First, I loved it. I think it was the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. It treated the source material with respect, but established its own direction. The casting was basically flawless, and each of the major characters settled into their respective roles as gracefully as putting on a new pair of shoes from the same brand in the same size you were wearing before. The IMAX version is huge, but sit back more than you think you need to. We ended up being a little too close and it was sometimes hard to focus on the fast action scenes.
I loved the new bridge, and I was completely wowed at the omnipresent reflections and lens flares going on in the foreground. It really added the sense of being there and catching light bouncing off of some shiny panel, of which there are now many. Similarly, I loved the scope of the new engineering. Finally… it looks big.
All of the performances were grand and Zachary Quinto was impressive as a young Spock, but I think Karl Urban gets a special callout for really nailing the crotchety Bones. (And he was shafted a special commendation for saving the entire universe by sneaking Kirk on the Enterprise in the first place.)
I thought the time travel execution was very successful, and I very much liked that they didn’t take the standard “everything gets resolved at the end of the episode” tack and left things messy instead. The seamless shift into what otherwise would have been a reboot or a lifeless prequel… completely works for me. This is a different universe, most notably in the way that six billion Vulcans are now missing. As the Vulcans are the main ambassadors of the Federation for first contact, this has drastic implications on the influence and power of the Federation. But, as a mitigating factor, Spock is back from the future with 130 years of accumulated knowledge. Vulcans have essentially photographic memories and the ability to share thoughts widely without having to explain them, and Spock apparently doesn’t seem shy about applying this where necessary to rebalance things. And it’s not just technological knowledge – he’s one of the most well-versed people ever in galactic politics. He knows where all of the hidden enemies and backstabbing and power grabs are going to come from, he knows which alliances are likely to form, and he knows which resources people are going to be fighting about. This is a unique position – he can prepare the Federation in advance to deal with all of these threats before they fully manifest. As time goes on and the timelines diverge, his knowledge will become less useful, but should still provide the Federation with a significant advantage in the short run, enough to make up for the lack of influcence of most of the Vulcans (and they’ll still have the thousands who survived to carry on at least some of the legacy).
Going forward, this is a very different universe, and I very much look forward to seeing how it unfolds. I hope they consider returning to a serial format, though not necessarily TV. There’s way too much rich material to mine here now to only tease us with a single movie every few years, and I think it would be a waste of this potential to fully focus on the action stories which the movies tend to favor (which is not to say that they’re not a ton of fun). But for the first time in a long time, I need to go see it in the theater again.