This review is spoiler-free.
Star Trek: Into Darkness picks up a few years after the last one left off, with Kirk (Chris Pine) and crew up to their eyeballs in trouble. Unfortunately, this type of trouble, conveyed in a white-knuckle opening action sequence, is over the top even for Kirk, and he is reprimanded.
Amidst tensions along the neutral zone and war threatening to break out any day between the Federation and the Klingons, a tragedy occurs on Earth, one that hits close to home for the arrogant Captain. He gains permission to go after the terrorist, and from there, you sit back and enjoy the ride.
And what a ride it is.
From beginning to end, this is the best movie I've seen in theaters in a long time. JJ Abrams is at his best here, and it is amazing how he manages to simultaneously pay homage to what's established while making it his own.
Equally amazing is the ability of the core cast to emulate the iconic roles they've stepped into without imitating the actors. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto (reprising his role as Commander Spock) play off each other beautifully, with Kirk's brash devil-may-care attitude clashing wonderfully with Spock's staunch dedication to logic, law, and order. Although Pine once again shines as Captain James T. Kirk, it is Zachary Quinto who steals every scene he's in as he manages to greatly build upon his character, staying true to everything we know and love about Spock will showing off brilliant displays of emotion when the time calls for it.
Benedict Cumberbatch is flawless as John Harrison, the antagonist who leads Kirk into a catastrophic game of cat and mouse. While longtime fans are in for a (somewhat expected yet well-kept secret) treat from this character, he brings a relatable humanity to the role that forces you to care for his motivations. After all, who knows what each of us might do if those we loved were held hostage?
JJ Abrams' use of sweeping cameras and intense close-ups makes for some of the most breathtaking action to grace the screen in a long time. From claustrophobic ground-based firefights to high-speed aerial pursuits to the utter dangers of what can happen to a ship in warp space, the action is incredible.
When you think it's climaxing, it's not. It's just beginning.
I will not spoil the best parts, but fans both young and old will love this movie, which continues to build upon the new timeline while respecting what's been established. Frenetically paced, very well executed and mildly predictable, Star Trek Into Darkness easily leads as the best film of the summer thus far.
Thanks for reading.