Review–Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Art and Visual Effects takes a 40-year look back

The next concept artwork and special effects book in the Star Trek franchise arrives tomorrow, this time taking a fresh look at the success and failures in the visual effects created for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this past December.  It’s all in Star Trek: The Motion Picture–The Art and Visual Effects, by Jeff Bond and Gene Kozicki.  Diehard fans of the history of filmmaking will learn more about the most celebrated visual effects masters in the business as they did their best to rescue a floundering production back in 1979.  You have today left to pre-order the book at a discount here at Amazon–this will be a welcome addition to bookshelves for fans of the franchise’s first feature film.

For most fans of the Star Trek franchise, the last time they would have seen an account focused on the art and special effects for the first Star Trek movie would be in Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens’ memorable The Art of Star Trek, a must for any fan of the original series and films.  The authors of this new account admit upfront an attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Robert Abel and Associates–for anyone who read the Star Trek fan magazines and tracked the first film’s development in the 1970s, the selection and dismissal of the Abel effects firm from the production by director Robert Wise is akin to casting Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly in the early days of the filming of Back to the Future.  But here the authors highlight where the artists in Abel’s effects house succeeded, including what ideas survived to make it into the final film.  Readers will also get the feel that the powerhouse team that replaced Abel & Co. could have made a more critically acclaimed film had they been given the time and money given to Abel.

Final thoughts in the book by the contributors, including interviews with the creators both new and from archives, seem surprisingly consistent in agreeing with what needed fixing in the final production and what was successful.  In 1979 film audiences were either elated from having any Star Trek, or disappointed, primarily with the V-ger story and effects handling.  In hindsight, readers today can probably separate the over-long shuttle approach of Kirk and Scotty from what is now looked on as a stunning reveal of the “refit” Enterprise ship.  (Readers will see that donating the original series model ship and the Klingon model to the Smithsonian Institution inadvertently necessitated–and resulted in the benefit for the production–of the spectacular scratch-built models audiences would ultimately see on the big screen).

Star Trek: The Motion Picture–The Art and Visual Effects not only chronicles the behind-the-scenes accounts of the early concept artwork, the rejected concepts, and the revised and final visual effects, it also provides insight into Robert Fletcher’s costuming decisions (including ideas reflected and used, from Starfleet uniforms to spacesuits) and prop development, including several photographs never before published.  If you agree that the refit Enterprise is the prettiest of all the versions of the Starfleet vessels that carried that name, you will be in for a treat–many selected photographs provide new views of the ship including the creators building the stages of its development.  And fans of Klingons will see new images of the original uniforms that would dominate the next 20 years of series and films, and a great update of their ship from the original vessels fans saw in the original series.

The authors include perspectives via interviews old and new, from the likes of Robert Wise, Syd Mead, Douglas Trumbull, Ralph McQuarrie, Rick Sternbach, Fred Phillips, John Dykstra, Richard Taylor, Mark Stetson, Mike Okuda, Greg Jein, Lee Cole, Jon Povill, John Eaves, Alan Dean Foster, Andrew Probert, Ken Adams, Mike Minor, Robert Fletcher, Harold Michelson, Robert McCall, Matthew Yuricich, Robert Abel, and others.

The release date for Star Trek: The Motion Picture–The Art and Visual Effects is tomorrow.  Again, you can pre-order the book now here at Amazon.  It will be good reading for your favorite diehard Star Trek fan.

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

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