Forget everything you ever thought you knew about Star Trek. I'll try to write this with as few spoilers as possible, but I'm sure they'll happen here and there. You have been warned.
When this film was in development, it was spoken of as a prequel and reboot to the entire franchise. A franchise that had six series and ten previous movies worth of established continuity. How do you simply go back to the beginning of Captain Kirk's Starfleet career and manage to stick to that rigid playbook that's already been written.
See, if you start mucking around with a sci-fi geek's continuity, he's gonna call you out on it. And he's gonna bring all of his convention attending, costume wearing friends with him. So how do you reboot a series while remaining true to what's come before? Simple. You change history.
From the start of the movie, we are quickly thrust into action as an epic space battle rages in close proximity to the sun. The USS Kelvin comes upon a strange phenomenon and is abruptly attacked by an ominous ship that is far more advanced. It is then that we are introduced to the film's villain, Nero.
Nero, as it turns out, is in possession of an item that can destroy an entire planet. This "red matter" makes the Death Star look like someone firing a bottle rocket. The Romulan captain is hellbent on a mission of vengeance against the United Federation of Planets, Spock in particular.
And who's there to stand in Nero's way? James Tiberius Kirk, that's who. Kirk is a headstrong degenerate whose idea of a good time is picking bar fights with Starfleet cadets. A high ranking official, Christopher Pike, dares Kirk to become a better man. James Kirk never backs down from a bet.
From there we meet all of the classic Star Trek characters and find out how they met and came to be the crew of the starship Enterprise, boldly going where no one has gone before.
So where does the change in history come about? Right at the beginning of the movie. That battle involving the Kelvin never happened in the previously known continuity. James Kirk's father lived to a ripe old age and even saw his son become captain of the Enterprise.
See, when the Kelvin encountered that strange phenomenon in front of the sun, the ship that emerged was come from... wait for it... the future!
On the one hand, we have a really good movie that's action-packed and presents us with a very logical reason to believe that nothing we've previously known has ever even happened. On the other hand, this movie was made by J.J. Abrams, one of the minds behind Lost. Lost has spent this entire season telling us that the past cannot be changed. So which is it J.J.?
For as long as I can remember, I always went with Dad to see the new Star Trek films whenever they came out. I think the first one I actually saw in the theater was the fourth one. That's the one Kirk & Co. go back in time. That's right, another time travel plot. Dad passed away before this one was even in development, but I have a good feeling that he would have really enjoyed it.