The trailers say this isn't your father's Star Trek, but they could just as easily have said this isn't your grandfather's Star Trek. The series really is that old: it has been 45 years since Gene Roddenberry produced the first of two pilot episodes for the original TV show, and as James Bond could tell you, that's a long time to let a franchise run without taking things back to square one and giving yourself a fresh start. So now, here comes the reboot: directed by J.J. Abrams (producer of Lost and Cloverfield) from a script by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (the Transformers movies), the new Star Trek is a hotter, sexier, flashier, more youth-oriented version of the sci-fi series than we have ever seen before. But it doesn't completely sever its ties with the original series—indeed, it puts those ties front-and-center—and the result is a movie that may leave Trek fans feeling deeply ambivalent.
The film certainly begins on a powerful note. The U.S.S. Kelvin is flying through space and minding its own business when it is suddenly attacked by a giant spaceship that has just emerged from a "singularity," a sort of black hole. It is not entirely clear, at first, where this spaceship comes from, but it is populated by Romulans—led by a guy named Nero (Eric Bana), who is one of the more sketchily drawn villains in Star Trek lore—and we gather that some sort of time travel is involved, since the Romulans don't seem to know what year it is, and they say they are looking for the elderly Ambassador Spock, who is briefly seen in a hologram and is clearly played by Leonard Nimoy (who came out of retirement to play this character for the first time since a 1991 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation).
In any case, a battle quickly ensues, and by the end of it, the Kelvin is destroyed and many of its officers are dead, but not before one of them, a certain George Samuel Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), has safely evacuated many of the ship's passengers—including his very pregnant wife Winona (Jennifer Morrison), who gives birth to little James T. in the escape pod. It's an intense sequence, and the final exchange between Papa and Mama Kirk is sure to move some viewers to tears before the opening titles have even begun.
The next few sequences take us through the childhood and emerging adulthood of both Kirk (Chris Pine) and, on another planet, his future first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto), the latter of whom is mocked by his fellow Vulcans for having a human mother (Winona Ryder) and therefore not being as pure a Vulcan as they. In some ways, this part of the film fills a few gaps in the existing franchise: past movies and TV episodes have alluded to the taunts that Spock endured as a child, but there's nothing quite like seeing them first-hand; and the scene in which Spock assures his mother that he doesn't mean her any disrespect by denying his human side—thereby showing sensitivity to her emotions even as he implies that he would rather not have inherited them—is full of subtle, emotional cues.