After superbly rebooting the franchise with Star Trek in 2009, J.J. Abrams returns to direct what will probably be his probably final Trek film before crossing over to a galaxy far, far away. However, if Star Trek Into Darkness is anything to go by, Star Wars: Episode VII could actually be a very exciting prospect.
Into Darkness bursts onto the screen with the crew of The USS Enterprise negotiating their obligations to the Prime Directive, whilst one of their number seems destined to die in a fiery volcano. This beautifully coloured and perilous set piece sets the tone for the entire film; as upon their return to Earth, Spock and Kirk immediately become involved in a deadly psychological chess game with the terrorist super-villain John Harrison, played astutely by Benedict Cumberbatch. In keeping with Abrams' love of mystery, it is best not to spoil the surprises in store by divulging anything further about the plot. However, I will say that the story promises a two-hour bombardment of jeopardy, action, plot twists, mind games, in-jokes, excellent character development, stylish set pieces, and surprisingly gut-wrenching emotional investment.
As a Trek-literate film fan, rather than a full-blown Trekkie, I think its safe to infer from the audience reaction at my IMAX midnight screening that the film is as hugely entertaining for series newcomers as it is for überfans. Whilst it would probably be advisable to watch Star Trek (2009) and perhaps even The Wrath Of Khan to fully appreciate the character development and insider references - Abrams' gorgeous direction and colourful cinematography combines with an excellent script and dynamic performances from the ensemble cast to produce undoubtedly the finest Trek film, and perhaps even one the most enjoyable blockbusters, ever made.
If the 2009 reboot was Star Trek's Batman Begins, Into Darkness is the franchise's Dark Knight. Fantastic set pieces, superb cinematography, a strong, chaotic villain and the rise of a great hero after a tragic loss. I strongly advise trekking to your nearest IMAX screen to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no fan has gone before.