Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: ‘Alien Vault: The Definitive Making of the Film’

Like the film it chronicles, Alien Vault is initially striking because of its elegant design. This hardcover volume comes housed in a glossy protective case. Slip out the book and scan pages and pages of full-color on-set photos, film stills, and production and concept designs by H.R. Giger, Ron Cobb, Heavy Metal artist Moebius, and director Ridley Scott. Scattered throughout those pages are vellum envelopes containing pull-out storyboards, paintings, poster art, and blueprints for the Nostromo. Why couldn’t these images just sit on the pages with the rest of the arresting pictures? Same reason the Alien has to have an external ribcage and a phallic cranium: pure design.

With such adoring attention to aesthetics, Alien Vault could have easily been a style-over-substance specimen. As is the case with Alien, the content runs deeper than its striking surface. Empire-magazine editor Ian Nathan makes his love for Ridley Scott’s film felt early in his book, which holds true to its subheading: The Definitive Making of the Film. Nathan takes the reader from his own boyhood fascination with that decidedly adult alternative to Star Wars, back to its inception in the mind of Dan O’Bannon, through its production, and on to its aftermath. His text abounds in quotes from the numerous artists who helped birth Alien, particularly Scott, Giger, and Sigourney Weaver. We learn the extent of Joseph’s Conrad’s influence on the film and the depth producers Walter Hill and David Giler brought to O’Bannon’s original idea (which irritated the writer to no end). We learn about the alien life cycle and how The Who’s Roger Daltrey contributed to the look of the film.

Voyageur Press sometimes allows style to trump substance. Alien Vault: The Definitive Making of the Film is a triumph of text and design that suggests the publisher is getting the balance right. Hopefully, Nathan’s book is just the first in a series of similarly crafted books on important and visually rich films. Alien fanatics will certainly want to invest in the Vault if for no other reason than to see Giger’s grotesque early design for the creature he christened the “degenerate plucked turkey.”

Get Alien Vault at Amazon.com here.
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