New Video: ILM Breaks Down Star Trek Spacejump Sequence

One of the biggest action highlights of the 2009 Star Trek movie was the ‘space jump’ sequence. This sequence actually took up a third of the effects work for ILM. A new video feature at ILM breaks down the space jump.



Space Jump breakdown by ILM
Video comes from Post Magazine


The effects work of ILM has put the Star Trek movie on the shortlist for a Visual Effects Oscar. All the competing films had their ‘bake-off’ last Thursday, where effects clips from each were shown the visual effects professionals who then voted for the final Oscar nominations. Star Trek has already picked up two nominations for visual effects by the VES guild.

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I hope they win. Good luck!

Buen Suerta

I loved this scene, so happy JJ got this sequence in, epic scene.

JJ: I got a great idea
Roger: Wow. This is going to be just amazing.

No, just fun. Amazing would be if the sequence made any sense.

Having the Enterprise shoot phasers and photons torpedoes at the drill would be smart, but we need the characters to be dumb. Giving every jumper a pair of detonators would be smart, but we need to have Kirk come up with a brilliant strategy that only someone like him would figure out. Pick up a gun and shoot at an evil thing. Pure Kirk material.

But the fun part comes when we see what happens to the man who came up with this brilliant plan. He failed to save Vulcan, let himself be taken hostage which lead the enemy to acquire the codes to Earth’s defenses. I think someone was drinking too much gin when they read Pike’s field report.

You know what would have saved the day? Nintendo Wii Straps. If the phasers had Wii Straps, they would never have fallen beyond Kirk’s reach. THAT would have been awesome.

That was a great scene and it looked so real you sometimes forget it is not real. When you can do that then you deserve any and all awards.

4. Jeyl – January 25, 2010

A thousand years ago, in the Dark Ages before Wii, sidearms boasted a very useful accessory feature, the “lanyard”.

In fact, they still do.

C.S. Lewis

The big question for lurker Mr. Bob Orci is: If the space jump wasn’t originally in the script, what was there instead?

@6: A thousand years ago, in the Dark Ages before Wii, sidearms boasted a very useful accessory feature, the “lanyard”.

That’s so Dark Ages. Wii straps are the future. Nintendo even made them extra thick just incase you fling the phaser too fast.


Lanyards! Too simple! Outstanding. Great point.

Best quote of the film: “Olson was a douche.” — My 15 year old son.

^When the best line about the film is coming from a teenager who wasn’t even in it, it speaks volumes.

Giving the skydivers jet packs for maneuvering would have given the sequence SOME kind of SF flavor, but shoot, you wouldn’t want that kind of thing to interfere with a modern Trek movie. Got to keep our thinking down to earth, like JJ’s BarnDock.

Its called suspension of disbelief.
Yes I nitpicked about the phaser being knocked out of Kirks hand.
But for me one of the best “wow” scenes visually.
I especially liked the beam up sequence with Chekov locking on to Kirk and Sulu at the last second.
Still gives me chills.

The best part was the sound, it went silent until they broke through the atmosphere. In IMAX it was incredible, you see these 3 guys going down in space towards the planet and it looked very real.

beam us up, beam us up, beam us up.


Jeyl, the sequence makes more sense than you’re giving it credit for.

Having the Enterprise simply use weapons would have been catastrophic for the crew. The Narada would have immediately tried to thwart any attempt at destroying the drilling rig. I think Pike did things that way to try to save the Enterprise and Vulcan.

The space jump scene makes more sense than what you’re suggesting.

#2: Aren’t you the guy that made “Troops”? Man, that thing was hilarious.

Do I have to say it? Pike ordered the orbital sky dive to be stealthy in the effort. The Narada would have blown the Enterprise out of orbit if they had fired on the drill. At the time, they didn’t know that the drill was preparing for the total destruction of Vulcan. I agree that jetpacks would have been more interesting and make more sense and that more than one person should have had the charges. But ya know what? Trek has been full of instances where the logical approach was overlooked in favor of something more dramatic. I don’t like it either really but don’t make this seem like the first time.

ST09 takes AHELLOFALOT of suspension of disbelief to be enjoyable (for some) IMHO.

