The casting directors wisely use actors who fit the part rather than A-list headliners, resulting in fresh yet faithful recreations of all the regular characters. Of note is Chris Pine as Cpt. James T. Kirk, who channels William Shatner without becoming a broad parody, yet retains a uniqueness to make the character his own. Zachary Quinto's Spock provides more dramatic weight, smoothly balancing logic and emotion. The other characters all mesh nicely, even if some are under-developed or under-used; ie: Eric Bana, as a disgruntled Romulan from the future, is a nasty but forgettable villain.
What's that you say? "Romulan from the future?" Oh yeah, there's lots of confusing time-travel in this movie, complete with black holes, red matter, parallel realities, and an appearance by old Spock played by none other than Mr. Nimoy himself. Cowriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman manage to juggle this bizarre plot with characters arcs at an economical pace that prevents the film from ever getting boring.
As for the FX, they're sharp, but pale in comparisson to the film's exceptional sound design, complimented nicely by Michael Giacchino's rousing musical score that would have done Holst proud.
I foresee nominations in both sound categories and probably visual effects (which I will add to the sidebar with my first predictions update), and possibly makeup and score as well.
*** out of ****