Star Trek Into Darkness begins with a breathless James Bond-style opening chapter that joins the crew of the Enterprise as they are in the process of completing a mission to prevent a volcano destroying a primitive indigenous species and from that point the film never takes the pedal off the gas as it whips along at warp factor 5 in order to stop the audience focusing on the plot which has more black holes than a Romulan ship full of red matter. (Kirk loses command of his ship for allowing primitive life forms to see his ship rise up out of the water. How did they land in the water without anyone seeing them? Then ten minutes later he has his ship back. Star fleet is awfully fickle).
The plot they do want you to focus on is Kirk's quest to find rogue Star Fleet officer John Harrison (Cumberbatch), who is guilty of a terrorist attack in London and will test Kirk in ways he has not been tested since... well, you can probably see where that is going.
John Harrison is "better" than Kirk. "At what?" he asks. "Everything".
And it would be fair to say that Benedict Cumberbatch is better than everyone else in the film. He is cold, calculating and evil yet justifiable in his actions when his back story is revealed. He blows everyone else off the screen and out the goddamn airlock with his screen presence and is a welcome addition to the cast, along with a surprisingly strong performance from Peter Weller aka Robocop as a Star Fleet Admiral.
Faring less well is Alice Eve whose most memorable contribution is to stand around in her underwear at one point.
Alice was as bemused as the rest of us over the purpose of this shot
The original cast all return and free from the introductory nature of the previous film, free to develop their characters and relationships, especially those between Kirk & Spock and Spock & Uhura, but everyone gets a moment to shine whether it be Sulu getting a moment in the captain's chair, the look of Chekov's fave when told to put on a red shirt and Simon Pegg's increased role of Scotty as comic relief.
The 2009 reboot had used the time travel card to set the new films in an alternate reality where they are starting from scratch and free from the continuity of the previous films.
However the film repeatedly throws in references to iconic moments from that series that it keeps reminding the audience of that universe rather than forging its own one.
I'll say no more for fear of leaving the neutral zone and straying into spoiler territory.
Instead of a fully fledged sequel, it feels more like a calling card for JJ's next job of directing Episode VII, as evidenced in particular by one space chase reminiscent of the Asteroid Field sequence in Empire Strikes Back.
As part of the USS Enterprise's mission to seek out new life and new civilisations, will we see them land on Tatooine or Dagobah in the next film? Or will they be back searching for humpback whales?
N.B. I honestly don't know if it was just my screening but I felt that the 3D conversion was really poor with a lot of ghosting, many scenes feeling out of focus and it also increased the annoyance of the ever-present lens flare.