Star Trek Into Darkness reunites Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto, left) and Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine, right) four years after J.J. Abrams' reboot brought believers and nonbelievers into the megachurch that is the multiplex, taking in $386 million worldwide. The 3-D sequel is an all-but-certain popcorn powerhouse for 2013.
The specifics of Into Darkness' plot have been guarded by Abrams, who is the 21st-century version of the Romulan cloaking device — or, as Pine calls him, the ''benevolent dictator.'' What is known: This time around the headstrong Kirk violates Starfleet orders and jeopardizes his command in order to take the Enterprise on the trail of a terrorist who launches spirit-crushing attacks on London and San Francisco. Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch (center) plays the bad guy in question, a man called John Harrison who's described by co-writer Alex Kurtzman as a ''member of Starfleet who turns on Starfleet.''
The secrecy surrounding an Abrams project was at once thrilling and nerve-racking, admits Pine. ''The exciting thing is there's a possibility for change at any moment,'' he says. ''Because of [the producers'] background in TV, there's a possibility of changing story, dialogue, character points, action beats — these are all up for review at all times. Nothing is sacrosanct, no one is safe. You have to walk in and be really nimble.''
Zoë Saldana returns as Lt. Uhura. One of Team Abrams' sharp departures from Trek history is the romance between Uhura and Spock. Both Quinto and Saldana say they were glad to see the relationship tested in new ways and pointed to the novelty of an onscreen couple who struggle with the fact that they are, well, not the same species. Saldana had one message for the writing team: ''I told them to make sure that Uhura kicks more ass. And she does!''
Saldana wasn't the only with ''demands'' for Abrams (left, with Kurtzman) as he embarked on his second Trek. ''I would say all of the actors, uh, have more opinions this time,'' he says with a chuckle. ''The first time they were all kind of trusting of me and of the process. They hadn't proven to themselves that they could play these characters. Now they've been these characters, and they?ve been told — by me and by many others — that they are loved as these characters. So they came to the table with attitudes and opinions that in most cases were entirely valid and hugely important. And all of them are crazy-smart.''