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"Star Trek Into Darkness": Critics mostly praise new space sequel

The wait is over. "Star Trek Into Darkness" warped into U.S. theaters on Thursday in both IMAX and 3D formats.

J.J. Abrams returns to helm this installment after directing the popular "Star Trek" franchise reboot in 2009. Chris Pine is also back as Captain James T. Kirk along with Zachary Quinto as pointy-eared half-Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock.

In this new sequel, Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew are put to the test when vengeful mastermind John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) wreaks havoc on Earth. Alice Eve joins the cast as a new love interest for the womanizing Kirk while "RoboCop" actor Peter Weller portrays a top-brass Starfleet admiral who may have ulterior motives with his orders.

Critics for the most part have been receptive to the film, with much of the praise going to the special effects and Cumberbatch's performance as a villain Trek fans have already come to know all so well.

But some have found "Star Trek Into Darkness" to be centered too much on action scenes and complaints have also been made that the franchise has strayed too far from its original vision of space exploration in a utopian future. These criticisms have been in the minority however.

It seems "Star Trek Into Darkness" is poised to live long and prosper at the box office:

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Spectacular special effects, superbly crafted action sequences, plenty of humor and terrific performances render it a cut above most summer blockbusters."

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Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "'Into Darkness' is a sleek, thrilling epic that's also a triumphantly witty popcorn morality play. It's everything you could want in a 'Star Trek' movie."

Scott Foundas, Variety: "J.J. Abrams sets his filmmaking to 'stun' for 'Star Trek Into Darkness,' a sequel in every respect equal or even superior to its splendid 2009 predecessor."

Betsy Sharkey Los Angeles Times: "Pine and especially Quinto expose much deeper layers of the complex bond between Kirk and Spock. So intensely personal does it become, you may find yourself moved in unexpected ways. In this way, 'Star Trek Into Darkness' really does boldly go where no man has gone before."

Amy Nicholson, The Village Voice: "Trek diehards have long-since proven they're impossible to satisfy. Instead, Abrams' glossy relaunch is tailored to fans who don't care for canon but know enough to grin when Dr. McCoy pokes a Tribble."

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: "At its core an intergalactic manhunt tale about a traitor to the cause, the production gives the impression of a massive machine cranked up for two hours of full output; it efficiently delivers what it's built to do, but without style or personality."

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A.O. Scott, The New York Times: "It's hard to emerge from 'Into Darkness' without a feeling of disappointment, even betrayal. Maybe it is too late to lament the militarization of 'Star Trek,' but in his pursuit of blockbuster currency, Mr. Abrams has sacrificed a lot of its idiosyncrasy and, worse, the large-spirited humanism that sustained it."

Richard Corliss, TIME: "With its emphasis on its hero's adolescent anger, the movie turns this venerable science-fiction series -- one that prided itself on addressing complex issues in a nuanced and mature fashion -- into its own kids' version: 'Star Trek Tiny Toons.' At times, the viewer is almost prodded to mutter, 'Grow up!'"

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: "Thankfully, 'Star Trek Into Darkness' leaves the hatch open to countless possibilities, whether brand-new story lines or visits to familiar faces and places from the past. With the franchise now securely underway, it's reassuring to know that Abrams and his team have the con."

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