[Minor spoilers here; I don't get too specific.]
I never thought I’d ever say these words: There’s too much Star Trek in this Star Trek movie.
The movie literally hits the ground running, quickly crafting a terrorist hunt scenario. Along the way, something doesn’t feel right, and a mystery is introduced along side the hunt, and some hard moral decisions present themselves.
And then, half way through, it climaxes with The Big Reveal, at which point I’m jarringly yanked out of the movie. It then turns into a heavily modified, often ham-fisted remix of very familiar elements from previous Star Trek films. The small hat-tips here and there were fun: a model of the NX-01, a civilian ship confiscated from Mudd, McCoy experiments on a dead tribble, etc. But then as if to say “Hey, Trekkies and/or Trekkers, hold onto your pointy ears, because that’s not all!”, the entire second half of the film turns into a big-budget recreation of an entirely different Star Trek film as interpreted through the lens of a 14-year-old fan fiction author.
That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining.
It’s all just a bit frustrating. The film was doing a terrific job all on it’s own without the massive fan-service crutch. It lends the film a sense of insecurity. The original series connections were entirely justified in the 2009 movie. Here, however, they really should have cut the cord and allowed the story to stand on it’s own. The “John Harrison” character would have made a wonderful, terrifying new villain, and very little would have had to be changed.
On the plus side, I’m fairly certain new fans will be unaffected by any of the major criticisms I’ve leveled here, and will enjoy the entire film immensely. Star Trek Into Darkness is, ultimately, a seriously fun, epic adventure that provides a much more engaging story than it’s predecessor. I just hope the next outing stands on it’s own.