The first major reference book dedicated solely to the behind the scenes production work on Star Trek Beyond does not disappoint!
Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow is a meticulously researched and expertly organized book, cataloging the amazing creations of Joel Harlow and his makeup effects team for the 2016 film.
The 256-page hardcover release from Titan Books is packed with behind-the-scenes images, insight and never-before-seen photography of the making of the film, and is brilliantly broken up by region (the Enterprise, Altamid and Yorktown Station) and characters, to make it easy to both skim through and dive into in detail.
The smart organization by author Joe Nazarro allows it to cleverly serve as both a making-of resource and an in-universe reference book, carving into impressive detail on 49 specific characters and species from the film.
As a historical record for Star Trek Beyond, the book opens with two excellent forewords from Harlow’s collaborative partners: director Justin Lin and screenwriter Simon Pegg, who both credit the artist’s passion and creativity in helping to guide their way through an incredibly short production timeline in early 2015. It also features an afterword from Sofia Boutella, who eloquently describes her transformation to Jaylah and her introduction to Harlow.
Lin’s foreword in particular focuses on Harlow’s dedication to the work and the subject matter, noting that every time he asked for more, the artist’s eyes “would light up.” It was this partnership that eventually led to Harlow zeroing in on a plan to create 50 unique alien make-ups to honor the 50-year anniversary of the franchise.
Harlow credits his wife with the idea of stretching to 50 makeups after he had totaled up his alien count at 48 during the production. His team would eventually top off at an astounding 56 unique aliens for the film.
“Not only did I know every single character, I knew what prosthetics and accessories went with each of them. I knew which ones needed teeth, quills, fingernails, horns, teeth, eyes, lenses, or whatever it was,” said Harlow, highlighting the intricacies of his work. “I knew every element that went into all of those 56 makeups from the start of prep through additional photography.”
That quote in itself highlights Harlow’s passion for the project, but actions speak louder than words, and in the opening chapters of the book Harlow discusses his lifelong love of Star Trek, his professional introduction to Trek in 2009 (for which he was awarded the Oscar for Makeup and Hairstyling), how a production conflict with filming on The Lone Ranger forced him to miss out on Star Trek Into Darkness, and how he declined Pirates of the Caribbean 5 (and his career-long partnership with Johnny Depp) to make sure he would be able to lead the charge on Beyond.
“Justin said, ‘We need to make her hair whiter; we’ve got to get rid of the yellow.”
Yep, that’s right. Jaylah’s hair was original going to be yellow. As you might expect, that’s just one of the many interesting details crammed into the 16 pages of the book dedicated to the creative design of Jaylah. Those pages include more than 50 photos of the character, detailing every angle of how she came to life.
The meticulously designed Jaylah was an immediate fan favorite, and this section also includes a look at a dozen different early designs for the character as she came into existence.
“We threw in a little bit of Klingon, some Komodo dragon, maybe a little Gila monster; those sorts of shapes.”
Obviously, the morphing design of Beyond’s major villain was a critical makeup element for the film, and it is dissected in detail in a 12-page section of the book. Harlow explains how his team created four different stages for Krall’s changing appearance, and reveals for the first time that it was Idris Elba himself who pushed for the final version of Krall to retain some alien in his appearance (instead of being 100 percent human in the film’s climactic scenes).
Harlow also goes into detail about how they scraped their original plans for Krall just before the start of filming because they felt as though “the magic had been designed out of it.” Unfortunately, no imagery of that original design is included in the vast number of photos, though.
“I wanted to expand the character beyond a head and hands. I wanted to show as much alien anatomy as we could and really push the envelope. The entire shop was very enthusiastic about this character.”
The book’s cover features the alien Natalia, the striking Nautilus shell-headed creature that stood out so strikingly in the film’s final party scene. The eight-page section of the book on Natalia features more than a dozen photos, showcasing not only her impressive cowl, but also her arms and chest pieces.
Harlow knew the extensive, seven-hour make-up session would require an actor with the ability to withstand the rigors of the application, and found the perfect person in his stepdaughter Ashley Edner, who impressively brought the makeup to life.
4. Ensign Syl
“We decided to give a nod to H.R. Giger in the concept by giving the back of the head a ‘facehugger’ look.”
Ensign Syl, we barely knew thee. But what an incredibly impactful design for Harlow and his team, who created two versions of the character’s head: one that was closed for most of the action, and one that was open to reveal the hidden Abronath.
The open look included posable “fingers” that were later digitally enhanced in the final production.
5. Teenaxi (“Kevin”)
“Initially we were going to make a full-size costume that a performer could’ve worn and then get digitally reduced in size, but…it just wasn’t practical.”
The Teenaxi were not a makeup application, but a straight creature design that featured prominently in the film’s prologue. Harlow’s team created a one-to-one detailed maquette that matched the scale of the Teenaxi seen in the film.
The final model was scanned and animated by the visual effects department (and did not feature pants!).
The book’s background on Harlow shows there is no doubting his overall commitment to Trek and he has gone on record when we spoke to him in August that he “can’t imagine there wouldn’t be anything I’d be involved in that I wouldn’t drop instantly to take on another Trek film.”
The strength of the book, however, lies in the imagery and alien-by-alien detail cataloged in its pages. Interesting creative ideas are reflected on every page, from the smallest of aliens — literally, the Teenaxi –to the largest, like the lumbering Wadjet, the scavenger who Jaylah put in his place when we first meet her.
Strangely, however, almost none of the actors wearing the intricate makeup are identified in this book.
Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlowis Titan Books’ second hardcover focusing on the creative efforts of the Kelvin Timeline, and we can’t recommend enough that you should add this release to your collection — and for only $28 (as of this writing), it’s a steal for the quality and quantity of information included here.
With the strength of this release, we’re really looking forward to December’s The Art of Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline (available for preorder now) to see how the publisher will be rounding out their Kelvin Timeline trilogy of reference books.