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J.J. Abrams likes to play things close to the chest. Whether it’s the movies he’s directing or television shows he’s producing, as a filmmaker he’s a big advocate of the in theater surprise factor. He kept us guessing with Cloverfield, refused to reveal the monster in Super 8, and now has built a brick wall around Star Trek Into Darkness. But earlier this week Abrams and his crew dropped the drawbridge into his fortified castle.
As some of you may know, this past Sunday I was invited to a preview of the nine-minute prologue that will play in front of IMAX screenings of The Hobbit, and the next day drove out to Santa Monica to not only tour the headquarters of Bad Robot, Abrams’ production company, with a small group of other reporters, but also talk with the incredibly talented people behind the next Star Trek adventure.
Read on below to find out about the props and costumes, makeup effects, visual effects and music of Star Trek Into Darkness!
Looking The Part And Having The Right Equipment
Communicators. Tricorders. Klingon Bat'leths. Phasers. Insignias. These are just some of the many elements that immediately come to mind when thinking of the Star Trek universe and for that very reason the roles played by Andy Siegel, the prop master, and Ann Foley, the assistant costume designer, are some of the most important on the production of Star Trek Into Darkness.
As we began our tour through Bad Robot the first stop was to the prop and costume station, where they had display cases filled with many of the aforementioned gadgets as well as mannequins wearing some of the new uniforms that our favorite Star Fleet members will be wearing over the course of the new film. This included the blue robes worn when the Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) are being chased by a huge tribe of aliens(as seen in the trailer), Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) volcano suit, a wetsuit worn by Uhura (Zoe Saldana), as well as more formal, grey ceremonial military garb.
But just like with any long running franchise, not everything can stay the same as it’s always been. While Star Trek Into Darkness will feature many of the classic pieces of tech that we know and love from the original movies and television series, they have changed to reflect the film’s higher budget and advancements in the technology of today.
“They already reinvented a lot of the stuff for the first movie, so you don’t want to go too far afield of that because they did a great job. The reinvention of the phaser was really terrific – we just tried to do what I would do if I had a second chance at anything. ‘Oh, what kind of refinements can you make?’ You get a new iPhone every year, you get a new tape recorder every year, so we kind of did that... With communicators I put the mesh back on because that’s sort of a nod to the old communicator.”
Even getting an update will be the insignia, which, according to Siegel, has been streamlined. A number of the designs were featured in a case next to the formal military uniforms. While they all maintained the classic boomerang look, we were told that each different one represents a different rank (so keep an eye out for that when you see the movie in May!)
As for new pieces of tech, one new element featured in the prologue is a very special briefcase-sized device that Spock takes with him down to the volcano planet in order to try and stop the eruption. Siegel said that this was actually one of the most difficult props to make simply because it had to somehow sell its function just through its appearance.
“The design started before I even came on [to the project],” he said. “It was a really different core streamlined idea and then J.J. really didn’t like it at all. He wanted something that was very practical and relatable. It’s a hard thing, because you’re saying what Spock has in this case that he’s cobbled together from stuff on the Enterprise is essentially going to freeze this entire volcano. Well, that’s in the script so you have to do it – it doesn’t matter that you have no idea how that works. So we had to find imagery that was like, ‘Okay, this is technologically advanced and Spock put this together.’ And then it has to break, and then you have to see Spock fix it in a way that you immediately relate to it and understand that, ‘Okay, this thing that he has is supposed to do something and now it’s broken and now he’s going to fix it.’ Which you tell me, did we do it?”
Unlike the first movie, which had a scene with Klingons that ended up on the editing room floor, Star Trek Into Darkness will have the famous alien species arriving in full force and that was something that props and costumes definitely had their work cut out for them on. Appearing much like how they did in the deleted scene from the first, the aliens wear masks that cover most of their faces – but have clearly defined ridges on the forehead area – as well as very organic armor that looks like it’s made from a thick hide rather than metal or other hard material. And when it came to the weaponry the idea was to make it has hardcore as possible.
“We tried to have an eye towards making it look as brutal as we possibly could,” Siegel said pointing at a case that contained a full size Bat'leth as well as other smaller pieces of weaponry. “It’s a very barbaric race and we thought Klingons, over the course of the series, go from scary to almost comical, and we thought, ‘Okay, these guys should be badass.’ We cast all real imposing guys and they are scary.”
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