The Nebuchadnezzar, that amazing hover-ship from the Matrix movie-saga (barely displayed on its two first chapters), is the ultimate dream of any naval or aeronautic engineer. Although it can fulfill perfectly both rolls, it's neither a boat nor an airship (and almost a mean of ground transport).
This unusual hovercraft has a peculiar path of navigation, which are the water-drainage sewages of a demolished New York on an undetermined future.
Supposed to be constructed in the 2069 (as the film-story tells), if we have to define it by the specific roll in combat, would at least be necessary to describe it as a communications ship. Although by the particular reality in which it is settle, and the unusual kind of enemy it faces, can be better defined as a "virtual assault ship".
But that's a very special kind of assault, since its crew, at the orders of the legendary Morpheus, infiltrate themselves inside the enemy lines as "digital data" (ones&zero bits), the only way to become present in the fictitious world that "the Matrix" creates to enslave the minds of all human kind, dreaming prisoners of a race of cybernetic organisms that harvests them inside giant power-plants. They drain their neural/electrical impulses as their own energy supply.
Cannons over the ship's deck are more a defense than a real attack weapon, since its main armament is the impressive array-system of antennas that surround the Neb. By this mean, the rebel humans attack and infiltrate their signal inside the network of "the Matrix" to rescue from that fake reality those who dare to take the ‘red pill'.
Like in other movies on Hollywood history, "the Matrix" (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999) has used a sea-fauna concept in the design of the character ship. It also happened in some TV series like the 90's "Seaquest", "Voyage to the bottom of the sea" in the early 60's, or in "20000 Leagues Under the sea" (Richard Fleischer, 1954) between many other examples.
Whereas first model resembles unequivocally a driven skid at full speed, the second one is a hybrid metal version between a hammer-shark and a ray-fish, being the narwhal the main resemblance on the third case. The Neb obviously does not escape to this idea, keeping a peculiar similarity to the American "catfish" where its thorns and moustaches are transformed into the complex cluster of antennas that covers the hover-ship.
What is even more amazing is the way it obtains levitation and propulsion. Twenty onmi-directional / luminous discs generates an electromagnetic field, gives trust in the same way that modern technology trains do in our days.
Their distribution allows this enormous ship (the size of the model is about 20 inches long and is reproduced in 1:140 scale, about 65 real meters) to be able to maneuver with extraordinary agility on the intricate network of sewage-pipes. That's the only way to escape from the sentinels, a kind of biomechanical octopus/creatures governed by the central brain (Mainframe) of "the Matrix", that attack and destroy any source of rebel signal that is detected inside the city pipes.
The last defense against those beings is the EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) that the Neb can generate with extraordinary power through all around its hull, killing not only its adversaries but also its own propulsion and control systems (a sort of "electromagnetic kamikaze dead-end"). That idea keeps a suggestive similarity with the electrical discharge of Verne's "Nautilus'".
THE SECOND VERSION
After publishing on many internet forums my first 3 feet scratchbuilt version of this ship, I received a new commission to make this smaller version to half the size of previous one. I wasn't so excited about the idea of re-building this ship, since once you mainly know the model and you have solved all the possible challenges it presents, it stops becoming a challenge.
My first scratchbuilt version at 3 feet long
Nevertheless the idea of making it at almost half the size represents new challenges to be solved, mainly regarding the hardest matter of both versions, that was the illumination installation of the model.
In fact, in this case I had to rework it almost all-over, as previous tungsten bulbs used on the first version didn't fit inside the new/smaller trust disk replicas. Final solution was to replace those bulbs with smaller high-bright leds that produce even more bright and consume much less energy.
On the other hand I had to work over a new approach when start working over the new version, specially considering that I would need two hollow hull-halves to be able to install the lighting circuitry.
So I decided to make a solid original model; and then make silicon-rubber molds to obtain epoxy-resin hollow cast-copies of both halves for this purpose.
