The 2009 reboot of Gene Roddenberry's seminal series took the once and future crew of the USS Enterprise into an alternate dimension, allowing for a whole new set of adventures that Kirk and co would enjoy and/or endure. With Into Darkness, we find director JJ Abrams veering even further from topical science fiction and deeper into the depths of an action blockbuster, one where despite the makings of a new timeline, is lacking in originality.
After saving an un-evolved civilization from a planet-destroying volcanic eruption, Kirk (Chris Pine) gets his wrist slapped for disobeying direct orders and subsequently has the captain's chair on the Enterprise taken away from him. Enter Commander John Harrison (a fairly buffed up Benedict Cumberbatch), who performs a vicious terrorist attack in downtown London. Soon becoming a top priority target, the Enterprise set off to take him down. We could tell you more, but that would spoil the many nice surprises that are in store, such as the re-introduction of a major Star Trek Universe species.
Whereas the previous movie seemed to focus more on Spock (Zachary Quinto) discovering and embracing his humanity, Into Darkness finds Kirk attempting to find reason while he's blinded by the need for revenge. Casting aside the presence of some heavily sombre plot points - including one of the most blatant 9/11 references in cinema - this movie does not skimp on fun: Kirk and Spock's burdgeoning bromance continues to develop beautifully - with the arrival of a new Science Officer hottie (Alice Eve) spurning on some jealousy between them - while Scotty (Simon Pegg) and his comedic antics also get some vastly increased screen-time. Then there's the breathless pace of the film, warping from one action scene to the next. It's huge, superbly created and choreographed sequences like this that IMAX was made for.
Despite all of the great performances, special effects and sense of fun, however, there's a slight feeling of weightlessness to the entire endeavour. After all of the build-up to Benedict Cumberbatch's villain, unfortunately there's not a lot of pay-off. Abrams has certainly made Star Trek fun and cool again, and he's made it a weapon of mass appeal to worldwide audiences. But with Into Darkness, he hasn't added much to what he recreated back in 2009, it's just more of the same. While that's no bad thing - it's still a bloody fantastic summer blockbuster, don't get us wrong - you can't help but come away feeling ever so slightly disappointed.