In this brave new world of re-makes, mockbusters, re-launches, re-imaginings, sequels, prequels, re-boots, tributes, directors' revised cuts, fan-films, enhanced anniversary additions (yes, that's you, E.T.) parodies and spoofs, my head is spinning trying to work out exactly what to make of Star Trek XI.
Let's get the actual review out the way quickly so we can get on to the pointless academic debate: I'm relieved to report that Star Trek is an enjoyable, well made and surprisingly accessible film which also provoked the following reaction from a close friend who does not suffer from the sci-fi gene deficiency: "it's not as bad as I thought it would be - it was O.K." Trek-style technobabble is not excessive, the plot is both intricate and easy to follow, and the new cast are a joy to watch.
So it's pretty good... but what is it?
It's a prequel: it introduces the main characters from childhood (and isn't James T. Kirk a cute baby!) and shows us their formative moments including the maiden flight of the Enterprise.
It's a re-boot: the plot neatly diverts the entire future history of Star Trek, allowing the adventures of the Enterprise crew to begin afresh.
It's a sequel: it also refers to events that happen after the Star Trek time line and continues the story of one character from this period.
It's a re-launch: or is it? The re-boot could theoretically lead to a new series of films, or an alternative TOS - I have no idea whether anything like this is on the slate though.
It's a re-imagining: or is it? Much of the film's visual style is faithful - the Enterprise bridge is familiar (although a little whiter and shinier than I remember) although the engine rooms are now much more industrial and low tech. Overall I think the Star Trek universe is present and correct. Most of the characters are faithful rather than re-imagined, with one original touch that stands out - portraying the young Spock as a manipulative bastard is a masterstroke.
It's a tribute: Pierce Brosnan's last appearance as 007 was a tribute film - reintroducing a selection of gadgets and re-shooting some of the iconic scenes from earlier Bond films. Similarly this film references all the Star Trek gadgets, characters, uniforms and costumes, concepts and quotes that made TOS so memorable. Vulcan neck pinch? Check. Miniskirts? Check.
It's a spoof: the film also shamelessly reprises many aspects of TOS that have been taken up by cynics and comedians over the years, including Kirk's polychromatic love life. Also, the young cast throw themselves into recreating faithfully their older counterparts with such enthusiasm and zeal it sometimes feels a little over the top. But only sometimes.
On careful consideration of all of the above, Star Trek XI falls neatly into two categories: firstly, it's a film about people falling over ledges and hanging on by their fingernails, and secondly, it's the best fan-made tribute I've ever seen.