In the captain’s log from the 1960s TV series, James Tiberius Kirk brazenly split an infinitive as the crew of the Enterprise embarked on a five-year mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before”.
The three screenwriters of Star Trek Into Darkness abandon that crusading spirit, harking back to bygone Starfleet missions for this action-packed sequel to JJ Abrams’s 2009 revamp of the franchise.
Phasers are set to stunningly nostalgic as the bonds of trust between gung-ho Kirk (Chris Pine) and human-Vulcan science officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) are tested to the limit.
Characters and scenarios from old Star Trek data logs are woven into a simple storyline that unfolds in fits and starts between overblown set pieces including a spectacular descent into an erupting volcano and a high-speed jetpack ride through a field of lethal debris.
Like its predecessor, the second film is digitally polished to within a light year of its life including ridiculous amounts of lens flare from gleaming starship consoles. Sunglasses ought to be standard issue for the crew because we’re frequently dazzled by reflected light.
Between the pyrotechnic-laden heroics, which are evenly distributed between Pine, Quinto and their co-stars, there is a semblance of plot.
Starfleet is rocked by a terrorist attack in London masterminded by the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch).
Kirk, who has been stripped of his captaincy and now serves under his mentor, Rear Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), becomes embroiled in the hunt for Harrison.
Predictably, Harrison doesn’t intend to surrender, so Kirk gives chase flanked by Spock, communications officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana), navigator Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin), chief medical officer Dr Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban), chief engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) and helmsman Sulu (John Cho).
Feisty science officer Dr Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), who strips down to her underwear in one scene for no discernible reason, is a new addition to the team.
The crew races against time to stop Harrison from obliterating everyone they hold dear but success hinges on the ultimate sacrifice.
Star Trek Into Darkness is bolted together with clinical precision by Abrams, who orchestrates each daredevil chase and skirmish with breathless abandon.
As a visual spectacle, the sequel rocks. On a deeper level, the warp core of the script fails to hit factor 5 let alone 10, keeping characters’ inner turmoil hidden behind copious special effects.
There are some delightfully terse verbal exchanges between Pine and Quinto, and a half-hearted attempt to dissect Spock’s decision to chart a coolly logical course through life.
Yet every time we are poised to delve into messy raw emotion - the really good stuff - the sequel slingshots instead into adrenaline-pumping action, leaving us as the title promised, in the dark.