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Review: J.J. Abrams goes Michael Bay in new 'Star Trek' flick

The title Star Trek Into Darkness sounds a little like a Calvin Klein fragrance. Into Darkness? What the hell does that mean? Maybe that’s appropriate, though, since this film has subtle hints of being a great action movie while cloaking that it’s actually no such thing.

That isn’t to say that J.J. Abrams doesn’t unleash all hell. He does, especially in 3-D, which greatly complements the terrific visuals (despite those annoying phony lens flares). But Abrams is so good at this sort of thing — high-concept action with good dramatic moments and a perfect amount of humor — that it makes Into Darkness that much more noteworthy for sacrificing the high concept for the low-hanging fruit.

As with any sequel, the plates shift a little bit. There’s friction between Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and Spock slowly but surely becomes a little less Vulcan in every scene. Not sure that’s a good development. There’s a new science officer (Alice Eve), who appears to be a brewing long-term love interest for Bones McCoy (Karl Urban). Meanwhile, Kirk (Chris Pine) risks life and limb at a moment’s notice for his cast and crew and beds a couple ladies — at once, no less.

The best addition is Benedict Cumberbatch, who is assuredly scarier here than his name would indicate. He plays a rogue Starfleet ace named Harrison who has his sights set on destroying Starfleet from within, starting with the high-ranking Admiral Marcus (Peter “Robocop” Weller). For much of the film, Harrison is a serious baddie, probably genetically engineered. He’s just a little too superhuman for a clean, efficient conclusion to the movie, unfortunately, and Abrams’ meticulous nature gets scrapped in favor of a 20-minute Michael Baygasm.

It’s a fun ride, certainly, but the general setup has barely been developed, and it doesn’t deliver an ending that’s worthy of the anticipation or Abrams’ high standards. 

Star Trek Into Darkness: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, directed by J.J. Abrams, PG-13, 129 mins.