppose Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana and Simon Pegg's faces might trigger recognition that this is a Star Trek sequel amongst the general public, but it's not all that obvious to anyone who might be watching this in a cinema and hasn't tracked it down online. (Yes, I know the words STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS helpfully appear at the end, but you shouldn't have to wait for that to understand this is a Star Trek movie IMO.)
This minute-long teaser places far more emphasis on a voice-over by Benedict Cumberbatch as the sequel's villain, but they're still being secretive about who he's playing? It seems likely he's a very different interpretation of Khan (memorably played by Ricardo Montalban on the original TV show and its movie sequel Wrath of Khan), but there's still room for doubt. Why is that? Khan is a character most people know, so it would have lent the teaser extra impact by at least confirming Cumberbatch's role as Captain Kirk's great nemesis.
By watching this footage, you really just come away knowing that there's a big sci-fi movie set in the future, where the BBC's Sherlock Holmes is playing a terrorist. Is that enough? For me, no. I hope the full theatrical trailer is more forthcoming with the Star Trek-ness of the project. The first movie's trailer was absolutely joyous for a life-long fan of Trek, desperate to see its glory restored after the latter Next Generation movies killed it... but the sequel's teaser is a frustrating damp squib.
I have little doubt the movie will be fantastic, don't get me wrong, but I just don't understand the thinking behind how it's marketed. I really don't. Even the one-sheet poster owes more to The Dark Knight Rises and could be any number of generic post-apocalyptic summer movies on the horizon. Star Trek is one of popular culture's most enduring properties, so why not promote it without a feeling of embarrassment? It's like they want to make general audiences go "wow, whatever this is looks impressive", before dropping the punchline that "yes, this is a Star Trek movie! Can you believe that? I know you liked the one with the whales where Spock nerve-pinched that dude with the ghetto-blaster on the bus, but now it has lava and Coruscant makes a cameo!"
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS premieres 17 May 2013 (USA/UK)