zoe2The Star Trek franchise is the most successful science fiction offering in television history, and the Gene Roddenberry brainchild is the most prolific science fiction franchise in the history of the big screen as well with 12 “Star Trek” films having been produced since 1979.

Star Trek: Into Darkness” is the second installment since the canon was relaunched in 2009. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Benedict Cumberbatch, “Into Darkness” finds the crew of the starship Enterprise in yet another mission to save the lives of tens of billions of people. It begins as a Starfleet officer desperate to save the life of his dying child is given an offer that will save her life, but would ultimately result in death for many others in a bombing at a top secret design bureau in London .

As we’ve come to expect from Captain James T. Kirk, he is found once again disregarding the rules as he finds First Officer Spock on the verge of a horrible death-just as he has been in at least 2 other films. Despite grave risk to the rest of his crew, against the insistence of Spock himself, Kirk rescues his first officer.  In doing so Kirk exposes the Enterprise to the primitive civilization of planet Nibiru, breaking the Prime Directive once again. If Starfleet Command were a modern military outfit Captain Kirk may have been court martial-ed and perhaps executed by now. Seriously? This character doesn’t follow any rules and could possibly be the world’s first ADHD starship captain. He’s just all over the place, and constantly disobeys direct orders.

After his latest act of blatant insubordination, Kirk and crew are summoned back to Earth to be held accountable. Kirk is busted down to first officer and is to continue serving aboard the Enterprise under his predecessor Admiral Christopher Pike. Before the Enterprise can disembark on her new orders to hunt down and eliminate those responsible for the London bombing, Starfleet Command is attacked by a man described as former Starfleet agent John Harrison. Pike is killed during the attack and Kirk asks for permission to pursue the assailant who is revealed to have teleported to Kronos, the homeworld of the Klingon Empire and a major no-go area for all Starfleet personnel.

The prevailing wisdom throughout the organization is to avoid war with the Klingons. But Admiral Alexander Marcus is one of but a handful of Starfleet officers who feel that war with the Klingons is inevitable. He agrees to allow Kirk and crew to pursue Harrison to edge of the Klingon space and arms him with 72 top-secret photon torpedoes to accomplish the task.

But all is never exactly as it seems in this intergalactic game of cloak and dagger. Unlike many past installments to the “Star Trek” franchise, “Into Darkness” is not trying to replicate the feel of those that came before it but has a distinctive feel all its own. This is not your father’s Kirk, nor your mother’s Uhura for that matter.

enterpriseChris Pine plays Captain James T. Kirk with frantic energy and rebelliousness not unlike the energy William Shatner brought to the role nearly 60 years ago. Zachary Quinto plays the stoic and logical Commander Spock so well that one would have thought he was made for the role. But he couldn’t have been made for the role seeing as though Leonard Nimoy out-Spocked him in his brief cameo appearance in the film. Be that as it may, Quinto did an excellent job portraying Spock. Zoe Saldana played Lt. Uhura with scintillating intelligence: balancing sex appeal and nerd appeal in equal measure.

In this film we find an Uhura who is much more fiery than the version played by Nichelle Nichols. The modern rendition is feisty, assertive and isn’t afraid to put herself in the line of fire. In “Into  Darkness” we find a heroine and not a supporting character. I must also say it was a pleasure listening to a relationship discussion between a logical Vulcan and an angry black woman.

zoeThese days it seems like every time there’s a show-stopping supporting role in a summer blockbuster that individual is more than likely British. In actor Benedict Cumberbatch you get an actor who is good and British, and a great actor as well. He plays genetically enhanced human Khan Noonien Sigh with delightful wickedness. Always the fastest, strongest, most intelligent man in the room, Khan is an all time sci-fi super villain great. Casting for this particular role was critical and they nailed it with Cumberbatch. Rare is the actor that can make make an audience secretly cheer for a murderous would be conqueror. Benedict is just that kind of actor.

As was to be expected “Star Trek: Into Darkness” is filled with the very best in modern CGI animation that is certain to thrill the summer blockbuster crowd, but it proves itself a double threat as the acting surpasses that of most other summer films of its ilk. The dialogue is crisp and witty, something most sci-fi can only quantify as either or but rarely both. Big, bold and filled with action, “Into Darkness” is worth the price of admission.