Originally Published: May 11, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

Capitalizing on the great space race between the USA and the USSR of the 1960s, Star Trek dared to go where no other TV show had gone before with the promise of exploring fantastic new worlds and providing unique challenges for the men and women aboard the USS Enterprise…or something along those lines.

Now, more than 40 years, several TV spinoffs, and 10 full-length feature films later, Director/Producer J.J. Abrams (Mission Impossible III, TV’s Lost, Fringe, and Alias) has taken it upon himself to reinvent and retool that original concept and serve it piping hot for a brand new generation of would-be trekkies.

Star Trek looks back at how the crew of the USS Enterprise came to congeal into a legendary unit back at the space academy. With most of the original cast being in their 70s, an entirely new cast, headed by Zachary Quinto (TV’s Heroes) as Spock, was called into action and everyone delivers spot on performances of the characters that the diehards have to come to know and love and that the newcomers will easily learn to.

Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings 2 and 3, Bourne Supremacy) as “Bones” McCoy and Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) as Scotty were both beyond brilliant in their roles. John Cho (Harold and Kumar 1 and 2) worked well as a very green-behind-the-ears Mr. Sulu with the only real question coming from Chris Pine (Princess Diaries 2) who plays Captain Kirk. Many have criticized his performance, but I thought he had done a great job, taking beating after beating, just like William Shatner did, but always finding a way to come through in the end for himself and his crew. Also, the way Kirk’s promiscuousness was played up was perfect. The only real question about his performance is did anyone really expect him…to…talk…like this? Cut the kid some slack.

With the cast in place, the biggest question next fell towards the plot about how to re-launch a series that has had such success over the years simply building on top of everything that had come before it. When working with a mind like J.J. Abrams, why am I not surprised that he found an interesting loophole when dealing with a re-launch. Stealing a plot line from many of Marvel Comics’ most famous story arcs, he decided to create an alternate universe.

I know, your initial kneejerk reaction is this is a horrible idea, but the way it was explained as a major plot point to the story, with a time and space travelling Leonard Nimoy as “Spock Prime”, was actually quite brilliant because it gives them the freedom for future movies to make whatever changes they want and not have to worry about die-hard fanboys crucifying each movie in online forums because it doesn’t affect the original Star Trek whatsoever. If they can get past the whole parallel universe aspect, of course, which they should because in essence it fits in with the entire idea of Star Trek: Unknown worlds and dimensions and things beyond human comprehension until you actually come face to face with it.

With this being a different universe, the origins for everyone are slightly tweaked. Kirk’s father dies in space when he is just an infant, the planet Vulcan is destroyed a la Death Star style from another famous space opera series, an interesting on-going relationship between Spock and Nyota Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana (Pirates of the Caribbean), and the enemy, a Romulan simply referred to as Captain Nero, (played surprisingly well by Eric Bana; probably because you don’t realize who it is until the end credits because of all his make-up) comes from a different future, just like “Spock Prime”.

If you take a look at these differences though and embrace them instead of being steadfastly entrenched in the old ways, then it boils down to the same basics of what made Star Trek great to begin with. Amazing visual effects, awesome weapons, strong sci-fi action with a bit of humor mixed in with a few far-fetched plot points that are made to work under the guise of some expanded branch of new science, and characters that pull you into the story from the very beginning, and you’ve got a perfect modern variation on what Star Trek should be. With the differences being explained with a major plot point of the movie, there is no way you can walk away from this not being happy with the way it turned out. If anything, it can’t be called a re-launch because it serves as a completely new adventure, tying in the old with the new, and allows for the new series to take off with only slight variations on the same great characters and leaves the memories of the old ones perfectly intact.

Star Trek will continue to live long and is definitely prospering ($76.5 million in the opening weekend) and gets 4 out of 5.

-Ray Carsillo