The origins story is an interesting medium in Hollywood. They walk a very thin line. They could be a shameless ploy for money, with producers and studio heads hoping to draw in an old crowd and a completely new one with a sleekly packaged popcorn flick (see: the Star Wars prequels). In the end, they typically leave old fans disappointed and the newly initiated confused. Or, they could set out to honor the source material with the hope that fans both old and new would find something fun, exciting, entertaining, and welcoming there (see: Batman Begins).
J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek sets out to accomplish this latter goal, and it succeeds. I never once felt that they were doing all of this only for money. In fact, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, via an interesting plot twist, didn’t necessarily write this as a re-imagining of the original series. Rather, they presented a story that hadn’t been told yet, that resided in the same universe. There’s even a great homage to the original series in the (kind of surprising) inclusion of the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy in the cast. It truly couldn’t be more honorable.
In casting this film, they had to remain true to the characters already sculpted in the original series while also adding something new (no one really wants to watch a younger actor rehashing William Shatner’s halting dialogue as Capt. Kirk). Ultimately, I think that the overall strength of this film lies in the cast that’s assembled here. No one is too well-known. Chris Pine (Capt. James T. Kirk) had previously appeared in The Princess Diaries 2 and the Lindsay Lohan vehicle, Just My Luck. Zachary Quinto (Spock) plays the evil Sylar on the NBC show, Heroes. Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin round out the Enterprise crew, with Eric Bana taking over villain duties. They are all adept at their roles, particularly Quinto and Pine, who make a convincing transition from extreme enemies to fledgling friends over the course of the film. The many quick cameos are fun too (whoa, there’s Winona Ryder! Is that Tyler Perry?).
It was also a pleasant surprise to not be completely confused by the plot. Seemingly, everything about the film divines that the newly initiated viewer will be confused. A story that’s been around since the ’60s? Check. Directed by the man responsible for Cloverfield and the TV show Lost? Check. A plot involving time travel? Check. It was truly a relief to actually have a firm grasp on what was unfolding on screen.
Truly, this was a wonderful installment to a timeless universe that spans both film, television, and literature (and, I’m sure, even more mediums that I’m not even aware of). For the new viewers, it can be a fun ride that’s simple enough to go down easily, but complex enough to make it stand up as a notable entry to the sci-fi genre.