Star Trek the eleventh Star Trek film was, as promised by director J. J. Abrams (Alias, Lost), a reinvention of Star Trek. Being a prequel, it risked messing up continuity (something Trekkies are obsessed with, and something for which I can never forgive Brannon Braga and Rick Berman). This film took that risk head on by intentionally throwing away most of canon and creating a parallel timeline. It differs from Voyager, though, in that they didn't press the reset button at the end of the film. The universe has changed dramatically, and everything you know is wrong. I'm okay with that. Sometimes things end, and it's sad. At least they didn't end like the last half of the Star Wars series. (That was just a relief, really.) This is a rebirth.
XI begins with Kirk's birth (And his father's death saving him. (And POOF goes the known timeline. George is dead?)) We see some of him and Spock growing up on their respective worlds, before Pike prompts a rebellious Kirk to join Star Fleet. Kirk quickly befriends the immediately recognizable Bones (the casting and dialogue in this film is amazingly apt at times--Roddenberry and Kelly would be proud). He makes an enemy of Commander Spock, but a crisis sends all cadets off on a mission.
Sensors are picking up spoilers ahead. Recommend taking evasive maneuvers.
Here's the thing: In the 'normal' (post-Nemesis) timeline, Romulus had been threatened by a supernova. The Spock of that time (hereafter referred to as Spock Prime) had promised (and attempted) to avert the disaster by creating a singularity using red matter, but was too late. He and a Romulan mining vessel were sucked into the past by the black hole. The Romulans, headed by Captain Nero arrived twenty-five years before Spock Prime, and killed George Kirk (who died heroically helping the crew + his wife and newborn son escape). Nero awaited Spock Prime's arrival and then captured him, dumped him on a nearby planet, and attempted to destroy Vulcan.
Numerous Federation ships arrive, but thanks to Sulu's inexperience, the Enterprise arrives late, and thanks to Kirk's epiphany (lightning storm on Vulcan? Same thing killed my father--it's a trap!) they're prepared for battle. They arrive at Vulcan to discover all the Federation ships destroyed and a giant drill boring a hole toward Vulcan's centre. Pike is forced by the superior Romulan ship to board, becoming their prisoner, while Kirk and Sulu (and a third person who just so happens to be the only one in red--you know how it is) spacejump to destroy the drill. Alas, though, it has reached the centre, and the Romulans are able to cause a singularity to form, destroying Vulcan (though not before Spock beams down and saves much of the high council, including his father but just failing to include his mother).
(At this point, the timeline has moved from slightly shifted to obliterated. Vulcan has been destroyed and Spock estimates that only 10 000 Vulcans remain, noting that he is now a member of an endangered species).
The Romulan ship heads toward Earth to destroy it next, and Kirk wants to chase them. Spock, however, insists upon making rendezvous with the rest of the fleet (subspace communication is down). Kirk argues and beats up some security officers ordered to remove him from the bridge, so Spock has him sent off the ship in an escape pod. Kirk finds himself on an M-Class planet that the pod informs him is unsafe and to wait in the pod until rescue arrives from the base a few kilometers away. He instead heads out into the snow and is chased into a cave by a fearsome beast. Spock Prime rescues him and performs a mind-meld to explain what I explained a few paragraphs ago.
Kirk and Spock Prime go to the Federation base and meet Scotty. They use Spock Prime's knowledge of future-Scotty's teleportation formula to beam Kirk and Scotty aboard the Enterprise. There, Kirk proves that young Spock is emotionally compromised by the loss of his planet and his mother, and Kirk assumes command, ordering a pursuit of the Romulans.
The Enterprise (stealthily) arrives to find Earth being drilled much the same way that Vulcan was. The Romulans' shields are down, so Kirk and Spock are able to beam aboard and Spock flies Spock Prime's ship (which was in the Romulan's shuttle bay) to destroy the drill and Kirk rescues Pike. They are all successfully beamed away just before both future ships are destroyed by the remaining singularity-causing red matter (with some help from the Enterprise' weapons).
With Earth saved, Kirk is granted captainship of the Enterprise, Spock asks to be his first officer, and they fly off to boldly go, along with the rest of the team.
Was this a film for Trekkies or Non-Trekkies?
This film was very accessible, I would say, but offered a lot for us Trekkies, and not just the occasional catchphrase. As I noted above, McCoy was written (and portrayed) so well that I knew him in maybe two lines, and subsequent lines made it slightly more obvious ('One tiny crack in the hull, and our blood boils in 13 seconds.') and then blatant for any non-Trekkies who hadn't gotten it yet ('I have nothing left except my bones').
Sulu knows fencing. Spock has and always will be Kirk's friend. And who can forget: Kirk: Who was that pointy-eared bastard? Bones: I don't know, but I like him.
I noticed one or two continuity errors (yes, continuity still means something), but they were trivial and nothing really new.
Overall, as a Trekkie, I loved the film, and I believe non-Trekkies would enjoy it as well.
Preface, only at the end instead of the beginning
As I just got back from watching Star Trek XI at the IMAX, this section may need updating once I've mulled over the film for a bit, but I'll attempt to node how I feel about this film now, before doing anything else.
Remember Generations? The passing of the torch: TOS is over and TNG now has its day on the big screen. If you were very much a TOS fan, it was perhaps a melancholy experience, but it could have been worse. With XI, it's worse. (But not a worse film. It is a much better film than VII, so don't fear for that. XI is awesome. It's just more of an ending than Generations ever was.)
The feeling is perhaps more akin to Serenity. After what happens in Serenity, Firefly can't come back, not as what it was. Things changed in that film, forever. They took the sky from us (and it was amazing).
Star Trek has now been reinvented. I take heart in the fact that it was reinvented superbly, but this doesn't change the fact that pre-XI Star Trek is finally over.
Due to the epochal nature of this film, I consider it perhaps the most important film I've seen. Certainly of all the Star Trek films. Like it or hate, it changed things more than VI or VII ever could have hoped to. Goodbye Star Trek. We're in a strange new world, now.
Released Midnight, May 8, 2009 morning.