**Warning: Contains possible mild spoilers**
THE second of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movies is many things, chief among them is that it's one heck of an epic action flick that proves in this blockbuster season, superheroes aren't everything.
That's even if the crew of the USS Enterprise are doing some superhero things - see Spock as an actual Vulcanologist diving into a volcano in the opening scene! See Bones and Kirk do an Aquaman! See Kirk fly through space without the aid of a spaceship! Yes, he did that last time but this time, it's way cooler.
And add in the movie's battles small and great - one minute it's shootouts in the Klingon boondocks, the next it's spaceship vs spaceship at warp nine, and it doesn't lack for mad spectacle or constant peril.
Nor does it scrimp on fan-bait Star Trek legend of old, having established its own origin story and alternative timeline in 2008's predecessor.
But what's interesting about Into Darkness, is that it's also bit of a vampire movie. Yes, really.
No, no-one gets bitten and the only fangs bared are when Lieutenant Uhura gets miffed with her pointy-earred boyfriend's logical recklessness.
But the story's terrific villain, Benedict Cumberbatch in a role which has resonances with one of the better Trek movies of the past, is physically and haematologically a cut above the rest and is seemingly back from the dead and speaking in a voice that would have got him a gig in the days of Hammer Horror.
Once the movie gets into gear - after that rollicking volcanic prologue and re-establishing the Kirk-Spock prickly bro-mance - much of the movie is spent chasing Cumberbatch's "John Harrison", a Starfleet officer turned rogue terrorist, from Earth to the forbidden zone and further.
Quite a ride it is too. But even at its generally breathless pace, it still has time for everything from ethical debates about space exploration versus militarization, to comedy (care of Karl Urban's Bones and Simon Pegg's Scotty and his rock oyster-faced sidekick) to a spot of romance and not just between the Enterprise's two sexiest officers either.
Kirk once again proves himself an intergalactic Lothario happy to report for duty after an apparent threesome with some pointy-tailed gals from another galaxy.
Later he becomes quite smitten with Dr Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), the Enterprise's new weapons expert who's a bit of a bombshell herself. Spoilerphobics beware: don't google her character name until after you've seen the movie, because it may ruin the next installment a little too.
So far as this one goes, Into Darkness with its jeopardy-heaped-upon-jeopardy final act does take its toll on a story which suffers a little from endless ending syndrome. But getting there is an absolute blast.
Never heard of this Star Trek thing before? Here's a great place to start.
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg
Director: J.J. Abrams
Running time: 132 mins
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