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Photo by Zade Rosenthal - Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Here’s the good news: J.J. Abrams and his writing team haven’t dropped the ball. This sequel to their 2009 reboot of Star Trek is lively, well-made popcorn entertainment. Chris Pine continues to impress us as the maverick Captain Kirk, and his castmates come through with flying colors, even if some of them don’t have a great deal to do in this installment.

On the other hand, Abrams and company have followed a Hollywood truism in the comic-book movie field: if you want to have a really good villain, hire a Brit, in this case the versatile Benedict Cumberbatch. He manages to underplay even potential moments of scenery-chewing, to good effect, and makes a worthy adversary for Kirk and the Enterprise crew.

Writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who worked on the first film) and Damon Lindelof (another longtime Abrams cohort) have neatly woven moments of humor and personal interaction into their narrative, which makes a nice contrast to the almost constant crises the story hurls in the heroes’ path. If there’s any criticism to be leveled at the screenplay, it’s that every new incident is a matter of life and death. There’s no real sense of perspective.

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Photo by Zade Rosenthal - Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

That also means that there’s never a dull moment in Star Trek Into Darkness, which is infinitely preferable to the alternative. It’s hard to nitpick too much when you’re being so roundly entertained. The film has most sequels beat by a country mile; all that’s missing is the sense of discovery we shared when we saw Pine and the other actors inhabiting their iconic roles for the first time.

I saw the film in IMAX 3-D, and while it looked great I can’t say the 3-D added much to the experience. But Abrams apparently shot much of the feature in 65mm, which makes IMAX an ideal way to appreciate the handsome production design and outstanding visual effects.