J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek was a shamelessly enjoyable throwback to proper rollicking rollercoaster blockbuster shenanigans.  A shiny, polished, clockwork action-adventure that delivered on thrills, laughs and strong character work, albeit coupled to a functional storyline with a rather poor villain.  But, as an origin tale of the original Starship Enterprise crew it served its purpose admirably.

His sequel sees the Federation targeted by a formidable adversary in the shape of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch).  Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew set out on a deregulated mission to hold him accountable for his actions.

With a threadbare plot, and character introductions out of the way, you would think that this film would have license to mix up its relentless action alongside some more thoughtful material, be that character-based or philosophical.  Indeed, the film opens with a high-energy set piece in which Spock (Zachary Quinto) is attempting to prevent a volcano from erupting destroying a primitive civilization, unfortunately he finds himself trapped inside and to rescue him would mean exposing this simple culture to the technological advancements of the Enterprise, interfering with their way of life and thus violating the prime directive.

It's a classic Trek quandary, and as the clock ticks it imbues the prologue with one of those great 'How are they going to get out of this one?' moments that writers ordinarily love to back themselves into.  Unfortunately, the conclusion is lazy at best.  Now, one could be forgiven for saying that this is designed to represent Kirk's way of handling things, and indeed, that does form part of the debate of the film's first act, however the film continues to solve its problems in a repetitively clunky and abrasive fashion.

This would not be a problem if we were folllowing the adventures of - for example - Han Solo on a personal mission, but the Federation operates under a code, and debate, reasoning, logic vs. action, these are all core tenants of its modus operandi.

Sky Movies recently posted a video in which Simon Pegg and J.J. Abrams discuss the latter's recent appointment to direct the next installment of the Star Wars franchise, in this Abrams addresses the differences between Trek and Wars and says:

"Meanwhile, with Star Trek, I had friends who loved it, and I just never... I tried, I would sit and watch episodes and try to find my way in.  For some reason, I think that because it was a more philosophical sort of debate driven show... I loved the action of Star Wars and Trek never really seemed to have that."

Which sort of sums up the main problem as this Star Trek franchise continues under the wing of Abrams, and hopefully - now that he's signed to Star Wars we could find someone who will marry the action and intellect rather than just jettison the latter in favour of the former.

There are plenty of opportunities within this film, primarily with the relationship between Kirk and Spock and then the questions that John Harrison brings to the mix, for this to have been a popcorn scoffing fantasy romp that also provokes some interesting questions, or, at the very least, puts the crew into situations that had to be solved with methods other than running, punching and deus ex machina.

Additionally the supporting cast - i.e. the rest of the Enterprise crew - are completely sidelined, with absolutely nothing for them to do of any real value, and, in one surprisingly and shockingly poor taste moment, new recruit Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) is given a gratuitious underwear shot for no conceivable purpose other than titillation.

I must admit, I am not a huge Star Trek fan, I enjoy it in a casual sense, I admire that it uses its science fiction conceit to reflect and address interesting issues, that it's about a bright, positive future, one with equality, harmony and an explorative spirit.  That's what the fans respond to, and this is illustrated quite wonderfully in the documentary Trekkies.

Unfortunately, this Star Trek is about running to the thing, pressing the button and punching the baddie in the face.  Which, can be diverting for a few cheap thrills, but ultimately it's a rather hollow and superficial experience.

J.J. Abrams once delivered a TED talk on what he loves about film-making, it revolved around the concept of the 'mystery box', and Star Trek Into Darkness exposes the flaws inherent with his approach.  He's great at delivering the big picture fun, he can ratchet up the emotions on a very broad level, he can tick the clock, he can orchestrate an action beat with aplomb, but, it's clear that he relies too heavily on the allure of the 'mystery box' as a concept and has forgotten to actually put something inside of it.  Which makes him just right for the next franchise on his list.

When I bought my ticket the clerk at the desk slipped up and said; "That's one for Star Wars."  She wasn't far wrong.