TrekMovie.com has confirmed two things that should not come as a surprise with regards to the new ‘Star Trek’ film in pre-production. Firstly we have learned from a number of sources that George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has been selected to provide the special visual effects for Star Trek (2008). In keeping with the usual Star Trek secrecy neither Paramount nor ILM will officially confirm it, however sources say that some planning work on the effects has already started. Abrams has worked with ILM before and the choice is another example of Abrams sticking with his trusted Mission: Impossible III team. On the M:I:III DVD Abrams effuses about how excited he was to work with ILM and how happy he was with their work on the film. ILM also worked with the Star Trek writers/executive producers Orci & Kurtzman on Paramount/Dreamwork’s summer blockbuster Transformers. Although he wouldn’t confirm it, at the recent Transformers junket Orci told TrekMovie.com that he ‘certainly hoped’ that ILM would work on Star Trek. The choice of ILM shows that Paramount is giving Abrams and his team the budget and resources to achieve their goal to re-energizing the Trek franchise.
Trek and ILM have a long history going back to 1982 and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which was only their 3rd non-Lucas production (ILM lists the CGI created Genesis effect in STII as one of their key technical achievements). ILM also went on to do the effects for STIII, STIV, STVI, Generations and First Contact. They also did the effects for the pilot of The Next Generation. Since the late 70s ILM has been the gold standard for visual effects racking up a number of Academy Awards. In addition to six Star Trek films (and of course all six Star Wars films), ILM has worked on most of the films of the last 25 years with space effects including Galaxy Quest, The Chronicles of Riddick, Space Coyboys, Deep Impact, Starship Troopers, E.T. and of course Spaceballs.
We will see the Enterprise
The other non surprising but significant thing we can now confirm is that the Enterprise (NCC-1701) will appear in the film. In the world of Star Trek the ships and especially The Enterprise(s) are as beloved as the heroes themselves. Since Star Trek (2008) is a prequel it was unclear if the ship would make an appearance. Now we know that we will see Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise in Star Trek (2008). Some version of an Enterprise has appeared in every single Trek film (although the Enterprise A is only shown briefly at the end of STIV, but in Generations you even had two Enterprises: B & D). It is still unclear how big a role in the film the Enterprise has in the new film, but bear in mind that the writers describe the film as ‘a starship adventure.’
This will not be the first time ILM have worked on the NCC-1701 in a feature film. The ‘refit’ version of the Enterprise (built for Star Trek: The Motion Picture) appeared in the Star Trek II and Star Trek III (where ILM showed the ship get destroyed…see below). ILM also worked with the replacement Enterprise-A (Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI), and built the (Excelsior class reuse) Enterprise-B (Generations), the Enterprise D (TNG) and Enterprise E (First Contact). Of course almost all of ILM’s previous Trek work (and even some of their work on M:I:III) was model work, but a year ago they sold their model shop making ILM all digital (although they still work with their former model shop on some shots).
What will it look like?
The Original Series design for the Enterprise has never been seen in a feature film. When they made Star Trek: The Motion Picture the ship was ‘refit’ to make it look better on the big screen. That is explained away because the ship was literally put into spacedock to get an upgrade. The Enterprise for the new Star Trek will be from the time around or before the The Original Series. Of course, even the original model went through some minor changes throughout the three seasons…most notably the switch away from the pilot version’s pointy nacelle caps. The current ‘Star Trek Remastered’ project approaches creating a digital version of the Enterprise (pictured below) with the brief to make it match as closely as possible to the original. However, that project is literally replacing shots from within the original show whereas the film is a stand-alone piece. Therefore, Trekkies should probably expect some level of changes with regards to the new Enterprise. Regardless the new ILM Enterprise is sure to spark just as much debate as the CBS-Digital Enterprise for TOS-R. To date the film makers have not talked much about the look of the new movie, but this issue is something they are pondering. Unlike their approach to the story matching up with the canon, this section from an MTV interview with the writers (and exec. producers) shows that they may be more flexible on the look:
We’re not going to start totally from scratch. We want it to feel like it’s updated and of the now. That’s actually the discussions we’re having now: how to keep the look of the universe yet have it not look like nothing’s new. It’s tricky.