…more than I could muster… …and I REALLY wanted to…


Not wise to fire on the drill when the enemy has you like a sitting duck and has requested captain Pike to come over via shuttle craft. If the Enterprise fired on the drill, the Narada would have blown the Enterprise into smithereens with or without pike on the Enterprise and with or without young Spock seeing his planet Vulcan being destroyed.

The plan Pike proposed was their only option, unless you can beam Nero and his crew into space and then blow up the Narada, but then we wouldn’t have a movie.

Just try to remember it is a sci fi movie, this is not a documentary about how NASA fixes the Hubble Telescope.

If I was Nero, I would have blown up the Enterprise after young Spock saw the destruction of his planet or beam him onto the surface of Delta Vega and have him join Spock Prime in sorrow. This way there is no chance of failure, this has always been the Achilles heel of villains, they tell you their evil plan and always leave the door open to be defeated :)

Actually, jet packs would have been the same as opening the chutes too early… it would have been detected.

As for Kirk losing his phaser… o, come on. That’s Action Film 101. Yes, it’s stupid. It’s also in hundreds of other movies.

A film or scene does not have to obey objective logic. It does have to obey internal logic. If the characters tell the audience vampires can’t stand sunlight, then daylight should kill vampires. If they say vampires get all sparkly and emo and junk, then that’s the rule in that film. In ST09, the rules were laid down and obeyed. Do I objectively believe that it makes sense to implode super novae to time travel? Nope. But, it’s set forth that way in the film. Likewise, the rules in the space jump were laid out very clearly.

In short… IT’S ONLY A MOVIE!

As I said. The sequence is fun, it’s not outstanding, amazing or great. It’s just ok. The main factor in why I was underwhelmed by the sequence was that it didn’t do anything. The drill did it’s job, Vulcan is destroyed, no one essential was killed (I didn’t hear anyone complaining about a lack of a chief engineer), and everyone is back to where they originally left off.

Action scenes that have a purpose to the story and directly affect the characters carry more weight to them. This sequence didn’t serve any purpose other than to give characters things to do. Not useful things, just stuff to keep things the same. Maybe if Kirk felt a bit bad afterwards knowing that he failed to stop the drill in time, then the sequence would have had a point.

Heck, I think it would have presented a great opportunity to bring up Kirk’s “no-win” belief into question, because he failed in his first assignment and couldn’t do anything to stop it. So not only would that have given the action sequence a point, it would have also given the Kobayashi Maru dilemma an actual arc that fits. And what would that have given us? A far more likely scenario for Kirk to flip out. His beliefs have proven wrong, he failed to prove himself in a situation that could have saved billions, and now he’s lost credibility in trying to convince Spock to go after Nero. I think that works a little better than the “you’re not doing things my way, so I’m going to berate you in front of the whole crew, disobey you direct orders and try to assault you and anyone who gets in my way” approach.

#22 Jeyl-
interesting ideas you have there sir. Thought provoking.
But unfortunately such philosophizing and introspection would not go over to the common moviegoer. Sometimes I wish they would try to make a Star Trek that is true to its roots, as an intelligent, thoughtful enterprise that will only appeal to a limited subset of people.

if Avatar didn’t exist STXI would have a chance.

#22–Kirk flipped out because NERO KILLED HIS DAD AND ROBBED HIM OF THE CHANCE OF HAVING EVER KNOWN HIM…and thus subjected him to a life of abuse from his stepdad (a taste of which is included in the Kirk Brothers deleted scene on the BluRay)…because Nero destroyed Vulcan, planned to destroy Earth next and to Kirk’s perception Spock didnt care.

When I click on the video, I get a message saying my IP address was banned…. why? :P

I also think that even tho it was never shown or addressed that the narada must have had advanced borg based shielding on their ship or at least around the mining drills-but if so then howcum the boys were able to space jump on it–well maybe the shielding was only covering the top if they didnt expect anyone to try to stop em? Then again ehen the drill was on earth howcum nobodyy on earth was trying to stop em? Some kinda shielding i would guess-

Could somebody please mirror the QuickTime video somewhere? Stupid postmagazine is not accepting my IP address.

Yes, let Nintendo save the day! Wonder if Nintendo still exists in the 23rd century? Probably and they’re probably selling some holodeck video games…you did know they secretly developed the holodeck right?

