I wanted to like this movie. I even enjoyed it while I was watching it, but as soon as the credits rolled, I knew it was that ephemeral enjoyment that comes from having enough stuff thrown at you that you don’t stop to notice the gigantic plot holes nor the lack of character development.

The cast is still good — those that get to do much — that being Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Simon Pegg. Even Benedict Cumberbatch, who I could not stand in Sherlock, but was good in the roledoesn’t really get that much to do but sound awesomely menacing and look pissed off. By now, Trekkies know John Harrison is Khan…and the attempt to use this quintessential villain to redefine the series was an awful, awful mistake on the part of the writers and JJ Abrams. The constant comparisons to the far-superior The Wrath of Khan do Into Darkness no favors. It just serves to show how shallow the characters have become under the writing of Orci, Kurtzman, and the execrable Damon Lindelof — whose influence destroyed the excellent Jon Spaihts Prometheus script. They’ve replaced a sense of friendship and respect between the various characters for one-liners and the occasion moment of faux pathos, like Scotty’s resigning his commission as engineer over the disagreement with Kirk.

Worse, there’s no real history between Khan and Kirk, as there was in TWOK. Khan is driven by twenty years of exile, the death of his wife and people to pursue Kirk relentlessly, to the exclusion of his own survival. Here’s Khan earns Kirk’s animosity because he kills Admiral Pike (again, the most engaging of the characters from this movie series…) early in the movie, but there’s no reason for him to hate Kirk specifically, nor fo him to pursue vengeance once he has (he presumes) what he wants. Additionally, the plot twist that ties into the later point is telegraphed far too early, and the “true” villain of the piece was obvious from about 10 minutes after his introduction.

There’s the usual collection of issue I’ve come to expect from Star Trek movies and shows since First Contact…forced humor, the terrifying and unstoppable bad guys who can get mowed down by a 10 year old with a squirt gun, overly ornate set pieces that make for silly action sequences. Add to that the new movie series’ “20 seconds to [enter planet]” warp travel that removes any sense of distance or grandeur from the universe. At one point, Kirk enthuses “A five year mission! That’s deep space!” Where the hell are they going, MACS0647-JD? At the kind of speeds Enterprise is traveling in the new movies, they could cross the galaxy in five year or so. (Yes, they always traveled at the speed of plot, but come on!)

The special effects are good, and the movie looks fantastic. They even toned down the lens flare, so you could see what the hell was going on.

In short, the movie was an excuse for a couple of decent action sequences and the Enterprise/Vengeance crash at the end of the film.

So what did I think? Style: 4 of 5 — the movies look good, and I’ve even softened to the Apple Store bridge. Substance: 1 out of 5. It’s sound and fury, signifying nothing. It’s a matinee, if you want to see the special effects in all their glory, otherwise, wait for the DVD (don’t pop for the Blu-Ray.)

Or you could pop The Wrath of Khan in and see how a real writer and director (Nicolas Mayer) work.