Well, while we await Star trek XI on DVD/Blu Ray (I hope its loaded with extras), here are the reasons I think STXI was a blockbuster :
1)The anticipation factor: as it was 7 years since Star Trek Nemesis, the fans -like the Star Wars fans awaiting Episode I- really got excited at the notion of a new Star Trek film.
2) The return to the classic era: the original series remains my fave version then DS9 & Enterprise, and as Star Trek began under the James T. Kirk era, it sure made sense that a return to that time period was the best. I think that as popular as ST TNG was, audiences prefer a captain & crew that was more pro active and decisive in dealing with a crisis, as opposed to having a coffee table conference stalling the action.
3)Mr.Abrams had real Trek fans writing the script. Both Messrs. Kurtzman and Orci showed their respect for the franchise in that at their core, Kirk & Spock were true to what the fans know of them in terms of personality and character.
4)The crew all had substantial roles. Nobody was shortchanged; everyone from Uhura to Scotty had their moments to shine.
5)Trek XI proved that integrating the TV/Movie series and the novels can work well -provided that the writer shows respect for what is being adapted. Elements such as the name of Jim Kirk's mom (Winona), the Enterprise ejecting its anti matter pods to escape the black hole (from Prime Directive) was incorporated well into the movie that if you weren't aware of the novels, it wll make sense to you, but if you've read the novels it will mean more to you.
6)Star Trek XI had heart. This was missing in GI Joe The Rise of Cobra. In Star Trek, there were scenes that got to the core of Kirk (his talk with Chris Pike at the bar where Pike cleverly appealed to both his pride and the fact that Jim can't ignore a challenge: "Your father commanded a Starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives-including yours. I dare you to do better.") Then there was that scene at the "Principal's Office" between Spock & Sarek
"You will always be the child of 2 worlds. What destiny you choose will depend on you.") And there's the scene where Sarek tells Spock -after he relinquished command to Krk -"You asked me once why I married your mother. I married her because I love her."
7)We got to see Chris Pike's command style: I liked the way Bruce Greenwood portrayed Pike. He was a cross between Capt. Robert April (who helped talk sense into Jim Kirk in the novel Prime Directive), Jonathan Archer ( he can have relaxed command style and be serious) and Jeff Hunter's take on Pike (who was dead serious. He can almost be a model for Jean-Luc Picard, except that Jean Luc was tempered by having a father figure side).
8 ) Eric Bana's Capt. Nero was easier to like than Tom Hardy's Shinzon: I liked Star Trek Nemesis, but Shinzon just doesn't have the same identification factors as a character as Nero. Nero doen't even sound as haughty. And his obsession for his wife echoes both Dr. Soran in Generations as well as Dr. Annorax in ST; Voyager. He's so obssessed with restoring his planet that it eventually becomes his only goal. And I liked the nid to ST II when he interrogates Pike.
9)We saw the infamous Kobayashi Maru. I'm glad this was done because Harve Bennett's planned Starfleet Academy never made accomodations for it. This helps reveal more of Kirk's character.
10) I really liked the scene where we see Kirk assume command of the Enterprise. And every station reports in (Sulu: "Helm & navigation standing by.") ; (Chekov: Weapons and Shields online); (Uhura: Communications online)' Scotty (Dilithium chambers at maximum) Like it or not, Starfleet does have military traditions. it just seemed right.
11) I liked it that we got a glimpse into how good the crew was from Sulu's fencing skills to Chekov's navigation ( he planned the ambush at Saturn) and weapons expertise (the phaser salvos that intercepted the Romulan Torpedo volleys set against Spock) to Uhura's ear for languages.
And GI Joe's Rachel Nichols was her Orion roomate. If I recall correctly, Capt Archer's Enterprise had several Orions brought into custody after the episode Bound.
As for discrepencies from Classic Trek, I agree that Capt. Pike should've inquired after Mr. Tyler -not Mr. McKenna at the helm, and Dr. McCoy-on reporting to Spock - should've referred to Dr. Boyce as KIA. Still, maybe this was just to establish that ST XI really was set in alternate reality.
As for the Enterprise as a new flagship; that's not so certain. Perhaps Pike meant Enterprise as the flagship for his own task force as the main fleet (under Jonathan Archer, hopefully) was engaged in the Lorential System. Granted this is speculation.
Another way to resolve the alternate reality would be to involve Enterprise's Lt. Daniels- who revealed himself as a time traveller to Capt. Archer- or, as a long shot, Benjamin Sisko-who became a Prophet who have control over time and space.
Its too bad they didn't integrate the novels into the films sooner. Why? Just imagine how Star Trek Nemesis would've fared if, in additon to the 2 Romulan Warbirds under Donatra that assisted the Enterprise against the Scimitar, Capt. Mackenzie Calhoun's USS Excalibur had been on hand. Let's ee how good you really are, 'Preator!"
"Let us renew our faith and our hope. We have every right to dream heroic dreams!"
-President Ronald W. Reagan
"That's how an author should talk! How manly!"
-Michelle Cheung, R.O.D. The TV