Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Review: Star Trek: The Art of the Film

When the Star Trek was in production with director JJ Abrams and crew I was constantly on the hunt for information on the various characters, creatures, and settings for the franchise reboot. Once I saw the film, which was released early this summer, I totally fell in love with it, and couldn’t wait to view all the goodies I knew would be included in the eventual DVD/Blu-ray release.

That’s why a book like Star Trek: The Art of the Film was the perfect accompaniment to the bonus material-laden Blu-ray edition of Star Trek, both of which were released last week. This 160-page hardcover coffee table book by Mark Cotta Vaz takes you through the journey from concept to screen for the film by way of concept art and storyboards to full-color promo images and action shots.

After a foreword by Abrams and a thorough introductory chapter on the filmmakers’ initial ideas for the reboot, how they planned to approach issues with the Trek, and specially how to allow for Leonard Nimoy to reprise his iconic role as Spock in what essentially was a prequel story, the remainder of the book devotes a chapter each to a different subject pertaining to this version of the Trek universe. Star Trek’s fictional planets and its alien inhabitants, as well as future Earth each has its own chapter, as do each of the starships, Starfleet Academy, and that damn unwinnable Kobayashi Maru test.

While the filmmakers were tasked with creating new costumes and worlds for the rebooted Star Trek, they also had to make the difficult decision to cut several scenes from the film. One such decision was to remove the entire segment on Rura Penthe, the Klingon prison planet where the Romulan commander Nero and his crew were incarcerated for 25 years. This chapter in the book contains images from the deleted scenes of the helmeted Klingons and their prison as well as concept art for what would have been their various weapons.

Other areas of the book deal with segments that did make it into the film, but not how they were originally conceived, such as the initial Star Wars-inspired design for what became the frozen wasteland Delta Vega.

There are a lot of characters who appear only briefly in the film, yet a lot of behind-the-scenes work was done on their make-up effects. The book has a look at the members of Nero’s crew of the Narada, each of whom not only have distinct facial features, but also unique facial tribal tattoos.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the lengthy chapter on reimagining the U.S.S. Enterprise, which has beautiful full-color images of the film’s version of the iconic starship, along with shots of model ships, concept art, and handwritten notes.

Star Trek: The Art of the Film makes clear the filmmakers’ efforts to create an installment of the Trek saga worthy to be added to the franchise’s canon, and is undoubtedly a wonderful edition to any Trekfan’s library. If you liked the new movie, you will definitely enjoy thumbing through the full-color pages of this oversized book and getting a peek into the latest version of the Star Trek universe.