With the first Star Trek reboot, Abrams and the Bad Robot crew put all of their effort into creating a brand new timeline, where the adventure could be as bright and shiny and new as the lens-flared bridge of the Enterprise. With Into Darkness, they redoubled and refocused those efforts into saying “Nope, never mind.” While Darkness is indeed a fresh spin on the Star Trek franchise, it is nonetheless a mish-mash of three classic Trek stories (Which, for spoilers purposes, I won’t say here. But when you watch the movie, you’ll know.), and not a whole lot of extra room for imagination. Both of the new Trek films are essentially the same platform, moving in apparently opposite directions.
That being said, it’s a fun film, but little more. It’s clear that the intent was to straddle the line between new content and a nod to the past, but every nod had my Trekkie girlfriend and I doubled over for most of the movie. Into Darkness falls into the same trap with clever references that Iron Man 3 did with witty banter: they pop up every six minutes, turning serious moments into the ubiquitous, “Ah! I see what they did there!” sort of moments. Worse still, each and every nod is the sort of nod that you mention half-heartedly to your friends while the trailers roll: “Wouldn’t it be funny if they did this?” you’ll say, and Trek delivers.
My continuing disappointment with New Trek, while the movie was fun, is that it neglects to carry over the deep sociological and philosophical stance of the original series (and indeed, every series besides this one). There are no social issues confronted, no great revelations about the nature of humanity or society. Even the welcome attempt at diversifying the bridge crew with a variety of new people/species falls flat. While have an android ensign and a new alien crewmember seemed cool at first, the effect is lessened when their vocal effects sound identical. Never even mind the fact that we learn neither of their names.
All told, you should see the new Trek film if you’ve seen any Trek film. If you’re a fan of the classics, have your grains of salt handy. Large, large grains of salt.