An unknown number perished in the London bombing, certainly several but probably in excess of 50. Several more die when Khan attacks the meeting, including Admiral Pike. The entire crews of three Klingon D4 class ships are killed, mostly by Khan. An unknown number of Enterprise personnel are killed when the USS Vengeance attacks the Enterprise. Several members of the Vengeance crew are killed during the attack on that ship - notably the security man that Scotty kills by ejecting him into Vacuum, and then about ten more Vengeance personnel as they fight their way onto the bridge. Khan murders Admiral Marcus. The bulk of the Vengeance crew probably die when Spock detonates the advanced torpedoes - the ship is stated to be designed for a minimal complement, so this was probably in the region of a few dozen rather than hundreds. An unknown number of people are killed when the Vengeance crashlands, but given that several large buildings are completely demolished the death toll here probably runs into the thousands.
And finally, Kirk sacrifices himself to save the ship. But he is only mostly dead, and he gets better.
Steven Spielberg recommended Benedict Cumberbatch to J.J. Abrams after he worked with Cumberbatch on the movie War Horse.
Benedict Cumberbatch recorded his screen test in a friend's kitchen using an iPhone.
Christopher Doohan, the son of the original Scotty James Doohan, appears as a Transport Officer alongside the current Scotty, Simon Pegg.
We open with the Enterprise on a mission to a class M planet on which a primitive society is threatened with extinction by an erupting volcano. The Enterprise is hidden in the ocean nearby whilst Spock is dropped into the volcano by shuttle to use a cold fusion device to stabilise it. When the shuttle is damaged he is stranded - and Kirk brings the ship up in full view of the locals to rescue him, a clear violation of the Prime Directive. Although Kirk obscures these facts in his report to Starfleet Spock does not, and Kirk is relieved of his command and demoted to Commander whilst Spock is reassigned.
Meanwhile in London a Starfleet officer detonates a terrorist bomb on the orders of the mysterious John Harrison. The man's daughter had some sort of serious illness, and Harrison's blood is somehow able to cure her - with detonating the bomb being the price for her life. Starfleet's crisis team assembles to discuss their response, led by the aggressive Admiral Marcus. Kirk wonders why a relatively unimportant data archive was targeted - only to realise that the intention was to provoke exactly this meeting so that it could be targeted in turn. At that moment Harrison appears outside in a gunship, blasting the room and killing many there, including Admiral Pike. Kirk manages to bring down the gunship but Harrison beams out using a miniature transwarp beaming device, escaping.
Scotty examines the device, determining that Harrison has beamed to a deserted city on the Klingon homeworld, Kronos. Kirk asks Admiral Marcus for the Enterprise back and permission to go after him. Marcus agrees, telling Kirk that he will place a number of very long range photon torpedoes aboard the Enterprise. It will go to the edge of Klingon space and launch the weapons at Harrison's coordinates, killing him without violating Klingon space. When Kirk opines that the mission may well provoke war with the Klingons Admiral Marcus replies that war is inevitable anyway.
The weapons are duly loaded, accompanied by science officer and weapon specialist Carol Marcus, who is Admiral Marcus's daughter. She snuck aboard under the alias of Wallis, he mother's maiden name, because she is suspicious of the weapons, which she knows nothing about despite being a close confidant of her father. Scotty is equally suspicious, as he is unable to scan the shielded interior of the weapons, and refuses to accept them aboard despite a direct order from Kirk. He resigns in protest, which Kirk accepts, and is left behind as the ship warps for Klingon space.
The ship's warp drive breaks down as they reach the edge of Klingon space, leaving the Enterprise stranded. Kirk decides that it is too much of a risk to fire on the Klingon planet, and instead takes a small trading ship they have aboard after a previous incident (the "Mudd incident") and heads down to capture Harrison. The ship is intercepted by several small Klingon vessels as it arrives, and Uhura attempts to talk their way out of it - only for Harrison to show up and start a pitched battle in which he slaughters most of the Kligons himself, displaying incredible physical prowess. He then willingly surrenders himself to Kirk, and the group return to the Enterprise.
Kirk questions Harrison, who gives him a set of coordinates near to Earth and says that the answers he seeks are there. Kirk contacts Scotty and asks him to check it out; the Engineer takes a shuttle and goes to investigate, finding a group of shuttles approaching a gigantic space station of some sort. He follows them inside, mingling amongst them.
Meanwhile Harrison reveals his origin - he is Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically enhanced humanoid from Earth's Eugenics wars. He and a band of his followers were discovered drifting in cold storage in a spaceship by Starfleet some years earlier. Admiral Marcus revived Khan and put him to work devising new weapons for use against the Klingons. Khan tried to smuggle his people to safety - that's what the advanced torpedoes are, their interiors shielded from sensors because each one contains one of the cold storage pods with one of Khan's people in it.
Marcus arrives in the USS Vengeance, a gigantic Dreadnought several times larger, faster and more powerful than the Enterprise. When Kirk refuses to hand Khan and his people over for execution Marcus opens fire on the Enterprise, damaging the ship. Carol tries to use her relationship with her father to stop him from attacking but he just beams her off the ship and prepares to finish the Enterprise off. But at the last second the Vengeance's weapons are paralysed by Scotty, who stowed aboard at Jupiter.
