Review by C.J. Bunce
When I was a kid Star Wars blew me away and when I think back it was the “wretched hive of scum and villainy”–specifically the creature cantina at Mos Eisley spaceport–that first introduced me to the idea of a wide, wide universe of alien beings. Countless characters–makeups and costumes designed by movie artists in the real world–all milled about in one place and it was about as cool a thing as anyone could put on film. My next great appreciation for aliens came from the Star Trek films, in particular the delegation of members of the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek IV: A Voyage Home–this bizarre assemblage of leaders, all wearing the common United Federation of Planets maroon officer uniforms, but each representing some far off world with all sorts of strange and exotic denizens. Much of my excitement for aliens would come from Michael Westmore’s wonderful “aliens of the week” in the various television incarnations of Star Trek–I am a fan and self-proclaimed expert in the aliens of Star Trek more than any other corner of that great franchise. Later I would be dazzled by the unique alien designs of Doctor Who’s 21st century Renaissance, where the British series really upped the ante of how unique and complex a weekly show could illustrate the potential of who is “out there.” The updated Mos Eisley for science fiction fans would reach its zenith for me in two great ways in 2016 and 2017: In the diverse cultures of the Yorktown space station in Star Trek Beyond and in the immensely populated Big Market in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. As much as the original Mos Eisley still stands strong on film, these two modern updates of “strange new worlds… new life and new civilizations” represent the best modern creativity in the world of cinema. Makeup artist Joel Harlow, who won an Academy Award for his makeup work for Star Trek (2009), returned to the franchise for Star Trek Beyond, and in honor of the Trek’s 50th anniversary his team created 50 new alien races for the film. A new book just released, Joe Nazzaro’s Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow documents in photographs and descriptions the development and creative ideas behind each new race for the film. As a fan of aliens and Star Trek and this fabulous film, I haven’t anticipated a new publication as much, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the result.
Journalist Joe Nazzaro assembled Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow unlike most behind the scenes accounts that only punctuate descriptions with the odd quote from a creator, instead providing his narrative as a reporter would–interviewing and sharing Harlow and his creators’ complete, firsthand accounts of developing, designing, casting and even applying many of the makeups. We hear about Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Beyond from Harlow and creators behind the scenes including concept artists Neville Page, Allen Williams, and Carlos Huante, sculptor/makeup artist Richie Alonzo, and designer/sculptors Don Lanning, Joey Orosco, Lennie MacDonald, Norman Cabrera, and Mike Rotella. This is the kind of access to the minds of movie creators that fanboys and fangirls dream about.
Let’s start with Jaylah. By my count, in the vast world of great Star Trek female characters Jaylah (portrayed by Sofia Boutella) is the most developed, most intriguing, best badass heroine of them all. Harlow, Neville Page, and Richie Alonzo really flesh out for readers the idea to application method of the unique makeup for this lead character from the film. Although it may not be the most complex makeup design at first look, it required elaborate and surgical artistry to replicate it each day, and balanced many requirements to allow the actor to move freely through action sequences and stand out as the driving force behind the plot of the film. Equally important to the film was the villain Krall (portrayed by Idris Elba) a character made up of all the alien races he had absorbed (which included callbacks to Star Trek’s Jem’Hadar) requiring additional complexity in design and style via its character’s backstory. Creators Harlow and Joey Orosco delve into the creation of the four phases of Krall’s design made for the movie.
The most brilliant makeup is no doubt the alien Natalia (who appears on the book cover), the fabulous, spectacular nautilus-headed design by Allen Williams and Don Lanning and sculpted by Joey Orosco with contributions from Werner Pretorius, Lennie MacDonald, Steve Buscaino, Cristina Patterson, and Toby Lindala. The head, bust, and arms for Natalia must reflect one of the best creature designs to ever emerge from Hollywood, and yet, like many of the 50 new aliens designed for the film (technically 56 according to Harlow) the character did not get much screentime. In fact many of the aliens were for background shots and astonishingly a few did not make it into the final cut of the film. The artists in the book also confirm the H.R. Giger influence on some of their designs for Star Trek Beyond–his designs also influenced alien creations of earlier Trek incarnations. One of my favorite footnotes to the Star Trek franchise, and certainly one of the most obscure references in classic Star Trek is an intercom on the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation paging Dr. Selar to the Null-G ward–which we never actually get to see–but the Abe Sapien-meets They Live alien called Satine (designed by Allen Williams and sculpted by Matt Rose) is exactly the type of alien I envisioned you’d find there.
On the one hand Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow is like a photographic D&D Monster Manual–it’s the kind of book I have hoped that Michael Westmore would create to document each of his aliens for Star Trek across the decades. Just think of a book like this full of Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, Ferengi, Tamarians, Mintakens, Malcorians, Benzites, and so many more. I have mentioned here before the prior publications related to the makeup artistry of Star Trek, with this new work surprisingly the first book to focus exclusively on the makeup artistry for Star Trek. The closest prior work on creating makeup for aliens from beyond the Final Frontier, Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts by Michael Westmore and Alan Sims (still available at Amazon here) was a shorter, trade paperback overview of Star Trek makeup and props, and Westmore’s recent book, Makeup Man by Michael Westmore (reviewed here at borg.com) focuses more on the pre-Star Trek work of Westmore. Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow author Joe Nazzaro also co-wrote a magazine-length overview of Westmore’s makeup work for Starlog (still available from time to time here).
Director Justin Lin and writer/actor Simon Pegg each provide an introduction to the book, with an afterword written by Sofia Boutella. Harlow is a standout artist deserving of his own showcase like this. His makeup can be seen on productions including the Buffy the Vampire television series, across franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean, Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Riddick, and The Matrix, plus X-Men (2000), The Planet of the Apes (2001), A.I. Artificial Intelligence, War of the Worlds, Green Lantern, Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Most recently he worked on Logan and you can see more of his work coming soon in Black Panther, Hellboy, and Godzilla: King of Monsters.
Taking the time and great expense to populate a film with so many intricately developed creations brings another layer of authenticity to Star Trek Beyond. As a lifelong diehard Trek fan, in part it’s the creativity and diversity of the alien creations why I count Star Trek Beyond as one of the top five of all Star Trek films. Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow is the kind of book fans look forward to. It’s a must for fans of movie makeup, for creators of their own strange, new worlds, and Trek fans. Pick up your copy now here at Amazon.