I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness yesterday.
I did not like the movie, it felt about as insulting to Star Trek as Phantom Menace was to Star Wars. The film spent just about every moment trying to name-drop Star Trek references and plainly ripping off scenes from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; rip-off is the proper adjective, despite attempts to appear otherwise, it was not playing a homage to it.
I enjoyed the 2009 film, it felt like a fresh take on Star Trek. It was heavy on the action but it didn't inundate itself with references to the past like it was so desperately trying to fit in as this film does.
Following will contain spoilers for the film. Stop if you'd rather not know about them yet.
It starts out with Kirk and McCoy on a planet, and Uhura, Sulu, and Spock in a shuttlecraft over an active volcano ready to blow on the same planet. Kirk is running away from natives for a reason that's never expelled, McCoy apparently without a clue of what Kirk did either. At the same time, Spock is in the shuttlecraft ready to jump down into the maw of the volcano and try to cause it to become inert and unable to kill the natives. Right here is basically where it starts to go all wrong, especially when Spock is soon after recanting "Prime directive! Prime directive!". This is not too dissimilar to the situation in the Next Generation episode "Pen Pals" in which the Enterprise crew are facing a moral dilemma of letting an entire civilization die to natural disaster and abide the Prime Directive, or save them and violate it. The Directive is set up to prevent Starfleet from interfering with the natural development of other worlds; that any member of Starfleet should be willing to give their lives before ever violating it.
The crew is ALREADY violating the prime directive by even trying to stop this volcano, and when Spock is stranded on top of it, he keeps telling Kirk over the comm to not save him because it'll require the Enterprise to emerge from the ocean they've parked in, exposing themselves to the natives. Of course they do so, and the saving grace the film does have in this regard, is that Pike comes down with reprimands against Kirk for both actions, that of trying to stop the volcano and saving Spock.
Following, there is a Starfleet officer manipulated by a terrorist, under the premise that he can save the officer's terminally-ill daughter, under the exchange that he blows up the Starfleet Data Archives in London. In the meantime, Pike pulls strings, reinstates Kirk as his own first officer onboard the Enterprise again. He and Kirk are both called into a Starfleet meeting about the terrorist to figure out the next course of action about him; during it, the same terrorist, now under the presumed name John Harrison, starts to shoot up their meeting room in Starfleet HQ in San Francisco. Kirk almost saves the day, though John is able to transport out before being killed; apparently all the way to Qo'noS.
So with the approval of Admiral Marcus, Kirk goes on a manhunt to capture and kill John Harrison. The comment is mentioned that it would spark war between the Klingons and the Federation is thrown out, but not regarded very highly. It's expected that being a deserted part of Qo'noS (misspelled in the film; also I don't know how believable this can actually be), that the Klingons may not notice them (even though the Enterprise is in Klingon space, near the homeworld... ugh.). A chase ensues, Uhura tries to talk the Klingons into allowing them arrest the fugitive (in this universe, she can speak Klingon, even though in the original she couldn't speak a word of it; it IS a separate timeline with different backgrounds, but I doubt that Nero's influence changed what languages Uhura studied. Oh well.), just as it is starting to not look like she has good chances, Harrison begins slaughtering the Klingons in mass no matter how many of them come out. With the help of Sulu issuing a warning message to him, he willingly surrenders to Kirk at the idea that 72 specially-developed torpedos are pointed directly at him.
And this is where the movie starts to be a shallow copy of Wrath of Khan; or tries to be. None of the backstory of Space Seed or depth of narrative that the episode and film both had previously.
The torpedos are revealed to actually contain the cryogenetically frozen members of the SS Botany Bay, and John Harrison is actually Khan Noonien Singh. I was almost screaming "no, no, no, no" in my head. Why is there a pasty British guy playing Khan? In the original, he was supposed to be of Northern Indian descent; Ricardo Montalbán was a Mexican so that was a little off, but couldn't the film bothered having an Indian playing Khan? He doesn't even have a chest worth showing off.
Khan convinces Kirk to open up one of the torpedos to find out what's inside. Carol Marcus, on board here because why not recall an old character from a 30 year old film, is the premier weapons expert and offers to open it up on a nearby planetoid (still in Qo'noS's region of space), and she brings down McCoy too. The reason for this is stated to be because of his great hands-work (established in DS9 when Jadzia commented that McCoy had "hands of a surgeon" when she met him at the academy as Emony Dax). The real reason for this is that in Wrath of Khan, Spock had asked McCoy if he would like to perform surgery on a torpedo, with the Enterprise's engineering crew already decimated by that film's Khan; again, this one has none of that depth. On the planet after opening up the torpedo, it's discovered to be a cryogenically frozen member of the SS Botany Bay. Khan for some reason had put all of his crew into the torpedos.
