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Film review: Star Trek Into Darkness (12A)

It's science fiction, but not as we know it

JJ Abrams's second Star Trek film gets off to an exciting start during an all-action prologue on a colourful planet called Nibiru, overflowing with scarlet flora and volcanic larva.

It's just the kind of thing you would have seen in Gene Roddenberry's original series – had it had recourse to multi-million-dollar budgets and a digital paintbox. But upon returning to Starfleet Command, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is reprimanded for having begun a cargo cult on Nibiru, and told not to expect any more such interplanetary jaunts.

Whereupon the film unfortunately retreats into a backwards-looking reworking of one of the earlier films in the series. What's more, a terrorist attack by a baddie calling himself John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) causes Starfleet to forget its mission statement and turn into gung-ho neo-conservatives.

Perhaps every generation gets the Star Trek it deserves, but are such unsubtle parables about US militarism really all we can ask of our sci-fi cinema these days? Some deepening of the odd-couple bromance between hot-headed Kirk and the even-tempered Mr Spock (Zachary Quinto) provides a little human interest. Or half-human, at least.

But this remnant of the dynamics of the original series only serves to remind us what we have lost: space-age utopianism has given way to post-9/11 insecurity; the science-fiction of ideas has been supplanted by mere bombast and digital spectacle. We're not boldly going anywhere.