OK, full disclosure time here. I am a Star Trek fan. A Trekkie, or Trekker. Whatever. I've watched every incarnation of the show since it first aired 47 years ago, I've been to conventions, toured the Enterprise sets at Paramount studios and met cast members from William Shatner down to the actress who played a doomed yeoman in a 1967 episode.
As such, I was not prepared to like the latest incarnation of Gene Roddenberry's franchise, launched by director J.J. Abrams in 2009.
But I was surprised. I found Abrams' version refreshing in a way that I had not thought possible. Yes, there were some things that were almost sacrilegious to die-hard Trek fans, but I found the end result plausible and not too far out of whack from what I could accept.
That said, "Star Trek Into Darkness" is an even better film than the first. It has a lot of action in it – maybe too much – but it also has a lot of humanity, touches that bring out the characters and make you think this group of people really can boldly go out into the galaxy, representing the best of humankind.
There are some minor spoilers below, but nothing you've probably not already heard about.
Capt. James T. Kirk makes a controversial decision during the film's rousing opening sequence, a decision Spock does not agree with. The captain, argues his first officer, has let his emotions interfere with what should be the natural course of things. The gamble pays off; Kirk saves the day, but his superiors are not pleased. Kirk quickly learns there are repercussions for not following the rules.
Then someone sets in motion a chain of events that stretches from the Klingon Empire to the very heart of Starfleet.
Because his infamous maverick style led to his disgrace, Kirk decides, for once, to solve the problem by going by the book. It's a choice that goes totally against his better instincts.
The film moves along at a brisk clip, interspersed with some light moments and times where the characters learn even more about themselves and their relationships with each other. Chris Pine's Kirk and Zachary Quinto's Spock take a professional relationship and build it into a real friendship. Karl Urban's Dr. Leonard McCoy is there to continually question the sanity of some of Kirk's actions. Anton Yelchin's Ens. Pavel Chekov gets some time away from the bridge, while John Cho shows his Lt. Hikaru Sulu is not to be trifled with. Simon Pegg's Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott isn't even on the Enterprise for half the film but he's integral to saving the day.
And Spock's romantic relationship with Lt. Nyota Uhura – something not even dreamed of in the television series – deepens as she learns more about what reinforces his reasons for not showing emotion.
Page 2 of 2 - The film's standout is Benedict Cumberbatch as villain John Harrison, a man with many secrets of his own. His icy coolness masks an unstoppable rage that leads to devastation wherever he goes. Let's just say that if you live in London or San Francisco in the 22nd century, you might want to move.
There's death and destruction in this film, but it's mostly bloodless. One major character meets a nasty death off-screen, but the sound effects accompanying his demise leave little to the imagination. Kirk and Uhura will need McCoy's talents to fix up some damage they suffer, but Spock sheds nary a drop of green blood despite a melee that would have killed someone without a Vulcan's well-known physical superiority over humans.
The original Star Trek series and films were not the rip-roaring, mile-a-minute pieces this generation now expects on TV and in the theater, and I miss that. Star Trek Into Darkness has some quiet, introspective moments, but it also has a lot of things happening a little too fast, and that's my major gripe.
Some die-hard Trek fans will shun the film, saying it's not "their" Star Trek, and they'd be right. In many ways, the Abrams film is a different animal than what Gene Roddenberry introduced almost a half-century ago. The characters act differently. Things look different. They even sound different.
But it still is "Star Trek." It still envisions a noble side of humanity and our struggle to do what is right, even though it's not always easy and sometimes requires great sacrifice.
That's what Roddenberry envisioned, and that's what Abrams provides.