The conventional wisdom about the Star Trek movies starring the cast of the original TV show was that the even-numbered films were the good ones and the odd-numbered ones kind of sucked.
That began to change when the Star Trek: The Next Generation movies kicked in; most of them were pretty good. But now, with J.J. Abrams at the helm of the rebooted prequels, all bets are off.
His Star Trek, which was a kind of origin story for the U.S.S. Enterprise and its crew, was a whee of a film when it was released in 2009: smart, funny, exciting - and just plain fun. The latter term -- fun -- too often is overlooked by critics as they dive seriously into the movies they write about. Indeed, I find a certain level of distrust among the more sober-sided of my brethren for anything that provides too much giddy pleasure, as if to say: How serious can it be if it's fun?
But Abrams' second outing with the franchise, Star Trek Into Darkness, is, if anything, even more entertaining than the first one. Even as it calls back to Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (also the second film in the series), it charts new territory, utilizing old memes and new technology in a story that keeps unwrapping itself like a set of nesting dolls.
After a contrived opening sequence involving a nearly botched mission, Kirk and Spock find themselves called on the carpet, with Kirk (Chris Pine) demoted to executive officer to his mentor, Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood). But an act of terrorism in London -- and then an attack on Star Fleet headquarters in San Francisco -- leaves Kirk back in control of the Enterprise, with Spock (Zachary Quinto) as his second in command.
Their mission, assigned by Star Fleet commander Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), is to track the terrorist, a man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a Star Fleet insider apparently gone rogue. He's escaped to the planet of the Klingons - and that planet (that whole part of the galaxy, in fact) is off-limits, in order to stave off what is seen as a coming war with the Klingons.
This review continues on my website.