I finally saw it last night and I have to say, overall I did like it.
I can usually turn my brain off with most things and let myself enjoy them, which was what I went in trying to do. I had already had my expectations lowered based on what a few close friends had said. After I'd learned the movie was being made, I was already wary of the idea of a prequel - ENT having soured me on the subject - but was a little happier when I realized it was a reboot in prequel's clothing. Then, I was a little annoyed that the production seemed to be trying to maintain ties to "old" Trek while still rebooting.
As the movie began, I was really awed by the majesty of the Kelvin
streaking into the scene and I got (surprisingly) appropriately misty when Jim Kirk was born and the Kelvin
exploded. I liked seeing the juxtaposition of Kirk and Spock's two different "paths" even if Kirk's path felt cliched. Anyway, I was hooked at the beginning, but from there it seemed to become really predictable, even cliched, even ignoring the surprisingly few things that red-flagged as gaffes/mistakes.
Generally, the characters felt to me like they could indeed be alternate versions of themselves. Kirk's meeting of Uhura, Pike, and McCoy worked okay for me. The way Kirk beat the Kobayashi Maru
seemed... off, somehow. I think this was a missed opportunity to show us that nuKirk is more old Kirk than we might have expected, by having him beat it in a specifically Kirk-like way. (Have him reprogram to be able to bluff corbomite, for example.) But having Spock be the one who programmed the simulator was pretty interesting, even if it felt like an excuse to have Kirk and Spock hate each other. I'm not saying they should have liked each other from the start, however I'm not convinced a "mechanism" was really necessary to achieve this. Simply both being strong-willed individuals from two different cultures might have been enough.
From there on, it felt mostly like rehash for me. Everyone meeting everyone (even "Cupcake" coming back as a redshirt), the Enterprise
being the ship on-scene, the mostly-cadet crew being recruited to pilot the new ships because the fleet was elsewhere, Prime Spock conveniently being on Delta Vega where Kirk was ejected... Scotty conveniently being there... Scotty's alien sidekick... having to go over to the Narada
to actually physically fight Nero. This has all been done before in Trek. I'm not saying that's automatically a bad thing, but I guess I was expecting more "not your father's Trek." Some of the repeated lines were cringe-worthy.
The ending felt the most ridiculously contrived of all to me. Kirk being promoted to captain didn't bother me at the time, but the tone felt very tongue-in-cheek. I couldn't help but think of the ending of "Galaxy Quest" where the cast has a new TV show and they have their introductions. That's what the end of the film felt like to me, until the TOS music started playing. That saved it a bit. But the tone of this scene just felt way
Just watching it and not thinking about it, I did enjoy it. But thinking about it now, it feels like a nostalgic rehash of all the previous movies rolled up into one and dressed in TOS window dressing. So much of it felt just unnecessary and self-indulgent. In many ways, the dialog, sets, and production overall felt very generic. The bridge seemed like some actors in well-made Starfleet uniforms had gathered on a set left over from one of the Star Wars prequels. And while I'm not as upset as some about the production redesign, the design choices themselves in many areas felt off. The designs I liked the most came from the Kelvin
and its interiors. I still dislike the Enterprise
bridge interior. However, the remained of the interior of the Enterprise
felt very real, like the inside of a real modern-day ship. In that regard, it's something of a double-edged sword... Trek has often walked the line between "recognizably believable" and sci-fi technology, but here the former seemed emphasized over the latter, appearance-wise, which was fine, just different.
I know that the franchise was due for a reboot, and Orci and Kurtzman did a relatively good job (at least as good a job as they were capable of) with what they were trying to do - I can't help but feel much of it was purposefully tongue-in-cheek, playing off our expectations of what the "Prime" crew was like compared to the cliches that were the nu-crew, while using those cliches (which might not appear as cliches to new viewers) to make the franchise broadly accessible for a new generation.
Overall, if this was the intent, I think it was a mistake. I think that trying to reboot the franchise while saying that this was just an altered timeline was a mistake. (As most know, I'm not a fan of "having your cake and eating it too."
) I'd have, in many ways, preferred a reboot with a critical eye to all the things that made classic Star Trek what it was, that in no way acknowledged TOS, beyond being a reboot of it. As it was, I think a few rewrites could have strongly helped this movie, though. I'm not sure how many it went through, but I don't think it was quite enough. Even a few revisions of simple details would have made me happier. A character writer should have been brought in to help flesh out the characters and dialog, in particular.
I'm reasonably sure that the franchise is no longer on life support thanks to this movie, but I've not yet decided if that's a good thing. For me, the movie was enjoyable, even above average, but not excellent. I'll rewatch it, and I'll still enjoy it. But it was far from perfect.