Cheap. That's what I would call the last 30 minutes of this film.
Yeah, the plot is gloriously dumb. "I will make a giant ship and lots of kewl weapons!" It's like a "G.I. Joe" story.
But I was really with it for the first hour-and-a-half. The Khan reveal (which I had heard rumors about and just watched "Space Seed," so when I heard there were 72 of those missiles, I knew exactly what was in them) was fun, and I was like: Oh, wow, they're going to do something different with Khan and have him team up with Kirk to fight a mutual enemy. Great idea. Subvert our expectations.
And even when it quickly becomes obvious he's going to enact his own agenda and take the ship for himself, at least the setup was there for Khan in control of this giant ship vs. an overpowered Enterprise. So what if it's "Wrath of Khan" redux? This movie don't care! Give me a kickass starship battle!
But... we don't get it. Instead, we get a I-can't-believe-they're-going-there tensionless riff on the other iconic part of "Wrath"'s climax. (To paraphrase Sisko in "Paradise Lost," "You're stealing the WRONG PARTS, Admiral!")
Kirk plays the role of Spock "dying" to save the ship. I couldn't take it seriously because it was so fan fictiony in its execution with all the dialogue lifts (when Spock yells "Khan," it goes pretty much into full-on parody) and because they telegraphed how they would bring Kirk back with the Tribble. Now, if they hadn't done that, I might have thought about them blowing up Vulcan last time and considered that they might make the boldest move imaginable and actually kill Kirk and carry on the movie series with Spock as captain. You want to blow minds, that's what you would do.
But we know they're not going to do that, or crash the Enterprise with everybody on it, for that matter, so there are no stakes in the finale. And you need stakes.
And, dear lord, did the TNG films not teach anyone that we don't want to end our movies in fistfights with the villains? It's not exciting, people.
And was it weird to anyone else that we ended this movie with pretty much an exact copy of the final bridge scene from the last movie? "OK, we hope you enjoyed our journey to the same ending point better this time!"
And I do kind of have a problem casting a very, very pale actor to play a role originated by Ricardo Montalbán. Is there any reason other than audience recognition not to just have "John Harrison" be a different guy awakened from Khan's ship? And perhaps make part of the tension of the film be that Harrison wants to wake up Khan? We would care about that.