Yesterday a handful of lucky reporters were made privy to an early screening of the 9-minutes of IMAX Star Trek Into Darkness footage that will premiere with The Hobbit. I certainly wasn’t there, but I was banging around twitter when the reactions started pouring out, and the villain conversation resumed with great fury.

You may have noticed quite the buzzing debate over exactly what character Benedict Cumberbatch plays in Into Darkness as, despite flat denials in the past, a whole bunch of signs point to Khan, including the final role-reversed shot from the Japanese teaser that recalls Wrath. The other major option is Gary Mitchell, the Star Fleet member who becomes near-omnipotent and has beef with kirk. The teaser, designed to stoke the fires of this conversation without answering them, was just the beginning as this first 9-minutes of the new film was bound to provided some new clues.

But did it?

Bear in mind that everyone was forbidden to write beat-for-beat descriptions, but let’s go to the phones, er, blog posts…

First let’s start with the best, Mr. Beaks at AintItCool who has more than enough Star Trek cred to weigh in on this villain nonsense.

Given the Stardate (2259) and Cumberbatch’s deeply anglo appearance, there is no reason to believe he is Khan Noonien Singh. Even if you argue that this is a new timeline, and that Khan could’ve been roused from suspended animation earlier than 2267, you’ve still got to deal with the ethnicity issue. This can’t be Khan.

Mr. Beaks does note that the footage very definitively uses the Khan theme in a moment seemingly unrelated to Cumberbatch’s villain, so definitely an eyebrow raising choice. As for the footage in general?

…the gang’s all back, the Enterprise is lurking underwater on the aforementioned planet (they can’t surface for fear of violating the Prime Directive), and the sense of fun Abrams established with the first film is very much in evidence. Obsessive speculation aside, these opening nine minutes are a tremendously effective tease for what will hopefully be one of 2013’s most entertaining movies.

Moving on to Empire.

While we’re under strict Abrams orders not to reveal too much, we can say this: damned impressive… If you’ve seen the promo, then you might expect that you’ve seen things from all through the film. But barring one or two moments, we can tell you that crafty old JJ has pulled off something quite clever. There’s even a link to one of the original Trek universe’s most memorable lines of dialogue.

This suggest to me that the teaser was virtually all cut from the opening nine-minutes of the film, which is confirmed by other preview reports. I like that decision, even if audiences didn’t seem to like it when Pixar did it.

Not too many reactions discuss the format of the showing much, but I’m very curious to see how this film plays in IMAX 3D, with some of the film being shot in IMAX and post-converted to 3D and (I presume) some being shot in 3D and blown up to IMAX size.

Eric at CinemaBlend was kind enough to weigh in on the subject…

The footage also did an impressive job showing off the power of IMAX and 3D. While I never got the sense of vertigo that I felt while watching Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol last year, the amount that the giant format adds to the scope is unquestionable. Furthermore, Abrams certainly seems to be taking advantage of the extra dimension as well. More than just bits of sparks and ash coming out at the camera, the director isn’t above playing with the “it’s coming right at you!” experience of 3D, a cable that Spock is riding down from the hovercraft at one point snapping and flying towards you. On the flip side of that, both formats also work well to create a terrific sense of depth, particularly in the parts with Kirk and Bones running away from danger and jumping over the side of a cliff. 

Next up is Frosty at Collider speaking for the Trekkies.

Also, you get to see more of future Earth, another planet, and a few other surprises. Trust me, if you loved Abrams’ first Star Trek, you’re going to be extremely happy watching this footage, and it’s something you should definitely seek out this weekend before anyone can spoil it for you.

He also promises a Raiders Of The Lost Ark vibe to everything- I can only imagine how pleased Abrams would be to hear the descriptor.

Here’s the reaction from SuperHeroHype, who also provided the closest thing to a detailed rundown if you must have this stuff spoiled. (The LA Times did so as well).

Abrams made the point in his introduction that fans have already assumed from the title and the first trailer that the sequel will be overly dark and he’s hoping that this footage is going to counter that reaction. What’s genuinely great about what happens onscreen is that we’re seeing a fun “Star Trek” adventure that gives every single crew member a quick starring moment. We also get enough humor (particularly from Simon Pegg) that manages to make light of exactly the kind of fan over-analysis that the film is sure to generate (i.e. Can the Enterprise even operate underwater?)

Funny they mention that, as I’ve already seen the submerged Enterprise thing become a point of contention with several geeks. It’s this film’s “building the Enterprise in-atmosphere” moment.

Here are some thoughts from IGN, a bit of new info on Paramount’s plans for trailers.

The Star Trek Into Darkness IMAX preview was certainly fast-paced fun, one that will likely appeal to non-Trekkies even more than to existing fans BUT this lifelong Trek fan was definitely happy with what he saw. We were also told by a studio rep at the event that the full, new trailer debuting soon will be completely different from the announcement teaser that went online last week.

The press are being treated to more material today, perhaps even as you read this. If anything particularly interesting comes of all that, you can be sure we’ll run it down for you.