I just saw the movie at the midnight screening. I hated the 2009 movie at first because of the destruction of Vulcan, weak, strange Romulans, contrived time travel plot, alternate timeline, etc. My expectations for Into Darkness were low.
It was an excellent film. I absolutely loved it.
I was worried that Chris Pine would not be able to deliver. I liked him as Kirk in the first film, but I've watched some of his other films since and he's underwhelmed. He did a fine job this film and portrayed moments of grief and determination very well. He has the womanizing charm thing down, so that aspect of Kirk is his bread and butter.
The scene where he had to show unbridled rage toward Khan were not amazing, but they weren't bad either. Overall Pine's performance was solid, and I believe with this film he's firmly won me over as Captain James T. Kirk.
Spock, Uhura and the rest of the crew had their moments though I felt too much of the humor comes at Spock's expense... but I remember plenty of TOS episodes where this was the case.
Special marks for Karl Urban as Bones. He completely disappears into that role and you kind of forget that he was a Rider of Rohan and a bad ass in his own right, and instead find him to be the lovable curmudgeon who gets space sickness.
Benedict Cumberbatch captivates in this performance. He really is the wheel that makes this movie turn. As other reviewers pointed out, you do see him both as a villain, and a man on a mission--a mission you find yourself sympathizing with.
Gorgeous beauty shots of the USS Enterprise. Rising from the water, falling into orbit, in the clouds, in space. The weird new Enterprise is kind of (only kind of) growing on me.
The sets looked massive and detailed. The matter-anti-matter chamber and warp core were beautiful set pieces and you got the sense that this was a real vessel with working parts. This film had the best sets and costumes I've ever seen in a Star Trek film. Nothing looked cheap. Nothing looked fake. Hell, this actually is Academy Award caliber work in set design and costumes.
-Little nods to past Trek.
The model of the NX-01 behind Marcus' desk. Section 31. The Harry Mudd incident. I noticed each time, and they didn't feel forced. They were appreciated and I felt a little rewarded for being a Trekkie. I didn't feel like it was "fan service". These are the things you can and should do when you have 40 years worth of lore at your disposal.
-Continuity with the 2009 film.
When Kirk mentioned his space jump I was like, "Hey, yeah! He actually has done this before!"
Scotty's little helper. Cupcake. Old Spock. Nice little touches to show that this crew has been together for a while now and has become a family.
A corrupt and murderous head of Starfleet? Admiral Marcus' betrayal was just a little over the top for me. It could have been done better. I feel like a few extra scenes fleshing out his motives could have made his character more nuanced. He could have realized that he had no choice but to destroy the Enterprise once his cover-up had failed, and, I dunno, been torn or conflicted about it. Instead he's literally like "Aw hell, now I gotta destroy our most famous ship for this cover-up. Bombs away!"
Also, Scotty just waltzing up to the secret Section 31 base in a shuttle? I don't mind him sneaking onto the Vengeance... but they could've devoted 2 more minutes to him doing it in a more stealthy way. A minor gripe.
The gripes are small. The plot holes, which were massive in the first film and really took me out of enjoying the experience and having Star Trek return, were pretty absent in this film. I enjoyed it. Hope you all do too!