In the meanwhile, Admiral Marcus shows up with a new USS Vengeance (great inconspicuous name), built solely for combat (sounds like they're ripping off Deep Space Nine now; the Defiant at least was a desperate attempt to fight the Borg and it was mothballed because the top brass were uncomfortable with such a violation of their basic peaceful principles. This film has none of that.). Marcus demands that Khan be handed over to him to personally execute him, of which Spock had previous successfully convinced Kirk to let Khan live and stand a fair trial for his crimes.
Kirk tries to run away, warping away to the Sol system, but the Vengeance has no trouble catching up and and bombarding the Enterprise with torpedos while in warp, causing the Enterprise to drop out of warp (quite literally in the movie. It's rather silly.) just inside the Sol system. Admiral Marcus declares officially that the Enterprise has turned rogue and attempts to justify his firing upon the Starfleet vessel as such. Well, this even brings to another point that the film has no sense of scale. People transporting between Earth and Qo'noS, talking on a regular old handheld communicator between them, warping between them almost instantly; the Galaxy is apparently very tiny. Must be all that red matter.
Marcus is prepared to destroy the Enterprise, of which the Vengeance is capable of doing quite easily with its armament. Scotty in a previous scene had sneaked onto the ship in dry-dock and was able to sabotage it and prevent the weapons from working just as Marcus was ready to fire. Scotty and Kirk keep talking over the comm even though they comm could probably be easily detected and monitored, but this never comes up in the film. Kirk decides to enlist the help of Khan, who had designed the Vengeance, to board the ship and take over the crew, presumably the save the Enterprise; Khan has no real motivation of keeping this promise, and backstabs Kirk as soon as they are on the bridge; Khan murders Admiral Marcus by breaking his skull.
Khan demands that all of the 72 torpedos to be transported into the Vengeance's cargo bay, so Spock sets them for destruction just before complying with it; Spock had already emptied the torpedos of their passengers, so that he could kill Khan and destroy the Vengeance without actually killing the rest of the Botany Bay members.
The Enterprise is damaged during this whole event and the engines shut down from not being able to maintain its orbit over Earth space. Which just leads to another copy of a very famous Wrath of Khan scene, only this time without any stakes or sense of danger. Kirk has to go into the engine room flooded with radiation and re-align the warp core (which apparently only involves kicking the crap out of it). He climbs in there, fixes the ship, Spock is able to fire thrusters and make the ship rise above Earth's surface safely again. The scene and dialog are almost exactly copied from Wrath of Khan. Scotty tells Spock "You better get down here" exactly in the manner that Wrath of Khan's Scotty had said it. Spock abides and finds Kirk in the engine room, flooded with radiation and unable to open it. They exchange words between the glass almost exactly as it was done in Wrath of Khan. This universe's Spock is much more human than the original one (which I'm ok with), and he can't help but to break out in anger of his friend's imminent death. Spock randomly decides to blame Khan and yell out "KHAAAAAN!" in some attempt to echo TOS Kirk's yell of his name. The thing this film misses, though, is that Kirk's yell wasn't just a funny line. In Wrath of Khan, Khan was marooning Kirk underground the Genesis test planet just as Kirk had marooned Khan so many years ago in Space Seed on Ceti Alpha V, and Khan was using every moment to gloat and taunt Kirk, telling him "I will leave you as you left me, burried alive", and this caused Kirk to burst out in anger and scream Khan's name. Into Darkness has none of this dialogue or depth. It only uses the superficial element that Wrath of Khan had a "KHAAAAN!" scream, so they should do one too.
Kirk ends up in sickbay dying, and Khan sends the Vengeance into a collision course to Starfleet HQ, apparently destroying San Francisco in the process. He tries to escape, Spock transports to him and attempts to stop Khan, they get into a fist-fight. in the meantime McCoy thinks that Khan's blood can cure death, so he needs a sample of it to save Kirk. They can't get to Spock so Uhura beams down to a hovercar that Spock is beating the crap out of Khan on, pleading him to not kill Khan so that they can save Kirk. They beam back to the Enterprise and McCoy cures Kirk within 10 minutes of him almost dying on screen.
That's around the end of the film, and they trail off with starting their five-year mission (I thought it was already begun in the previous film, but oh well).
In the end all this film tried to do was play fan-service and shamelessly ripoff (and almost parody) Wrath of Khan. Which is a far better and far less insulting film than this is. Save your time and money and just watch that, possibly preceded with Space Seed first.