By Rollo Ross
LONDON (Reuters) - The crew of USS Enterprise beamed into London for the premiere of the sci-fi sequel "Star Trek Into Darkness" with critics saying on Friday that the eagerly-awaited film proved the franchise could still live long and prosper.
The film, starring Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as First Officer Spock, is a 3D follow-up to director J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot of the popular franchise starring a new cast of spacefarers.
The action kicks off with a terrorist attack in London against Starfleet and the man responsible is the one-man killing machine John Harrison played by up-and-coming British actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
Soon the crew of the Starship Enterprise, including Nyota Uhura played by Zoe Saldana and Karl Urban as Bones, are on his tail but things are not all what they seem with some moral dilemmas and life-changing decisions to be made.
Early reviews have been positive about Abrams' second movie but he is unlikely to direct a third Star Trek film as he has signed up to start work on the next "Star Wars" movie.
Abrams was named in January by Walt Disney Co as the director of "Star Wars: Episode VII" due out in 2015, but he said he would like to stay involved in future Star Trek films by Viacom Inc. studio Paramount Pictures.
"No matter what, if the third is in the offering, if they do a third, definitely we'd be involved as producers on the movie," he told Reuters television on the red carpet at the premiere.
"Depending on what the timing would be and everything but there would be no more fun thing to do than work with this group again. They're amazing."
Critics gave positive reviews to "Star Trek Into Darkness" that opens in Britain on May 9 and in the United States on May 17, the 12th film in the Star Trek franchise that was created about 50 years ago by Gene Roddenberry and led to six TV series.
To date, the 11 Star Trek movies have grossed more than $1 billion in the United States since 1979, including $256 million from Abrams's 2009 film.
But critics were not as glowing in their praise as for Abrams' 2009 movie "Star Trek", describing it was an exciting action movie that did not take itself too seriously.
"People are unlikely to charge out of the cinema with quite the same level of glee as they did in 2009; but this is certainly an astute, exhilarating concoction," wrote Andrew Culver in The Guardian.
Time Out London wrote: "The result is a stop-gap tale that's modest, fun and briefly amusing rather than one that breaks new ground or offers hugely memorable set pieces."
The new villain, Cumberbatch, 36, who shot to fame playing the detective Sherlock Holmes in the BBC television drama "Sherlock", received glowing reviews.
Critic Chris Tookey writing in the Daily Mail, said Cumberbatch was a worthy successor to some illustrious forebears.
"(He) delivers a silky, sinister baddie with commendable, if computer-enhanced, athleticism and an attitude that makes him one of the great movie villains," he wrote.
(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)
(This story was refiled to fix typo in the name in paragraph 4)