It’s really good. I enjoyed it a lot.
It’s not great. I don’t think any single movie (with the possible and obvious exception of The Wrath of Khan) or episode (with the possible and obvious exception of the Next Generation episode “The Inner Light”) has been great on its own. What makes Star Trek is the continuity — the emotional investment we make in the starship “family” and their approach to the universe. I say “we,” but while I’ve seen all the movies, most if not all of the Next Generation episodes (which were airing when I was growing up), and a smattering of DS9, Voyager, and the original series (and the pilot of Enterprise), I’ve never really been a Trekkie.
This movie won’t completely change that, though I’ll admit that for the first time since maybe Wrath of Khan I came out of a Star Trek movie eager for a sequel. It’s not because the plot was great; it was actually pretty awful, a wacky time-travel mess that didn’t even make sense while I was watching it, much less afterward. It was a clever way to deal with continuity, to give the reimagining a “science”-fiction justification rather than just running with it unexplained, but it didn’t really stand up to scrutiny. But then neither did most of the other things we saw, such as a bunch of cadets (or at least barely-graduated Starfleet students) being thrown onto bridge positions aboard actual starships, an experienced captain who wrote a thesis on a disaster whose twin he later fails to recognize (so that Kirk can figure it out and explain it to him), a mysterious substance that detonates to form a singularity but can be transported in glass tubes, random sentient aliens on the run from either George Lucas or Guillermo del Toro, and a big confrontation between Spock and Kirk that I won’t spoil but which isn’t at all…logical.
However, luckily, J.J. Abrams has built this thing around what really matters in Star Trek: affability and optimism. The crew are terrifically cast and all fun to watch — Uhura, Spock, Kirk, Chekov, Sulu, and Scotty — and several of them are actually pretty sexy, something I never thought I’d say about those particular characters (for the record: Uhura, Kirk, and Chekov). This is a Trek that gets downright slapstick a lot of the time, just silly and manic, and it actually works. This in itself is quite an accomplishment. But the crew are also all energetic, can-do youngsters — intellectual achievers, lateral thinkers, terrific athletes, and highly original geniuses.
It sounds nauseating, doesn’t it? But it’s not, and even if it’s utopian fantasy, it’s one I’d actually want to live in, or at least live up to. This, as I understand it, was what Gene Roddenberry was aiming for, and I’m gratified to finally have gotten a glimpse of what Trekkies everywhere love so much about their fictional home.