After his successful re-imagining of the Star Trek universe four years ago, Abrams dives even deeper into the mythology, which is thrilling for fans but might leave newcomers feeling a bit lost. This sequel surges forward with action, drama, romance and a lot of comedy while constantly nodding back to the earlier TV series and films. And the smart screenplay finds ways to deepen all of the characters along the way, as well as offering an unusually complex villain.
The action picks up soon after the first film ends, as Kirk (Pine) is once again in trouble for disobeying the Prime Directive not to interfere with a planet's culture. But his punishment is short-lived, as Starfleet becomes the victim of brutal attacks in London and San Francisco, sending Kirk, his first officer Spock (Quinto) and the gang (Saldana, Urban, Yelchin and Cho, with Pegg following later) into enemy space to chase the villainous John Harrison (Cumberbatch). But of course, there's a much bigger story going on, and Harrison has a reason for his violent behaviour, leading to a series of terrifying showdowns as they all return to earth.
While the script is packed with shadowy characters, there's not much actual "darkness" in this movie. It's a pretty bouncy, energetic ride, continually making us laugh at tetchy interaction and throwaway one-liners, all of which are cleverly character-based rather than merely silly gags. This gives each actor a chance to shine, with Pegg and Urban offering much of the humour with their amusing crankiness, while Saldana provides the stereotypical female emotional beats. As usual, the strongest scenes are between Kirk and Spock, and their shifting bromance is well-played by Pine and especially Quinto. But dominating the whole film is a meaty turn from Cumberbatch as a particularly fearsome nemesis who also happens to be both brainy and openly emotive.
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