STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
To Explore Strange New Worlds: Nibiru and Kronos
"Star Trek Into Darkness" also took the filmmakers deeper than ever into the rarified challenges of world-creating -- skills that were demanded especially for Nibiru, the volcanic red planet that opens the film with a spectacular action sequence, and for Kronos, the war-torn Klingon home planet. "Nothing could be more incredibly exciting and fun for filmmakers than creating other worlds," Scott Chambliss admits. "You get a rare chance to make the unimaginable real."
For the film's first scenes on the lush but technologically primitive Nibiru, Chambliss had a blast imagining an island-style civilization. "One thing I love about Star Trek is working with so many contrasting environments," he remarks. "Nibiru is the antithesis of the Klingon planet and both are completely different from Earth. Everyone wanted the island planet to have a seductive atmosphere, and one thing that I remembered from my travels in Hawaii is what they call 'lipstick bamboo,' which is dark red and other-worldly, so that made me think, what if this planet was all red? There was something wonderful to that, combined with the deep turquoise blue water and white sand. It was not only a striking color palette but it had that retro vibe which we embrace in our Star Trek story telling. And then we developed a whole cultural atmosphere around that."
Adds Jeffrey Chernov: "The challenges of Nibiru were at times almost overwhelming. Not only were the sets and photography a challenge but we also had to create a whole tribe, which took months to figure out. Many movies would probably just have said, we're gonna do this with CG, but J.J. wanted to bring the planet to life in camera. So we started designing our Nibiru natives, and it took a very long time to come up with their look, working with Neville Page, our creature designer, David Anderson, our special effects makeup designer and Michael Kaplan, our costume designer."
No less challenging was Kronos, and once again, Abrams gave Chambliss complete creative leeway to express the Klingon warrior society in his own original way. "It was clear to me that J.J. wanted Kronos to be an amazing playground -- but what that playground would be took developing approach after approach," Chambliss recalls. "Kronos is a warring culture so we thought it might be interesting to show a part of the planet that is like toxic wasteland, what you would see post-nuclear bomb or environmental disaster, with all the ramifications of that."
He found inspiration in an unusual earthly location. "I found these photos of an abandoned Russian water park -- a huge scale thing from the 50s or 60s that fell into complete constructive disrepair and it was so eerie. That was really inspirational to the look," Chambliss explains.
The 40,000-foot set was built on a massive soundstage. "Its scale was monstrous," says Tommy Harper. "J.J. wanted to do a lot in-camera and not just have it be a digital world. We were under the gun, but we completely pulled it off, including the pulsating wall of light that became a character in the set. It's one of those sets you'll remember -- and just getting to Kronos is exciting!"
On top of giving Kronos visceral life, Chambliss had the chance to design the interior of a Klingon fighter ship. "It was really fun to give the ship its own cultural identity. This was a three-seater ship so we decided that the three seats would each face a different way. It was a really tight and intricate space and we all love that kind of challenge. All of us kept climbing inside and bumping our heads and knocking into things and we thought, 'this is so beautiful but it's going to be very hard to shoot.' Then J.J. came in and just made the space work with the camera. That was thrilling."
As far the Klingons themselves, Abrams explains: "We were very lucky to have Neville Page,
who's a wonderful creature designer, and David Anderson, who is a terrific special effects and makeup artist, work together on bringing the Klingons to life. We cast some terrific actors in the roles and they did an amazing job. Again, as with the design of the Enterprise, the Klingons in the film are both a nod to what has come before, and their own, original thing."
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