Los Angeles - Devotees of Star Trek are bracing for the latest Hollywood version of the beloved science fiction franchise with nervous excitement as the film prepares to blast onto cinema screens this week.

A series of dazzling reviews and the involvement of groundbreaking director-producer JJ Abrams have helped make the Paramount blockbuster one of the most talked-about films of the year.

But director Abrams' decision to boldly go where no Star Trek movie has gone before - a 'prequel' focusing on the origins of characters such as Captain James T. Kirk and Mr Spock - has caused disquiet among "Trekkies".

Industry analysts say Abrams's decision to choose a young, largely unknown cast, could help the film attract a wider audience and a whole new generation of fans unfamiliar with Star Trek mythology.

Long-time fans however are awaiting the new film with trepidation.

Will Steinsiek - who has devoted an entire room of his Albuquerque home to Star Trek memorabilia - said he is planning to make a 100km round trip to catch a screening when the film is released this week.

The 58-year-old archivist admits to being nervous about what the new film may have in store.

"I'm very much looking forward to it but I also have that fear: what are they doing with the Star Trek story?" Steinsiek told AFP. "We're hopeful that they're doing it right, and that they're not damaging the characters.

"We hope the new film hasn't forgotten what Star Trek was all about, a positive outlook on the future, and characters, people who care about each other, that sense of humanity and morality to what they do."

Other fans have already made up their minds however. Jeffrey Smith, 45, of Cincinnati, told USA Today the new film was a "travesty," saying Abrams had "wiped out 700 years of Trek history".

Abrams is unapologetic about his approach to the film.

"The challenge was to make a brand new movie about Star Trek, despite its 40 years of existence, its ten movies," he said.

"The cult of Star Trek is still strong. However, I did not want to make a movie no-one but the Trekkies would appreciate. So, without betraying them, I wanted this film just to be a nice show to everyone".

Bonnie Malmat, a Florida-based writer and editor of the TrekToday.com fan site, said she is looking forward to the new film and admitted that the franchise was ripe for a reboot.

"I don't have problems as a long-time fan for them to reach out to new fans," said Malmat, 50. "We need new fans. The last few sequels were not very good. Recasting is a very interesting idea."

Malmat said fans were broadly positive about the film.

"They seem to be excited. The fan base is very large and they don't always agree on everything, but from what I've been reading, and what I've been hearing, most people are going to see it, myself included," she said.

Meanwhile Robert Thompson, an expert in pop culture at the University of Syracuse, said the mythology of Star Trek could be adapted to reflect any era in the real world.

"This is a universe, the characters, the rules, the language, the Klingons, the Vulcans - the mythology is thick enough that these things can be remade every generation, in a totally different way," Thompson told AFP.

"The first series was really about the mid-60s. You can keep making Star Trek and the interpretation will be different every decade.

"If you watch those 10 movies in a row, they really change. It's almost like we use Star Trek to say who we are in any given time."

Yet Abrams has played down suggestions that his film would tap into the mood of optimism that surrounded the election of US President Barack Obama.

"People are saying, 'Oh Star Trek is an optimistic film for the Obama era,'" Abrams told Entertainment Weekly.

"It's a nice idea, but we started making the movie three years ago. Around the same time Obama was considering running for president. So I'm not sure that theory holds up." - AFP