Star date: 2259. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) has just been called on the carpet following an expedition to a primitive planet where, in the course of saving Spock's (Zachary Quinto) life, he violated the Starfleet's strict sanction against interfering with alien civilizations. Consequently, he is demoted in rank and summarily stripped of the command of the USS Enterprise.
He is replaced by his predecessor, Rear Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) who reminds his headstrong protégé about the importance of following the rules. Soon thereafter, however, Pike is slain by friendly fire in a gunship attack launched by John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a fellow officer ostensibly gone rogue.
The tragedy affords Kirk a second chance in the captain's chair, as well as an opportunity to track down the intergalactic menace and to exact a measure of retribution for his late mentor. As it turns out, Harrison isn't really a disgruntled colleague but, lo and behold, the reincarnation of Khan, a recurring villain who has appeared before in both television and movie Star Trek episodes.
Here, the slightly tweaked character is the recently-defrosted leader of a race of genetically-enhanced super-beings who've been cryogenically frozen for a few hundred years. The pseudo-scientific explanation of his dormancy and revival is of less import than the fact that he's just fled to Kronos, home of the Klingons, another regular nemesis of Captain Kirk and his crew.
Thus unfolds Star Trek into Darkness, the twelfth big screen adaptation inspired by the classic, Sixties TV show originally starring William Shatner. It's also the second installment directed by J.J. Abrams, who oversaw the reboot of the sci-fi series in 2009. Truth be told, Abrams' semiautobiographical thriller Super 8, which he shot between Star Treks 11 and 12, proved to be a far more scintillating summer blockbuster than either of those.
At least he did reunite the principal cast, including the aforementioned Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, along with Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg as Scotty John Cho and Sulu and Karl Urban as Bones. Are the special f/x dazzling? Yes. However, the film's fairly formulaic plot is apt to capture the imagination only of young'uns totally unfamiliar with Khan and the Klingons.
Still, Diehard Trekkies will probably appreciate all the inside jokes sporadically sprinkled into the dialogue for the benefit of loyal longtime fans. Overall, this safe sequel is certainly engaging and entertaining enough to recommend, though it fails to live up to the franchise's daring, appointed mission "to explore strange new worlds" and "to boldly go where no man has gone before."
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense violence
Running time: 132 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures