I was obsessed with Jurassic Park when I was a kid. I can pinpoint it as the sole film that was responsible for not only my love of film, but my love of how films were made. Obviously seeing realistic dinosaurs on the big screen was the reason for the former, but the reason for the latter was a book my parents bought me called The Making of Jurassic Park, which included pages and pages of behind-the-scenes photos and sketches detailing how many of the film's major sequences were done, as well as showcasing ideas that never made it into the final film. I'm sure at that young age (I was eight when the film came out), I didn't understand what was actually being explained in the book, but even then I knew it was showing me a side of movie magic I'd never seen before.

Despite that book being my bible for a summer or two, I haven't thought of it in years; not until I picked up Star Trek: The Art of the Film by Mark Cotta Vaz. I have no doubt that this book is going to do for some kid today what The Making of Jurassic Park did for me. It's an absolutely gorgeous coffee table centerpiece that, as the name implies, chronicles the making of JJ Abrams' Star Trek from the perspective of its legion of artists, featuring everything one could wish to see from behind the scenes: candid conversations with everyone from the director to the producer to the prop master to the CGI artists to the costume designers, all of which are thoroughly supported by a treasure trove of unseen concept art, pre-renders, and test photographs.

With Star Trek: The Art of the Film, Vaz and Titan books have delivered to fans much of the pre-production documents the actors got to see before signing onto the project, save for the actual script, as well as an exhaustive chronicle of how much of the design process changed between pre, principal, and post production. One of my favorite examples of this is within the section on Future Iowa, which shows the original, distinctively human sketch of what the hoverbike cop who pulls over young Kirk should look like. ILM visual effects art director Alex Jaeger recalled to Vaz, "It didn't feel future-cool. J.J. Said 'This needs to be kick-ass. Cover up his face so people will wonder if he's a man or a robot.'"

It's not a groundbreaking revelation by any means, but it's just a sample of the thought process behind even the smallest details that went into fleshing out Abrams' vision of the future. I'm still wondering if the hoverbike cop was a man or a robot, so it is a relief to know that was an intentional puzzle and not just a 'who cares, just make him look cool' moment.

If you're a Trekker, this is without reservation a must-own book. Even if you weren't on-board with what Abrams did to the canon of Star Trek, you'll love reading about the logic behind the changes and seeing how they evolved from a sketch on someone's notepad to a CGI pre-visualization, to an actual prop. But even if you don't care about why the phasers in Abrams' Trek utilize a spring-loaded mechanism or what kind of wardrobe the Klingons would wear, this collection is packed with so many stunning visuals that it's worth plopping down on your living room table just for the eye candy alone.

The desolate landscapes of Vulcan, the sweeping beauty of the ships in the starry heavens, dozens of unused promotional posters... all captured on paper so glossy and thick that turning the page you'll often wonder if two pages got stuck together. That may seem like an odd compliment, but should you want to desecrate Titan's book by cutting out the pages, the paper stock could easily be mistaken for a poster; always a nice touch in an art book like this.

Now I have no idea how much of the content in Star Trek: The Art of the Film is exclusive to the book and how much of it can be seen in the special features on the Blu-ray, though I imagine there is certainly overlap. However, for a Trek completist (or someone who just appreciates fine production design), this is a wonderful, 157-page treat; an exhaustive examination that informs as many conversations as it starts. And if you have or know a kid that loved Abrams' Star Trek, this is the perfect companion to help foster their love of movie magic.
categories Cinematical