Really though it would have been too easy for the writers to do that…

22. Jeyl – January 25, 2010
23. GarySeven – January 25, 2010

Really good points – shame that nowadays it seems it needs a very brave film maker to consider that the common moviegoer could possibly have that depth of thought, AND still generate large box office.
Are those days gone??

27: Nobody was trying to stop them because every available ship in the area had gone to Vulcan and been destroyed ;)

30 . Chris Pike

I would argue that the success of Dark Knight says that a film CAN be intelligent AND a blockbuster.

22, 23, 30:

The thing i dislike about your points is that you miss the point – go back, re-watch the ORIGINAL Star Trek and you’ll notice that whilst it did break new ground and touched on social and ethical issues of the 60’s – it was essentially wagon train in space – full of cheesy action and great spectacle for that time on TV – where i think you’ve interpreted Star Trek is during the TNG years with it’s philosophical debates and the notion that to find a solution we have to look within ourselves – the 80’s ladies and gentlemen.

We are now in the tweenies – an age where consumerism has gone a little mad, people would rather act on gut instinct than philosophise. We live in a world where we want everything today because tomorrow is too long to wait – Star Trek 2009 does exactly what Star Trek 1966 did – reflect the society we live in today with the hope and the optimism that in the future we’ll work out our differences. The science might have been ropey in Trek09, and spectacle might have been added for the sake of appealing to the masses but in all honesty Trek’s core values were a constant in this movie. the spectacle weill it’s what Star Trek has always been about and strived to bring it’s audiences – it’s just this time it’s had the money to do it properly and more to the point fantastically well.


The Dark Knight was hardly intelligent, long, fun, intriguing, very well acted and directed but about as intelligent as any other summer blockbuster – including Star Trek.

Why even use the drill, just drop the red matter on or in orbit of the planet. It would have the same effect.

Link doesn’t work.

I think the point to make here is that it would be possible to address the odd plot problem here and there, make a set/digital extension for engineering, tweek the E a bit and make her less ugly/freaky looking without having any negative effect on the box office (maybe even improve on it even more??) ….??


“Action scenes that have a purpose to the story and directly affect the characters carry more weight to them. This sequence didn’t serve any purpose other than to give characters things to do. Not useful things, just stuff to keep things the same. Maybe if Kirk felt a bit bad afterwards knowing that he failed to stop the drill in time, then the sequence would have had a point.”

The scene is to develop Kirk from rebel punk to acts of hero (attempting to stop the drill and saving Sulu in the process and to start earning trust and respect from the crew). The metaphor of him hanging off the drill again symbolizing his edgy style, coupling that with the scene when he was a boy/corvette and later by disposing of the henchman and again when the Enterprise gets nearly sucked into the black hole. All these scenes are to build the character Kirk and develop him as a hero that makes it out, just barely.

@20 – yeah, villains love to monologue you to death instead of just pulling the trigger.

@22 – Actually, the scene did several things – it got Pike captured (setting up his rescue by Kirk later), it destroyed Vulcan (setting up the confrontation betweek Spock and Kirk in which Kirk takes command) and it allows the villain a victory while giving our heroes a chance to regroup and defeat him later. After all, if the villain never wins, what’s the point? That makes him just stupid. Besides, so what if it’s contrived? The entirety of drama is self-contained and created by outside forces, so as long as there’s some thin thread of logic holding everything together, it can work. The writers are Zeus creating their self-contained world, so they get to determine how things work in that world.

#33: “Star Trek 2009 does exactly what Star Trek 1966 did – reflect the society we live in today with the hope and the optimism that in the future we’ll work out our differences.”

No. I would hardly call a future where kids get to drive cars off of cliffs, men sexually harassing women, alien kids who call women they don’t know whores, aliens who openly express that other races are inferior, people getting into brutal bar fights, making racial insults to persons of different race, berating your superior officer in front of the entire crew, assaulting fellow officers and not having to take responsibility for it is hardly an optimistic view of the future. In today’s society, people are held accountable for their actions. These Trek characters are not.

#33: “the spectacle weill it’s what Star Trek has always been about and strived to bring it’s audiences. it’s just this time it’s had the money to do it properly and more to the point fantastically well.”

