It’s late in the day on a Friday afternoon and the Star Trek Beyond cast is struggling to keep a straight face. Director Justin Lin is filming a long tracking shot that requires each actor to deliver a line of dialogue while the camera is in motion, and take after take is ruined by something going wrong.
In the scene, the cast is located on an alien planet and on an alien ship. They’re debating a plan to free some of the crew that have been captured by Idris Elba’s character. Between takes, the jovial group laughs about the dialogue and the fact that they can’t get through the scene. I’ve loving every second of it. While I won’t repeat all the things that were said between takes, I will say they call each other “muggles” a lot when they mess up and I watched at least fourteen takes of the same scene.
Before going any further, let me rewind a second. Last August when Star Trek Beyond was filming in Vancouver, I got to visit the set with a few other reporters. While on set I watched a lot of filming, participated in group interviews with the cast and crew, and learned a lot about the upcoming film. With the July 22nd release date fast approaching, Paramount has lifted the embargo and I can share a lot of the cool things I learned. Warning: minor spoilers ahead.
30 Things to Know About Star Trek Beyond
- Star Trek Beyond has more aliens in it than the previous two films combined. Since it’s the 50th anniversary they wanted to create fifty new aliens.
- The film is well into its five year mission when the movie begins. Everyone is tried and ready to get some R & R.
- When the movie starts it’s a clean slate from the events of the past two films.
- The last two or so years while traveling through space has been very quiet with not a lot of action.
- As the film starts, the crew needs a break, with some of them questioning the mission.
- While the previous films were all about Kirk and Spock, Star Trek Beyond features more action for everyone and the character pairings are a lot different. Meaning you can expect to see certain people together that have never been together.
- Towards the beginning of the film, the Enterprise docks with a starbase on the furthest reaches of the Federation. The starbase will feature the majority of the new aliens created for the film. Simon Pegg said the story “begins with them docking up in a new starbase, which is on the very edge of Federation space. It’s a kind of diplomatic hub. It’s called Yorktown, and it’s right on the edge of Federation space, and it’s where all the most recent Federation inductees can come and mingle with each other and learn about each other.”
When the Enterprise gets to the Yorktown starbase, it’s the first time in ten months the crew has had proper contact with other people and that’s where story begins.
- At some point the crew will be stranded on an alien planet after the Enterprise comes under attack.
- Justin Lin wanted to make sure Idris Elba’s character was a strong antagonist. Lin said, “I wanted the character to have a very specific and valid philosophy and point of view. And I wanted to create something that would challenge, and also in a very valid way, the philosophy of The Federation.”
- Lin also talked about how Elba’s character was someone we haven’t seen in the Star Trek universe before, “it definitely is not a character you’ve seen before. For me it was important because this film would not exist without this character. And I feel like it was important when I had that first meeting, and once I decided what journey this film should take, it really was hinged off, again, this antagonist’s philosophy.”
- Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the script with Doug Jung, wanted the film to look at the “whole notion of the Federation and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, or how productive is inclusivity. What is the true cost of expansion, that kind of stuff. So we went in with some big, philosophical questions to ask.”
Pegg also pushed how Beyond was going to be a completely fresh story that didn’t take from the previous films.
- Spock and Uhura are still together.
- The film doesn’t take place on Earth. At all.
- The bridge set has a few tweaks since the last film with a few nods to the original Enterprise.
- Beyond has a new production designer and the film is a mix of Bad Robot and Justin Lin people working on the film.
- Zoe Saldana (Uhura) gets to wear a new, red uniform.
- The cast all say every relationship in the film will be tested.
- Chris Pine (Captain Kirk) will have more action than the previous films.
- Once the Enterprise comes under attack, the rest of the film is a roller coaster ride.
- When Justin Lin went in to pitch the studio for the job he pitched a huge action set piece which they ended up using as the end of the film. He thinks the scene got him the job.
- Sofia Boutella’s character (Jaylah) takes three and a half hours to do the makeup and between thirty to forty five minutes to take it off at the end of the day.
- Karl Urban said the script “has really managed to capture the essence of the original series. And it’s much more of an ensemble piece. I think there’s great character development for everybody, and fantastic action.”
One of the things that excited Urban about Beyond was how the film doesn’t focus on the bromance between Kirk and Spock and more on the relationship between McCoy and Spock.
- The film has a 77 day schedule with the majority taking place in Vancouver and a few weeks in Dubai. We were on set on day 30.
- They have five sets that comprise the Enterprise. Unlike previous Star Trek movies and shows, the production built a rotator rig which allows the sets to rotate 360 degrees so the actors don’t have to pretend to move…they’re really moving. This helps to simulate the Enterprise in action when under attack.
- Karl Urban says the film features a lot more action for Bones than the previous films and he crosses lines he never thought he would.
- Lin promises Beyond has a lot of Easter eggs. He said, “I think the fans are going to have a really good time.”
When Pegg came aboard as one of the writers many wondered if the film would feature more laughs and how it might compare to the first two films by Abrams. He said, “I think when my name was linked to it, people were like, “Oh, no, it’s going to be a comedy.” That’s not what we want to do, but both Doug and myself and the whole cast and Justin are very keen for the film to be fun. You know, the jeopardy to be real, the tension to be nail-biting, but not to have to feel like — and, you know, the second one is called Into Darkness, so I’m not necessarily leveling this criticism at that film, obviously; I’m in it. But there seems to be this weird thing these days about, if you gritty something up, suddenly, it’s okay for us to like it as grownups. It’s like justifying — like I said before, like what is essentially something that’s aimed at children, but if you suddenly fill it with darkness and blood, it’s okay for grownups. We don’t feel guilty about liking it. But fuck that, you know what I mean? We can like anything we like. I feel like Star Trek was always very bright and very optimistic. There are some fabulous comic touches in the original series, when you watch some of the interplay between Kirk, Bones and Spock particularly, there’s some lovely stuff. So we want this film to have a sense of fun and levity which never impacts on the tension and never takes anything away from the bad guy. I mean, Galaxy Quest is a great example of a really funny sci-fi film, where you have all the threat in that film — same with the zombies in Shaun of the Dead — they’re completely serious, and you have comedy happening. We’re not making Galaxy Quest here by any means, but it’s possible to have a lightness and a comic touch and characters who are very human and still maintain a kind of genuine threat and for it to feel real and not flippant. But I kind of balk slightly at this darkness thing, because it just feels… own it, you know?”
In addition to the scene I talked about at the beginning of this article, I also got to watch a few other scenes being filmed. However, since they took place in the third act, I’m going to refrain from describing what I saw except to say people get hurt in Star Trek Beyond and the stakes are real.
For more on Star Trek Beyond:
- New ‘Star Trek Beyond’ Trailer Scatters the Crew
- Simon Pegg on ‘Star Trek Beyond’ and the Difference between ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’
- We’ve Seen 10 Minutes of ‘Star Trek Beyond’; Here Are Our Thoughts
- ‘Star Trek Beyond’: Over 60 Images from the New Trailer
- Over 75 Images from the ‘Star Trek Beyond’ Fan Event at Paramount Studios