LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- THV 11 Film Critic (and self-proclaimed Trekologist) Jonathan Nettles says that Star Trek Into Darkness is probably the best film in the franchise.

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For nearly 50 years, Gene Rodenberry's Star Trek has captured imaginations worldwide. It's been incarnated as 5 different live action TV series, 1 short-lived animated series, 12 movies, and countless comics, novels, and fan films. After the dismal box office performance of Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002 and the failure to successfully sustain another TV series in 2001, the franchise was believed to be commercially dead (or close to it). Thanks to Hollywood's obsession with resurrecting old TV shows, J.J. Abrams was brought in to breathe new life into the franchise. In 2009, he launched the stellarly successful reboot with modern effects and a hot young crew. Through clever writing, he was able to sidestep the landmine of 43 years of canon, which Trekkers (including myself) know by heart.

In Star Trek Into Darkness, we join the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise mid-mission and that's where the action starts and that is only the beginning. As we race away from that mission, we see a bombing in London and an attack on Starfleet Headquarters and that is still only the beginning. We meet a ruthless, intelligent, fearless bad guy who seems to always be one step ahead. We feel like every character is up for grabs at any moment. The tension is real, frantic, and thicker than a Gorn Captain's hide. I cannot say anything more about the plot without revealing spoilers, and there are many.

Here's what I can say:

1) Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? You see it every time he's matching wits with Kirk and Spock.

2) Trekkers will either really, really like it (might say it's the best one yet) or they will feel as though the filmmakers pandered too much to old storylines. I'd bet on the former.

3) A common theme in Star Trek has been its philosophical viewpoints and morality plays. Members of Starfleet are explorers, not warmongers, or members of a military unit. Into Darkness takes a turn back to that theme as our heroes face the moral dilemma of acting as a military unit versus their core mission of explorers and scientists. The film does a fine job of finding the balance between the two.

On a personal note, I am a lifelong fan of Star Trek. I named my dog Tiberius. I have a U.S.S. Enterprise on my mantel at home. When I was a kid, my favorite books were Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise and The Star Trek Concordance. I had a toy NCC-1701-D that was lost in a move (I'm still upset over it). I've met George Takei and had a very long conversation with him about his time at a Japanese internment camp when he was a young boy (it was in Arkansas). I was ever so close to a satellite interview with William Shatner a few months ago. In sixth grade, my class toured the studio of what is now THV 11 (it was lead by BJ Sams) and in the studio, someone was preparing for a satellite interview with Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation. A girlfriend came to my small apartment once, and upon seeing my U.S.S. Enterprise on a shelf said "Oh, look you have a Millennium Falcon". I corrected her and married her a year and a half later. She hasn't gotten it wrong since.

I say these things so that when I say Star Trek Into Darkness may truly be the best film in the franchise, you'll know how strong that statement is. 21

Live long and prosper.

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