I've never been a huge Star Trek fan. I enjoy the original series for some of its originality and sense of adventure, while most of the original-cast feature films are great fun, sometimes even excellent. Next Generation, it's associated movies and the later TV spin-offs were all fairly lacklustre for me, and were occasionally forgettable guilty pleasures. So in essence, I came to the new movie without too many preconceived expectations. I was happy to see a new and fresh take on the original material.
What we get is a movie that is reminiscent of the best Next Generation efforts. It uses a hackneyed time-travel story, with little-to-no reason or point, except for the excuse to change the paths of the original characters. Unfortunately, it also needed to be a story with some grandeur and mystery, perhaps even a villain who feels villainous. I won't go into the vague and contrived plot, as it would be a futile effort. There's nothing original or interesting in here, and there are too many pointlessly contrived elements to criticise the science (Never Trek's strong point, but at least it used to try and make some sense within its own internal logic, discounting Next Generation onward).
The plot and characters should be of equal importance, however in this case, the plot is simply a device with which to have numerous new 'character building' scenes, since this is a reboot. To some extent this works. It's all fun, vibrant, and enjoyable fluff. There are numerous amusing nods to the original series and films, that often raise a knowing smile and chuckle. The shame is that these nods are in fact the film's strongest selling point. Most of the actors are forgettable, (or in parts too small to make much note, though Ben Cross, Winona Ryder and Bruce Greenwood do their jobs well.) Zachary Quinto fits the role of a young Spock rather effectively, even though he comes over as playing Sylar in another location and time again. Chris Pine is merely serviceable as Kirk, and brings nothing to the role that makes him stand out, other than 'arrogant teen'. Zoe Saldana and John Cho do well as Uhura and Sulu respectively, without making any real impression either. Anton Yelchin makes a memorable turn as Chekov, but unfortunately only because he has been written and played in such an annoying manner. Simon Pegg is fine as Scotty, though played perhaps too much as purely comic relief. Eric Bana as the villain, Nero, could have been played by anyone. The real stand-out is Karl Urban, who makes an excellent Bones. If the rest of the younger cast members had been able to play their roles with comparable weight in a better story, we really could have had an excellent film. He impressively embodies the way DeForest Kelley played the original character, without being a simple 'impression'.
On a separate note, I also have to comment on the soundtrack, which is decidedly lacklustre. The original films often had wonderfully expressive, emotional, dramatic and exciting scores. Sometimes even better than the films appeared to merit, but they always embodied the mystery and grandeur of space and adventure. This soundtrack by Michael Giacchino does little to inspire or even consciously note. Though perhaps it is unfair to blame him, as we do not know what he was instructed by the director and producers to create. 'Bland' is probably the best word to describe it.
The real shame with this film, is that considering the limitless playground the writers had to play in, they chose a very small corner, and decided to huddle in it. The story all feels very limited and small scale, more due to the villain, his reasons and why events unfold, rather than the nature of the action that happens in the film itself. There was also perhaps a bit too much slapstick, but this could be excused if the overall product had been improved.
It may sound as if I hated the movie. I didn't. It's great fun, and it's nice to see space adventure on the cinema screen again. Having said that, this is simply a forgettable and an unfortunately missed opportunity to do something significantly better.