Enterprise officers Spock (Zachary Quinto) and James Kirk (Chris Pine) interrogate prisoner John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) in “Star Trek Into Darkness.” The movie is a sequel to the 2009 hit that rebooted the 1960s TV show and subsequent film series.

Paramount Pictures/courtesy

Enterprise officers Spock (Zachary Quinto) and James Kirk (Chris Pine) interrogate prisoner John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) in “Star Trek Into Darkness.” The movie is a sequel to the 2009 hit that rebooted the 1960s TV show and subsequent film series.

‘Into Darkness’ a stellar ‘Star Trek’ continuation

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Andy Bockelman

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press. Contact him at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

Find more columns by Bockelman here.

“Star Trek Into Darkness,” PG-13

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Run time: 133 minutes

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Benedict Cumberbatch

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas. For a complete list of this week's movie times, click here.

— For years, Tribbles, Klingons and the Prime Directive were terms that appealed to only a select few. Some may be against the change in what’s cool, but “Star Trek Into Darkness” keeps the quest going to make these things universal.

As captain of the USS Enterprise, James Kirk (Chris Pine) is responsible for making command decisions on a moment’s notice, not all of which fly with his superiors at Starfleet Command. When he breaks more regulations than usual on his latest mission, Kirk is demoted to first officer under his mentor, Rear Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) in an effort to rein in his recklessness.

No sooner is the loose cannon disciplined when he is left in charge once again, when Pike is the latest victim of a series of assaults on Starfleet by rogue agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who promptly flees Earth to the desolate planet of Kronos, beyond the reach of the organization’s jurisdiction.

Given the approval to seek out Harrison and bring him to justice, Kirk’s desire for vengeance is met with disapproval by second-in-command Spock (Zachary Quinto), a stickler for the rules as always. Their argument about how to handle the situation only becomes more problematic when they learn Harrison’s motivation for his actions and realize they may be in too deep to solve the issue.

Pine’s insistence in making his Kirk light-years different from that of William Shatner is just as prevalent in his second go, with the more seasoned galactic explorer still a little immature — who else in the 23rd century would listen to the Beastie Boys so religiously? — but always man enough to own up to his mistakes and risk his life for his crew.

Quinto keeps up with him best he can as everyone’s favorite half-Vulcan, struggling to understand the many emotions that seem to rule all his colleagues, particularly tempestuous girlfriend Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Then again, a lack of feelings and a love for logic only can help when you’re trying to defuse an active volcano about to wipe out an alien civilization.

Wonderful thing, that cold fusion.

The rest of the Enterprise gang is just as welcome in their return: Lt. Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) at the helm; Ensign Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) in over his head with a hasty promotion following chief engineer Montgomery Scott’s (Simon Pegg) resignation on moral grounds; and perpetual grump Dr. Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban), whose usual scowl is lightened a little by new crew member Carol Marcus (Alice Eve).

Who knew Bones could flirt?

As far as these familiar faces go, it’s the new one that makes the biggest impact. The ever-menacing Cumberbatch offers a deliciously wicked tour de force as the Machiavellian superhuman Harrison, whose true identity is pretty obvious right away for serious Trekkies even before his true name is bellowed to the heavens.

You had to know J.J. Abrams and his writing team would revisit the classic canon as they create their own chronology of Gene Roddenberry’s original vision. Keeping true with the parallel timelines introduced in Abrams’ first “Trek,” the franchise forges ahead, driven by dual engines — the promise of new ideas and the reverence for standards that never get old.

Abrams proves his initial reboot still has infinite possibilities and can continue a story better than the more segmented films of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Just watch “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and “Wrath of Khan” back to back and see how many changes there are.

This second in the new, action-packed series succeeds in being less episodic as the Enterprisers face their most fearsome foe yet, but it sometimes borders on being a perfect mirror image of some of the most important moments in “Trek” history rather than its own fully defined movie.

A complete newbie might not recognize some of the more glaring moments of mimicry, but the more seasoned may see it as a lack of originality rather than the tribute it’s intended to be. Even so, the friendship between Pine and Quinto’s Kirk and Spock has the same — and sometimes greater — bearing as that of Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, and that makes all the difference.

“Into Darkness” keeps the dream of “Star Trek” on course with only minor malfunctions. Abrams may have his work cut out for him trying to take on a new “Star Wars” trilogy in addition to his involvement with this series, but the future definitely looks promising for all nerd-kind.

Andy Bockelman is a Craig resident, freelance writer and Denver Film Critics Society accredited film fanatic who occasionally reviews movies playing in Steamboat Springs.

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