I loved this movie. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is a rare example of a film's execution surpassing its own limits in terms of story. On paper, I should absolutely hate this movie. I knew a significant amount of spoilers going in and I was convinced that the filmmakers made a huge error until I actually watched *how* they did it. Seeing these actors, Chris Pine in particular giving an extraordinary performance as James T. Kirk, I realized that this cast and crew deserves our trust.
To the film itself, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is an improvement over 2009's STAR TREK in terms of narrative. Kirk and his crew have been on the Enterprise for some time now, and Kirk is already showing that he hasn't earned nor does he respect his position well-enough to keep it. Where some people criticized the first film for giving Kirk the Captain's chair too early, that was a key element in Kirk's character development for this film. So, with Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) taking back the Enterprise and making Kirk his first mate, we see the father-son bond between these two characters emerge more poignantly.
However, the relationship that towers over all of this material is that between Kirk and Spock. In the previous film, Leonard Nimoy's Spock mind-melded with Kirk to inform him of the alternate timeline. Part of that mind-meld was Pine's Kirk being bombarded with Original Spock's emotional bond with Original Kirk. This is an overwhelming burden for the younger Kirk- to know that he is destined to be great, and to be best friends with a Vulcan who has, in his younger incarnation up until that point, been a complete asshole. It's like knowing you're going to marry someone after a disastrous first couple of dates (which included you losing your job, getting thrown out of a moving vehicle, etc.). Kirk knows he has to be the bigger guy at this point because Spock is a work in progress. And in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, Spock tests Kirk's resolve early and often, therefore making their ultimate resolution that much more touching.
I have nothing to say about the villain except that he's a huge improvement over the last film's actor and character. I like the execution more than I expected, but this is a part of the movie that's not worth discussing prior to most people seeing it.
The Special Effects were better this time around. The Enterprise looked gorgeous and I'm not a fan of this new ship design at all. The thing is, she earns her namesake and by the film's end she's become an adored family member. I also loved the music, building on the last film's strong score and making more interesting variations throughout.
This entire movie was a surprise for these several improvements in execution. The characters (Scotty in particular) have more dimension to them. I like the filmmakers decisions because they've proven to me that it's not about doing the so-called right thing with these characters, it's about doing those things the right way. While many actors shine in this film, this is Chris Pine's movie. He's a legitimate movie star after his performance here. I'm looking forward to seeing this again this weekend. Go see it too!