The main advantage of this method was that I would obtain both halves ready to assemble without bigger re-detailing work (except for polishing, assembling and puttying), since this would have been done in the original solid master.
Below, differents steps of the making of the Nebuchadnezzar:
WORKING ON THE MASTER VERSION
I started (as always in my case) carving a big brick of polyfoam slightly bigger than the final measures to get the basic ship volume On a second stage I polished the resulting shape even better to get to most approximate general shape and a smooth surface finish.
Then I applied a coat of common clay-putty (the same one used on construction) to cover any superficial imperfection and get a clean final surface to work over. Fine sandpaper and polishing made it even smother and a last acrylic hand in spray sealed the whole structure to avoid ‘cracking'.
Then a started adding all the ‘skin' detailing, paneling and texturing, putting special emphasis on its profuse texture surface detail (as it can be seen on some close-up shots from the movie), that was much more demanding than in the first case (due to its smaller scale). I used different types of linen cloths and fabrics of fine frame that helped to get that tiny/details texture that would be difficult to obtain with other materials.
After that multitude of small plastic pieces of the most diverse origin were added to complete the different accessories that cover the Neb's hull. After finishing with this hard/long-lasting task (it is not necessary to say that scratchbuilding is my favorite technique) I gave another spray coat to sealed all the structure and prepare the model for the molding process.
I used for this purpose white silicone liquid rubber applied superficially over all the structure (in two steps for each halves). I got a ½-inch wide rubber skin that I reinforced with a support done with epoxy putty and fiberglass acting as a counter-mold.
Despite a few small rubber-tears the level of detail was excellent, not loosing quality at all form the original master.
With both half-molds already done, I used an epoxy resin variant with a creamy consistence, scattering it over the mold, and alternating it with fiberglass films to give the resulting copies a better resistance. I had to wait 3 to 4 hours between hands as this type of resin cures a bit slowly, especially when applied over large surfaces. After three layers on each side, I had to wait for another 48 hours for the final curing process.
The resulting copies got an excellent level of detail almost the same of the master version.
With this result I decided to give the model a more realistic support-base it on its usual environment (as it appears on some scenes in the film), that is displaying the model in a diorama resembling the underground pipes that lead to the legendary city of Zion.
I built this frame using bookcase squared metallic supports fixed to a base made of 3mm wide wooden plates. Then I include another wooden profile at 45 degrees to break the straight edges and began adding a bunch of cables, tubes and other assorted plastic parts that would resemble the pipes, wires and valve-components of the scene.
Finally, to give the idea of levitation to the model, I glued to the two central supports two 4mm wide iron rods that would support the weight of the ship from the backside.
On light installation, I used high-bright leds. I got a special variant that illuminates in a 180º angle (unlike the common ones that they do not surpass a cone wider than 25º)
Below, pictures of the final model:
For the painting stage, I applied a first layer of flat-black spray to uniform color parts and patches. Then another spray primer in aluminum (slightly applied to let the black previous level to be noticeable in certain zones). Both coats were Krylon spray colors
Then I started airbrushing first paneling details and shadows with acrylic Tamiya Khaki Drab, emphasizing them some more with acrylic Tamiya black in the deeper sections.
The rest was a lot of hand-brush weathering work, applying washes, dry brush, filters in different tones form orange oxide to shadow, with some olive green and dark blue touches, to get the particular eroded aspect of the ship in such a hostile environment.
Despite starting from the same colors, the pipes and wires on the support base received harder treatment in the tones oxides (it seemed obvious to me that a static metallic surface should be more corroded than the ship). I omitted Khaki paneling on the base to chromatically differ a bit more from the Neb.
The external round shields of each trust disc were painted with a base of black primer KRYLON, and then raising lights with toasted-shadow and ocher.
The arms were also primed in flat black, and received pewter lights, with toasted-shadow and sienna to simulate metal overburning.
The construction of whole model and scene demanded me almost 5 months of work.
You can buy this kit here, on TRIFON Miniatures website.
Tags: Boats and Ships