I'm trying to think of what was so great about J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek reboot. Its newness, I suppose. New faces in the cast, some of them perfectly aping the old ones (in particular Zachary Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as McCoy), new set design, new energy. And it was nice to see a Star Trek movie that didn't look like it was shot for a couple hundred bucks on the Paramount back lot. I didn't love the film, but I was looking forward to more.
Now, with Star Trek Into Darkness, we have more. But more what? Besides explosions, that is. And chases. And fights. And shooting. And more fights. And more shooting.
You get the idea. Star Trek Into Darkness is all action, all the time. And it's good action. Maybe not as suspenseful as it could be, but if you want to see perfection in visual effects coupled with high-energy editing, awesome sound design, and perfectly framed shots, then you've come to the right place.
But, I hear you thinking, isn't the whole point of Star Trek to give us more than that? If you really are thinking this, then yes, I agree with you. The franchise has always been more than just cool-looking spaceships firing photon torpedoes at each other. It's about science, morality, and our place in the universe. But aside from some simplistic tests of Kirk and Spock's burgeoning friendship, Star Trek Into Darkness doesn't offer much besides things blowing up.
The story starts off promisingly enough, with Benedict Cumberbatch - always a welcome presence, with his catlike face and his rich baritone - playing "John Harrison", a mysterious terrorist who attacks Starfleet and then hides in a remote area of the Klingon home planet. Threats of igniting a war with the Klingons as Starfleet tries to ferret out this villain suggest a lot of potential, but Star Trek Into Darkness never goes there. After a tantalizing view of Abrams' Klingons, they disappear from the story completely, and I for one felt a bit gypped.
Star Trek Into Darkness walks a weird line between delivering a summer popcorn movie made for people who think they're too cool for Star Trek, and kowtowing to fanboys with various callbacks to one of the earlier films (I won't say which). But these callbacks become rote, almost like those scenes in Arnold Schwarzenegger movies where the actor has to have his "I'll be back" line. And they don't help a predictable storyline.
One interesting note is that the Starfleet dress uniforms bear an uncanny resemblance to the Imperial uniforms from the old Star Wars films, perhaps foreshadowing J.J. Abrams' imminent takeover of that franchise. But aside from that distraction, all I can say about Star Trek Into Darkness is that it's a fun little letdown.