Directed by J.J. Abrams

STAR TREK movies have always been at somewhat of a disadvantage with me because the films only fulfill part of the satisfaction that the TV show offered. The show, at least the original series, spent a lot of time exploring and visiting alien civilizations. It truly was a science fiction series rather than an action one a lot of the time. It used the guise of looking at alien civilizations to critique our own fragile society. Sometimes clumsily, but sometimes potently. Rodenberry had ambitions beyond the need to please an audience—a success the show never experienced anyway. Another thing the series did was to put the viewer in awe of the magnitude and majesty of space at a time when it was being explored for the first time. I doubt anyone watching the movies today, despite the special effects, despite the 3D, is coming away with much awe at anything other than those very techniques.

Now taking that into consideration, how does this movie hold up? It’s not as good as the first reboot of several years ago but it’s not entirely its fault. We no longer have the thrill of seeing who will play our beloved James Kirk or Dr. Spock. We no longer match up the two sets of heroes for accents, traits, jokes. And it’s hard to beat a narrative where a team is put together for the first time. It also loses some tension when you realize the people on the screen have to survive for the future series to have happened. Whenever they try to deviate from this essential truth, as they do in this one, it never holds water.

INTO DARKNESS has a lot of good moments. There is a lot of the humor we’ve come to expect. Cumberbatch makes a good villain and the acting is first-rate across the board. INTO THE DARKNESS is very successful in reminding the audience of the importance of friendship, loyalty, a sense of mission and purpose. It looks great. It balances quiet moments with action sequences skillfully. It looks backward and forward with equal dexterity.

But the plot feels generic. The same storyline could have been used in any number of summer series. Giving Spock a love interest and making him a more physical player feels wrong too. Can’t we allow him to remain the character he always was? For me, he losing his “Spockness.” Do we need to have proof that he is not a sissy?

I am hoping, as promised, the next edition will explore rather than wage war. I am hoping that the film will put me in awe of space once again. Why not use those special effects to really put space on display for us instead of the space ships. But until then, this is a better than average film in the series.