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Star_Trek_Into_Darkness_32People say Hollywood has run out of ideas. How else do you explain all the sequels, prequels and remakes that clog up multiplexes? “Star Trek: Into Darkness” could easily have been lumped in with those movies.

It’s a reboot of a movie franchise that was based on a television show. So it’s a sequel AND a prequel (something so illogical Spock would never approve) featuring a cast of characters originally created by Gene Roddenberry when Lester B. Pearson was still prime minister.

Nothing new there, and there’s nothing much new in J.J. Abrams’ film—they boldly go where many men have gone before—but rarely has a retread of material been as exciting and entertaining as this movie.

The story gets underway when an act of terror robs James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) of a close friend. The reckless Starfleet captain becomes determined to bring the perpetrator to justice. Taking the Enterprise and his usual crew—Spock (Zachary Quinto), Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and a new addition, weapons expert Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve)—to a war zone populated by Klingons and one brilliant and ruthless genetically engineered adversary (Benedict Cumberbatch) he must make difficult decisions to finish his mission.

There are certain things you can count on when paying money to see a “Star Trek” movie. Spock will have pointy ears, Bones will speak in terrible metaphors, Scotty will speak in a thick brogue and Kirk will have a thing for alien girls.

All accounted for here. In fact, Abrams skillfully reacquaints the audience with the characters during a wild opening sequence that establishes the traits of each of the major players. It’s a primer for newbies and a reminder for fans, but it also establishes the film’s warp speed pace.

Abrams doesn’t waste a second of screen time, paring the story down to the essentials. The action, story and characters work in harmony, resulting in a near perfect popcorn movie.

Abrams finds a balance of old—see above—and new—the space suits are redesigned, the tech is different and there are younger characters—that should satisfy hard-core Trekkers and tenderfoot Trekkies. For fans there are in-jokes like Kirks telling two expendable members of the landing team to “lose the red shirts.”

No summer tentpole is complete without a compelling bad guy and Benedict Cumberbatch gives good villain. Prone to opining about “walking over your cold corpses,” he has a great villain stare and is suitably unpredictable.

But it’s not all dire and dark like the recent “Iron Man” outing. It’s funnier than you might expect it to be, but it avoids the kitsch sometimes associated with the original series. Abrams finds genuine humor in the characters and situations.

Surprisingly many of the laughs come from the highly logical Spock. “I’m Vulcan,” he says, “we embrace technicalities.” Zachary Quinto’s deadpan delivery sells the gags, but he also does a good job of playing both sides of Spock’s make-up—Vulcan and human—bringing some subtle but real emotion to many of his scenes. SPOILER: A suitable title might have been “Star Trek 2: The Tears of Spock.”

It’s not all perfect, the final action sequence is exciting and well done, but is much more standard than the work that comes before—think Michael Bay—and you might go temporarily blind from the CRAZY lens flares and occasionally distracting 3D, but it is such a good time that none of that matters much.

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