J.J. Abrams' second Star Trek feature delivers on the action, grows some of the characters nicely, and features strong thematic and allegorical subtext. He also settles on telling a story that's been told before, and told better.
Jeffrey Siniard 5/18/13.
In all honesty, Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, and Roberto Orci (i.e. the filmmakers) had a nearly impossible task ahead of them. They were building on an incredibly successful prequel, one that that re-ignited Star Trek as a franchise, generated huge box-office success, and received tremendous popular and critical acclaim.
The reason for the success was twofold: they didn't sacrifice either the essential characters, nor the humanistic optimism that informed Star Trek's worldview.
As a result of that success, the filmmakers gave themselves the freedom to re-explore Original Series-Era Star Trek without fear of canon. Personally, I also think Paramount gave them more money for the sequel and the responsibility to grow the franchise. Which to marketing folks, means one thing: Make it safe and make it saleable.
In the Hollywood-verse of Star Trek, that means one thing... Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
As the universally-decreed "Best Star Trek Movie Ever Made," Khan is both the standard by which good Star Trek is measured, and unfortunately "a pattern to follow" as Kirk says of the Ilia probe in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
And in the case of later Star Trek (generally), and specifically in the case of Star Trek Into Darkness, my response might be the same as Spock's was to Kirk: "Indeed. They may have followed it too precisely."
Still, Star Trek Into Darkness is very good, and in places it's great. It also works as very good, and occasionally great Star Trek. Let's see why below the jump: