SPOILER ALERT: THE FOLLOWING REVEALS MAJOR PLOT POINTS FROM THE MOVIE. For instance, the villain is Khan. You know how everyone connected with Star Trek Into Darkness has spent the last few months saying that the villain of the film would not be genetically-engineered superman Khan Noonien Singh? They were lying. Mind you, the film's version of Khan isn't faintly like the version created by Ricardo Montalban in the Star Trek TV episode Space Seed and more memorably in the ripping good movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. But they use the name.
In Wrath, Montalban's Khan became one of cinema's great villains. Decked out into well-styled long hair and Road Warrior-esque clothing with the front cut way down low so you could see his massive, bulging pecs, Khan taunted and seethed and raged. He took William Shatner's famed hamminess and dared to up the ante. What a nerve! What a treat.
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes) plays Khan in the 2013 version, only for the first hour he pretends to be Commander John Harrison, a Starfleet officer gone rogue. Cumberbatch is very skilled at talking in menacing tones and screaming. He serves as a perfectly fine bad guy, so why slap the burden of the Khan name and legacy on him?
Because director J.J. Abrams (Lost) and his writers (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof) continue to treat their version of the series as a smorgasbord, that's why. In their first reboot they wrote in an alternate time line twist that allows them to pick and choose bits of Star Trek characters and storylines and then twist them however they see fit. Fair enough and some of it works, but some decisions are simply puzzling.
Before I continue, I should mention that I thought Star Trek Into Darkness was mostly fun as I watched it. It was later that creative decisions started nagging at me.
Back to the puzzling part. Abrams and company seem to think that Trek fans will be delighted to encounter so many references from the TV series and previous movies scattered about with new timeline twists. Not in the case of Khan. Evoking the original character and giving us the new all-grim-and-'roid-rage version is like popping in a Van Halen disc expecting David Lee Roth and getting Sammy Hagar instead. And once new Khan's identity is revealed, his storyline goes from dumb to dumber.
As for the Enterprise crew, not much has changed since the last movie. James Kirk (Chris Pine) remains an intergalactic cocksman prone to acting without thinking and justifying his actions afterwards (the film opens with Kirk and company saving some nice aliens with painted faces by ignoring the Prime Directive and foisting a new spaceship-based belief system on them). Spock (Zachary Quinto) squabbles with his girlfriend Uhuru (Zoe Saldana) in front of others, which seems inappropriate for both his Vulcan and human sides. He gets to yell "Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!" this time and does it with vigor.
As with the original series and the movies, Bones (Karl Urban) gets surly, Scotty (Simon Pegg) gets exasperated and Sulu (John Cho) gets nothing, while Chekov (Anton Yelchin) seems more whiny than usual.
Oh, did I mention that Bones cures death? Yeah, there's a noble sacrifice as in Wrath of Khan (with a kicky twist, natch), but it's quickly undone, because the doctor's experiments with Tribbles and genetically-enhanced superman blood results in a shot that cures death. So Starfleet's got that going for them. Wonder what humanity will do with this serum, which could CHANGE LIFE AS WE KNOW IT ON A FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL? My guess is they'll never mention it again.
Star Trek Into Darkness is fun and full of action. Just don't think. And pretend it's not Khan.