. . . phlebotnum.”
That being what Bones would’ve said had he taken a look at the “red matter” in Spock’s ship. Which is fine because, as Russell Arben Fox notes, the new Star Trek film manifestly works. I don’t share the qualms Timothy Burke and his commenters are expressing over the continuity issues raised by the film, because I care more about quality than continuity. Moreover, I think what Abrams did there was damn clever.
(If you ain’t yet seen the film but plan to this is where you should stop reading.)
As every critic has said, the casting was inspired. We didn’t see Chris Pine playing Shatner playing Kirk or Zachary Quinto playing Nimoy playing Spock; moreover, the ensemble cast related to each other in a manner consistent with the original. I think this is a testament to J.J. Abrams, who has proven, again and again, to have a deft touch with ensembles: Alias, Lost, Fringe. Even when the stories break down into nonsense, the interaction of his characters remain a compelling reason to keep watching. (Or so I tell myself for sticking with Alias two years longer than any sane man should.) Why am I talking about the cast when I said I’d be talking about continuity?
Because this cast had the task of replacing icons. There can always be another Bond or Batman. But another Kirk or Spock? You need to do more than cast a Spock-alike to convince an audience for whom Nimoy is Spock that Quinto can fill the role. Which isn’t to say Quinto doesn’t look like a young Leonard Nimoy at times. Because he does. Frighteningly so. But looking like Nimoy isn’t the same thing as being Spock. So what did Abrams do?
He made himself another Spock. The Spock who witnessed a Genocide Effect and may never stare down the Genesis Device. Who knows what the future holds for this Spock? No one . . . all the old stories belong to the crews of different Enterprises exploring a different universe. By introducing a new timeline, Abrams need neither bend nor buckle under the burden of history. Fans of the original continuity keep what they have (mostly) intact, whereas new fans—charmed by the new cast and new direction—are introduced to the franchise via a plot contrivance that allows them to understand why all the previous series and films seem to exist in a different universe.
By making the breaking of the continuity the central plot point of the first reboot, Abrams ensures that new fans won’t be confused when they hear, for example, that Kirk had a long and healthy relationship with his father. This strikes me as a genius move.