Kirk and Khan agree that Marcus is their common enemy and decided to work together against him. They make a daring space jump across from the Enterprise to the Vengeance and together with Scotty they storm the bridge and gain control. Scotty immediately stuns Khan on Kirk's orders, to ensure that he doesn't betray them. However Khan quickly recovers, beating both Kirk, Scotty and Carol Marcus and gaining control of the Vengeance.
He demands that Spock beam aboard the torpedoes with his people in them in return for the three captives, and the exchange is made. However, Spock has armed the weapons - they all detonate, badly damaging the Vengeance.
The Enterprise power grid fails and the ship begins to fall towards Earth, threatening to burn up in the atmosphere. Kirk makes his way to the warp core, exposing himself to massive amounts of radiation but managing to fix it just in time for Sulu to stabilise the ship in the atmosphere. Spock comes down to Engineering and he and Kirk bid one another goodbye as the Captain dies. Moments later the Vengeance screams through the atmosphere past the Enterprise - Khan is still alive and targeting the giant ship to crashland on Starfleet command. It does, causing massive damage to the area. Amazingly, Khan survives the crash. Spock beams down and chases him through the city, determined to avenge Kirk's death. However, McCoy realises the amazing healing properties of Khan's "super blood" and wonders if they might be able to use it to repair the radiation damage to Kirk's body and return him to life. They quickly freeze Kirk and Uhura beams down to inform Spock that they need Khan alive. Between them they manage to subdue Khan and capture him once more. Kirk is duly saved.
A year later the Enterprise is repaired, with Kirk back in command, and ready to set out on a historic five year mission of exploration - the longest ever undertaken by Starfleet.
On the whole, this is a worthy sequel to the first of the reboot films. That one was kind of an origin story for the new universe, giving us what amount to origin stories for both Kirk and Spock and showing us how they overcame their differences and difficulties and came to be on the bridge of the Enterprise together.
Now we get a "pride goeth before a fall" Kirk has had the big chair for about a year now, and he's very much played it his way - breaking the rules, doing what he thinks is right no matter what. And more importantly, getting away with it. It's pretty clear that Admiral Pike has been acting as something of a protector to Kirk, shielding his career from harm despite the many occasions where he's done things his own way. This follows on from the first film well, because it was to reintroduce this kind of maverick spirit into Starfleet that Pike went out and recruited Kirk in the first place. But as the opening shows us, even Pike has started to worry that Kirk goes too far, pushes too hard, trusts to luck too much. And when Kirk oversteps the mark, Pike lets him take the fall.
But of course, this isn't enough for Kirk to really learn his lesson. When Pike is killed Kirk pushes his way back into the big chair, and sets out to do what he always does - fight back, rules be damned. So he rushes in like a bull in a china shop, and really does get damn near everybody killed. It works well with his character arc.
Spock also gets a chance to grow, facing both his own death and Kirk's and being forced to admit that he cares about these people no matter what he says about being unable to feel emotions. All of the cast are doing well at reinventing these roles whilst keeping them grounded in the original depictions, but Quinto is perhaps the single best performance in this series so far. He does a magnificent job as Spock. In fact my only quibble here is that this Spock resorts to asking old Spock for a little advice concerning Khan. It's obviously intended as a nice nod to the original characters, and it's just an in-passing thing - old Spock doesn't simply hand them a way out of the problem or anything. Still, it's not a great choice because it undercuts Quinto's Spock, making it look like he's going to run back and dip the well of secret knowledge any time things get tough.
The other characters notably all get their moments. Chekov gets to be promoted to chief engineer, Sulu gets to sit in the big chair, Uhura gets to help with the Klingons and at the end with Khan, Scotty gets to sabotage the Vengeance and save the Enterprise. As in the last film, the writers are very careful to make sure that every character gets at least one significant moment of their own.
Then we have Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan. This is one place where Into Darkness doesn't quite match up to Star Trek II. Cumberbatch does a great job as Khan... but as written, this Khan is just not as strong a character as Montleban's Khan was. You can excuse it because the two have different back stories - Star Trek II Khan was dealing with decades spent in a hellhole planet whilst he watched his "family" die, including his wife, all the while blaming Kirk. He was a raging ball of hate aimed at one target, and it made the core of the film a very personal conflict. Here, Khan's rage isn't directed at Kirk at all. Kirk is just kind of in his way, even on his side for part of the time. So that conflict isn't really there the way it was, and it makes Khan's vengeance quest a bit directionless. It's still good, and still a good performance... just not a fantastic one.
Much will be written and said of the "death scene". It really does tread a fine line between simply ripping off Star Trek II and doing its own thing. Flipping it and making it Kirk who dies rather than Spock is a nice touch, and I especially like how they alluded to this with each character saying "I only did what you would have done". That aspect ties it into the theme of the film and the development of the characters really well, with Kirk showing that he can make the hard choices and not depend on some grand stroke of intuitive luck, and Spock showing that he can do the smart and devious thing to win in an otherwise impossible situation. Personally I think they mostly succeeded with this scene. Yes, it does become it's own thing and work within the context of this film and avoid simply plundering last one. But at the same time, it just doesn't have the depth of emotion for the audience that Star Trek II did. A lot of that is because we just haven't spent as much time with these characters as we had with the originals, and a lot of it is because Star Trek II had the guts to end the film on that note, with Spock dead and the crew grieving. Here, we get the death scene and then replay this universe's version of Star Trek III over the last 10 minutes. So what sense of loss is there only lasts a few minutes and then Kirk is okay again.