J.J. Abrams' second Star Trek instalment sees a new villain on board the Starship Enterprise, writes Toni Mason
If there's one thing all the Star Trek alumni agree upon, it is how much they admire the new villain for Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch.
Speaking at the film's premiere in Sydney, director J.J. Abrams was full of praise for the British actor, known widely as the star of the BBC TV series Sherlock.
"We needed someone who was going to be able to really scare you and, at the same time, not overdo it," Abrams says.
"It required, honestly, a great actor who was going to elevate whatever material we gave him."
Abrams says having such a brilliant actor on set affected the rest of the cast.
"You could feel everyone kind of have to kind of straighten their backs a little when he was around."
Cumberbatch has been brought into the Star Trek fold to play rogue Starfleet insider John Harrison.
He's a figure of mystery who is shown early in the film manipulating another Starfleet officer into destroying one of its offices.
Zachary Quinto, who returns as Mr Spock in the sequel, says Harrison is a formidable foe.
"He's no Scaramouche, he is something to be seriously dealt with and he plays it so beautifully too," Quinto says.
In coming to grips with this terrifying villain, the crew of the Enterprise has to overcome some incredible obstacles - one of which involved hurling Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) across an enormous distance wearing nothing but a flimsy suit.
Fans may recall Pine was similarly hurled through the air in the first movie, which he says he believes Abrams uses as a way of gaining sympathy for Kirk.
"The worse hurt, the more pain the character's in, the more you're rooting for him," he says.
What fans of the blockbuster movie may not expect is the often moving emotional journey its characters take and the moral decisions they have to face.
The cornerstone of this is the relationship between Kirk and Spock, which Pine and Quinto say operates because they are so different.
"The dynamic of this duo is that they exist at pretty polar opposite ends of the spectrum," Quinto says.
"In this movie especially, actually, I think the discovery that each of them makes is how much they value one another and how much they rely on each other."
Pine agrees his character in particular learns a great deal during Into Darkness.
"He needs to learn humility," he says.
"If in the first film he got the chair [the captaincy of the Enterprise], this is the film where he really earns the chair and he really learns from his partners."
Given the success of 2009's Star Trek, it's certain Into Darkness will do well - but what of the next chapter in the series?
"I really want to go dark," Pine says, laughing, "I want to hit dark Kirk."
And Quinto says he's keen to see Spock show his wild side as well, with the Vulcan side of him succumbing to the pon farr mating frenzy.
He says it'd be an opportunity for Spock to grow a beard or maybe some mutton chops.
"Spock-n-chops?" Pine asks, grinning.
But Quinto says they're just focusing on getting audiences to enjoy Into Darkness at the moment.
"Then the future is in the hands of others, so we'll see where they take us."
- AAP / TimeOut