I can sum it up in one word: AWESOME. The 2009 revamp by the same team of creators and actors set things up nicely to continue the Star Trek franchise into the 21st century, and with this film, director J.J. Abrams and his writers have firmly announced they’ll take second place to no one. This film also shares some important story elements and characters from the second film of the previous era, but re-imagined in great ways to make it seem fresh and familiar at the same time. In fact, that seems to be the miracle that Abrams is able to bring to these characters. Despite a whole new set of actors, some perhaps a little better than others in the roles we know well, there is often a dual feeling of freshness and familiarity throughout the film. I saw some things coming, especially character moments and lines, but only seconds before they arrived, and it made me smile every time. Many other plot elements were unexpected and yet felt perfectly right when they happened. The overall plot is clever, complex and emotionally rich. The effects are wonderful, but never dominated the acting except here and there in moments of battle. Mostly if felt like they were tools to help tell the best and most exciting story possible, as they should be. There are echoes from the franchise’s past everywhere, visually, yet none that interfere with the story or feel dated. It’s really quite a remarkable balance of old and new.
Before this I always thought “Wrath of Kahn” was a film that couldn’t be topped as far as Star Trek movies go. This one may not top it, but comes in a VERY close second. Highly recommended.