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Book Review: Star Trek: The Art of the Film by Mark Cotta Vaz and J. J. Abrams

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When the first trailer for the new Star Trek movie was released, you could almost feel the disturbance in the Force.* Fans began to grumble over the details. "The Enterprise was built in space, and this is clearly on an Earth-type planet!"

Star Trek: The Art of the Film makes it clear that producer/director J. J. Abrams planned to make this film a series reboot, all the way down to the nitty-gritty details of where they built the Enterprise. Because of events that happened in the Star Trek timeline fans are familiar with, a new timeline began on the day of James T. Kirk's birth, leading up to the events in the movie and, perhaps, explaining why so many things and people are not as fans expected them to be.

Many of the things that prompted the alterations in the Star Trek canon have much to do with the impact of the TV series and movies on modern technology, as well as the expectations of modern moviegoers. The characters and sets of the 1960s shows had limitations placed on them for budgetary reasons, but also the creators could not imagine how quickly technology would evolve over the next forty years. Thus, unlike the Star Trek films that have come before, Abrams couldn't get away with futuristic technology beyond what we're already using because he had to follow the designs of the original series. At the same time, he needed to make it look at least as spiffy as the tech we use now, and preferably more shiny.

The end result is the work of many artists, set designers, and the enhancements of Industrial Light and Magic, and much of that process is described (both with text and images) in Star Trek: The Art of the Film. The folks who made this Star Trek film were able to play a little with the design changes, which could be explained away as the result of being in an altered time line, and this gave them a little freedom. However, as the book describes, they still tried to draw upon the look and feel of the original series, and in many cases they referenced the art of the 1950s and 1960s to do so.

Star Trek: The Art of the Film is part coffee table book and part behind-the-scenes glimpse at the creation of the film. Author Mark Cotta Vaz pulls together the story of the film's creation, comments from the actors, and a collection of drawings, computer renderings, and stills from the film to create a narrative that in part is an explanation for the fans, but also plays on the publicity of the film as a product to a public who are not as intimately familiar with the Star Trek universe. It's not an essential book to add to your collection, but it is so well produced that most fans of the movie will want to pick up a copy while they can.

*Yes, I know that's a Star Wars reference. Roll with it.

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