Funny, I don’t recall Star Trek II being a spectacle because it had the money to do it with. If anything, it had so little money that a lot of the effects, sets and designs had to be lifted directly from the previous movie to save money on a budget that was barely mediocre. It cost 2 million dollars less than the budget for the first Star Wars movie, and that was five years prior.

Just look at how much action there is in Star Trek II compared to Trek09. I can think of two major action sequences, but that’s it. Khan’s surprise attack and the battle in the Mutara Nebula. That’s it. The movie just tells a story about the characters and it does it with a cadence that isn’t rushed, convenient or overblown. And the nice part about Trek II is that none of our main characters developed through petty bickering or constant arguing with one another.

You don’t need a big budget to tell a good story. I for one would like to see how the next movie would fair if we cut the production budget in half. Art from Adversity can be a trying, but rewarding method of creating something. I don’t think there will be any adversity in JJ’s team because it looks like the only people on the team are those who will never disagree with JJ. And why would they? It’s easy to get people to agree with you when you got a budget of 150 million dollars. A budget that I still do not see on the screen.

The spacejump sequence is a very cool sequence

Great visuals and a great soundmix.

@30 – Your absolutely right – not only does it defeat Kirk (he not believing in the “no win” scenario) it sets up the fight between Kirk and Spock.

Spock losing his world & his mother experiences feelings of fear, anger and loss. As a result he prefers the safer course of meeting up with the fleet.

Kirk after failing to save Vulcan it more determined than before to go after Nero, rescue Pike and make it right his way.

As well I thought it was a great sequence in that we have seen that sequence so many times in the Next Gen movies – Soran’s Platform, the So’Na’s Collector Array, and Sinzon’s Thaleron device – and they always succeed. I went into the movie with no “Spoilers” and when Vulcan was destroyed I thought that anything was now possible. The scene is successful in that it does not give the audience exactly what they expect from a summer action film.

As well it gave us a dead red shirt. The first proper one in almost 40 years.

42 should be “@ 38” – I don’t have my glasses on.

#39: “Actually, the scene did several things – it got Pike captured, it destroyed Vulcan and it allows the villain a victory while giving our heroes a chance to regroup and defeat him later.”

I’m not talking about the whole setup, I’m talking about the Spacejump sequence itself. All of your points would have happened anyways. The whole entire sequence doesn’t do anything. Nothing changes. It’s just more minutes of the characters doing things that don’t amount to anything for the story or it’s characters.

The only thing that could have come out of this sequence is the notion that Kirk failed to save Vulcan. He lost. For something like that to happen to Kirk who doesn’t believe in the no-win scenario ought to be a pretty big deal. Not only would it show that Kirk’s belief wrong, but the person who tried to teach him about experiencing the no-win scenario is the one who suffered the most out of it. But does Kirk feel any remorse over this? No. He still acts like a disrespectful a**hole towards Spock.


“You don’t need a big budget to tell a good story.”

You are correct, however you need a budget to make a good film to make money. ROI is huge in any business. Imagine if Avatar went to some flimsly basement 3D company to make visual effects for the movie, do you think it would be the all time world wide box office earner? You have to invest in a project if you want it to succeed, that was the biggest problem with Insurrection. Good stories are fine and dandy but where’s the cheddar.


Depends on how you view no win, they saved Vulcan’s history/heritage and the audience got a chance to see some heroism from young Kirk no?

This scene is just setting the story arc and payoff up.

Vulcan had to be destroyed to show the audience there is no reset button and this Nero guy is pretty bad ass and dangerous. He is so dangerous that not even Kirk could have stopped him on his first attempt, like the KM sim, he had to go back, think and revisit his options.

Something I think is being overlooked is that a good chunk of Starfleet’s nicest (and some presumably newest) ships were destroyed @ Vulcan in that Nero exchange. Wonder if the sequel will deal with a diminished Federation….

Just sayin’….


I believe their primary fleet was engaged in the Laurentian system and the fleet that got destroyed was team b with new cadets minus the newly built USS Enterprise.

@35: Ya I was kinda in the same boat.. Why drill? Destruction will still be the same, if not a little more dramatic since it’ll happen near the surface.

I can’t imagine having “Wii Straps” on the phasers. What if it’s in the middle of firing and it’s knocked out of his hand and he ends up slicing his leg off?

From what I remember, cops today don’t have lanyards on their pistols.

Anthony, the link to the video is broken.