Back before he was the first guy to make a really good Star Wars movie since the early 80s, J.J. Abrams was just a mild-mannered director of the 2009 Star Trek movie franchise reboot, focusing on the original series cast but as younger 20/30-somethings. The film angered a lot of fans on its release, taking out what they believed to be the inherent Trekkiness of it, thoughtful commentary about social issues presented through a sci-fi lens, and replaced it with revved-up space action.
And this is true! You don’t really get that much deep sci-fi with this Star Trek or that much into deeper social issues, except for the focus on Spock’s struggle with his bi-special identity. But! But! But! This Star Trek is still wonderful though. It’s exciting and invigorating and breathes a new air of life into a series that, while cherished, has floundered on the silver screen. There’s a bit too much lens flare and awkwardly-angled shots. But J.J. still succeeds in creating a movie that is entertaining from start to finish, with characters we literally care about and feel invested in. We appreciate Starfleet and the Enterprise and Kirk and Spock more in this reboot than we have in any other Star Trek film. Strange as it sounds, this is the first time that Star Trek has actually felt like a universe.
So why do people hate on this movie so much? Well, Star Trek is the most notable of the geek fandoms, i.e. when you think of a person who is a geek or a nerd, the first thing that you immediately associate with them is probably being a Star Trek fan, more so than say Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons or anything like that. Those devout Star Trek fans often found themselves on supposed “normal” social circles, people who liked bars and sports and things of that nature. Star Trek became their special thing, a passionate community where they could feel accepted when the regular world called them geeks or dorks.
So when 2009’s Star Trek comes around, it’s a true double-edged sword: It gets people hyped up about the franchise that were never into it before, but then also no longer makes it a special thing anymore for the devout fans, since the normies who shunned them are now stepping in on their territory. It’s a sad thing and definitely is happening but it doesn’t mean this Star Trek is a bad movie. Even if this Star Trek movie were say like The Search for Spock or First Contact, something more Star Trek-y in nature, there’s a chance it could still become super popular and more normies would start liking the series. The fact that 2009’s Star Trek doesn’t feel like a Star Trek movie and has more jumps and kicks and excitement isn’t a bastardization of the Star Trek ethos, it’s just a new, popular tunnel to discover this wide, expansive universe. Trekkies and Trekkers will still be able to have their special thing, as nobody is going to watch the CBS series except for them. But for us casual fans who like to watch a TNG episode or The Undiscovered Country from time-to-time, this new Star Trek is just fine by us.