When J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise with his 2009 Star Trek, he did so by taking an approach quite different to what had come before him. Abrams himself said he wasn't a big Trek fan as a child, preferring rival Star Wars. And he did take a lot from the latter to make his version of the former. Taking the highly diplomatic and science-fiction-heavy adventures of Trek and injecting them with a lot of the action-adventure elements of Wars. The result was one of my favorite movies of that year. A popcorn entertainment that fired on all cylinders from beginning to end a glorious adventure with an incredibly charming cast and lots of thrilling action sequences.
Abrams is particularly good at mixing comedic banter with fast-paced action sequences. His quick directorial style made Star Trek a really good movie and is, once again, the best part of Star Trek Into Darkness. People on the internet likes to call Abrams a hack. Either because they feel he is ripping of the style of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, because he relies too heavily on mysteries that don't pay off or because he uses too many lense-flares. I am not particularly bothered by most of these aspects of Abrams' filmmaking, mainly because he is such a competent action director. He knows how to shoot all of the scenes that are required for this type of film and he knows how to pace a scene so it reaches its maximum entertainment capacity. All these virtuous elements of Abrams' style are in display in Star Trek Into Darkness, which is a compulsively watchable movie. But also a movie with fundamental problems.
Fundamental problems on the script level, that is. This is a big shame, because Abrams did proof back in '09 that he could make a terrific movie even with a decent, if problematic script (it had a really weak villain). The people behind that script, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, are back for Into Darkness. This time they team up with Abrams regular Damon Lindelof and the result is... disappointing. Despite the previous movie setting an alternative timeline for the new adventures of the Enterprise crew, the writers have decided to link the story of Into Darkness to some very heavy aspects of Star Trek mythology that end up feeling very weak and shoved-in, showing the worst, most anticlimactic tendencies of the internet-age approach of keeping a film's plot full of secrets. Secrets handled in a way that will surely enrage Trek-fans and underwhelm everybody else.
The problems in the script go beyond what they do to the Star Trek mythology. The plot is weirdly complicated, with motivations not entirely clear and a lot of clunky dialogue and plotting. By the end of the movie all stakes seem weirdly irrelevant and we're left with some very heavy-handed 9/11 imagery. But like I said above, even with those flaws, the acting (especially Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto) and the kinetic direction make this a very entertaining movie. You won't be bored when you watch Star Trek Into Darkness, but you may start to doubt some of its aspects once the movie is over.