As die-hard fans work to unravel the mysteries of Star Trek Into Darkness hinted at thus far (and believe us, we’ve got our own questions), it seems J.J. Abrams and crew have seen fit to release a brand new batch of official images. They may not put the larger questions to rest but do show that all this “unstoppable force of destruction” talk isn’t just lip service.

Benedict Cumberbatch may be preparing to unleash terror on all of Starfleet and the crew of the USS Enterprise, but that doesn’t mean production itself hasn’t offered more than a few laughs. Who said the world ending couldn’t be fun?

Abrams and Cumberbatch haven’t minced words: they are more than pleased with this movie’s villain, from motivation to performance. But as much as Abrams might claim that Into Darkness isn’t just a movie for fans of the TV shows or even his previous Star Trek movie, the pressure can’t be ignored. Especially if Cumberbatch’s ‘John Harrison‘ is who we still suspect him to be.

In an interview with Empire, Cumberbatch and Alice Eve spoke about the pressures of their roles as antagonist and Dr. Carol Marcus, respectively. Eve maintains that an existing fan base is always an extra thrill for an actor, but one that can’t be a distraction when performing; Cumberbatch spoke to the risks of worrying about fan reaction in greater detail:

“That way madness lies… I think that’s the thing, isn’t it? If you have an over preoccupation with perception and trying to please people’s expectations, then you can go mad. We’ve got J.J. Abrams, and he’s already beautifully cracked that nut in the first film, and I think it pleased a lot of the varying camps: people who were coming to the franchise for the first time, the J.J. Abrams fans and the Star Trek fans, so that was a big comfort to me.

“It’s always a compact between me and the writers and the directors – the people who are hiring me to do the job – and if I’m making them happy, I can trust that it’ll make fans happy as well… You know, ‘Sherlockies’ – as they’re probably known now, after Trekkies – have a long history. Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone are huge icons, playing a character that’s been taken on by different people over 70 times – you know, it’s the most played fictional character of all time – so having done two series of that and being reasonably confident we’re doing all right with it, and I’m doing all right with him, I’m not… overly confident about this, but I’m just saying it’s something you don’t let preoccupy yourself.

“Basically, what she said, but in a 1000 words”

Cumberbatch certainly owes much of his star’s rising nature to his work on BBC’s Sherlock – attention he promises shouldn’t affect that series’ future – but a powerful turn in Into Darkness could take things to an entirely different level.

Confidence will definitely be needed if he hopes to continue dispatching Klingons with ease, but the new official images prove that much of the movie’s plot and action sequences are still a mystery. Take a look:

Despite the serious story and painful journey awaiting Captain Kirk, it’s worth remembering that Into Darkness will still have some laughs. That lighter atmosphere on set is already paying dividends, as Cumberbatch offered a behind-the-scenes detail on the striking shot of his character leaping through a plate-glass window, seen in both Star Trek trailers so far:

“That’s definitely not me. This is my stunt double, bursting through a glass door. I did do this, but I did it through previously shattered glass, some of it sugar glass…It’s a fantastic shot, and a wonderful day. I actually ran up these stairs so many times though that at one point – and it might still be in the film – my legs gave away and I just went down on my knees and slid. Before I’d even got up, I’d sort of started running, scrambling a bit like an insect. So J.J. was like, ‘Did you plan that?’ ‘No, no, no, it’s just that my legs gave up on me and I thought I better keep on f***ing motoring to get up…’ So he goes, ‘That’s great, we’re going to keep it in the film!'”

In case some fans were still worried that Abrams was going to be taking the franchise in a darker direction (as is the recent trend), Cumberbatch again diffuses concerns. The similarities don’t end with Cumberbatch’s villain locked up and interrogated (just as moviegoers saw in Skyfall and The Avengers), but while acknowledging the similarities, Cumberbatch reminds us that “not all of those bad guys had Enterprise costumes on, and that’s what matters.”

What do you think of what’s been shown so far, and in these latest images? Are you looking forward to Abrams’ wish to take things to a more serious and trying place, or will you be most excited when some of the lighter side gets its turn in the spotlight?

Star Trek Into Darkness opens in theaters (regular and IMAX 3D) on May 17th, 2013.

(And Check out the Full Star Trek 2 Image Gallery!)

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: Empire, Paramount