76251355166072-hh-27766r-2 2First Published: May 25, 2013

DISCLAIMER: I really, really liked Star Trek: Into Darkness. I’d like to start off just saying that. But my feelings about it are a bit complicated, so complicated they’ve ripped this very review in half. Check out HERE for the other half.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is an exciting, smart, and fun adventure movie. It, much likes its predecessor, is an awesome amalgamation of Star Trek’s motifs and themes and Star Wars‘ sense of adventure and obsession with The Hero’s Journey.

Continuing the awesome casting decisions that led us to Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, this installment brings in Benedict Cumberbatch as our villain. I’ll throw up a SPOILER WARNING, but honestly, if what I’m about to say would matter to you, then you probably already know who Cumberbatch is: the Star Trek nerd’s favorite villain, Khan. It was probably one of the worst kept secrets in fandom.  It’s been too long since I’ve watched The Wrath of Khan for me to compare and contrast too much, but Cumberbatch is awesome, physically imposing and mentally terrifying. Also, I’m grateful he didn’t utilize those awful, 6-year-old-me-scarring earbugs that Khan used in Star Trek 2.

JJ Abrams directs with a confidence and excitement. It’s not a fluke that he’s the heir to Steven Spielberg’s dorky genre ambitions, the natural byproduct of natural talent and a steady diet of Indiana Jones as a kid.

And I know a lot of fans of the Original Series or the subsequent television incarnations think that Abrams’ work is all dumb spectacle, but that’s being willfully ignorant. Especially in this installment, Star Trek remains obsessed with questions of right and wrong. There are interesting parallels to the war on terror and, oddly enough, Obama’s contributions to that. The movie is deft enough, however, to rarely make these feel too heavy handed.

There’s a few dull spots. The introduction of Alice Eve as Admiral Marcus’s daughter is flat and uninteresting, and Peter Weller is similarly boring as her father. Weller is a particular dud because his moral decline is the background of the movie. Luckily, Khan is so magnetic it’s hard to notice.

I continue to enjoy the way that Abrams (and, just as importantly, the impressive screenwriting team of Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof) plays with the continuity of the original series, maintaining their series’ uniqueness while enjoying little easter eggs for fans (I may have laughed inappropriately at the tribble cameo). Star Trek: Into Darkness is a worthy successor to the first one (which was itself that rarest of creatures, a ridiculously successful remake).

SIDE NOTE: Do NOT play the Star Trek drinking game during Star Trek: Into Darkness, at least not if you have to drive/bike/walk/or-other-wise-move-around after. For those not initiated, the Star Trek drinking game is simple: drink every time there’s a lens flare. Guaranteed to mess you up.

DVD/Blu-Ray Extras
First of all, Digital Copy! I’m loving how Paramount is managing to keep their Home Distribution branch from becoming obsolete by giving viewing options within one purchase. HOWEVER, and this is a big “however”, I find it incredibly annoying when certain features are only available in certain formats. Visuals aren’t as important to me as storytelling so Blu-Ray is an upgrade I’ve always been hesitant to invest in. But when you make the DVD copy a barren feature-only piece of metal, it feels like a power move to force us last holdouts to buy the Blu-Ray (and the film does look admittedly Fabulous with that tech). BUT, Star Trek Into Darkness takes it a bit further by placing by far its best feature (an Enhanced Commentary) out of reach of those who are watching a disc of any kind. It’s only on the Digital Copy. So, unless you’re watching on  your computer (in which case the film’s sprawling visuals don’t get their due), at best all you get is a handful of interesting but way-too-short featurettes (only on the Blu-Ray, obviously the DVD is just the movie because DVDs can’t have nice things anymore). Come on, evil overlords who run the film industry from the financial and non-artistic side, just put everything in one place so that really interesting insights from the really interesting people who made the movie (and those who made Star Trek are particularly interesting) don’t get missed, no matter the medium through which the film is being enjoyed.