All posts for the month January, 2013

I must say, I’m starting to really get into Dead Space‘s story. Although the movies suffered from a poor artistic vision, their narratives met the quality I expect from the DS games. There’s a real consistency to the stories told in the Dead Space tie-ins. Although they may place too much emphasis on the Aegis VII/Ishimura arc, you can’t deny that they explore the situation from every possible scenario. And although they’re fixated on a particular sequence of events, we learn a new nuance about the major players involved with each successive installment in the cannon. Dead Space: Salvage is technically a prequel to DS2, but I would almost say it’s more fitting to call it a final chapter in the Ishimura saga. Ever wonder how the Ishimura was retrieved by EarthGov and brought to the Sprawl? Probably not, but Salvage will fill you in on the details, and you’re going to like it, goddamnit.

Dead Space Salvage Cover

Why can’t video game covers look this good?

Dead Space: Salvage
Writer: Antony Johnston
Artist: Christoper Shy
Editors: EA Comics (Robert Simpson), Studio Ronin (Emmalee Pearson, Tony Hughes, Kevin Stein, Leah Novak)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Country: USA
Release Date: November, 2010

Dead Space Salvage 6

The art is sometimes confusing, but always a feast for the eyes.

Released in 2010, Dead Space: Salvage is the first DS tie-in I’ve reviewed that wasn’t released alongside one of the games. The man responsible for Salvage‘s art is Christopher Shy. I hadn’t heard of Mr. Shy, but thankfully a quick Wikipedia search shed light on my ignorance. Christopher Shy is better known for his design company, Studio Ronin. Studio Ronin provides concept designs for a range of products, including movies and advertisements. The obvious reason I hadn’t heard of him was because I’m certainly no expert on comic artists, but more importantly, Salvage is one of the Shy’s first comics. There’s no denying that the artwork is gorgeous.The style is so unique that I find it hard to define. Everything looks like a sort of messy collage of textures from actual photographs. This mixture of textures in each panel has been manipulated and altered to death, and each image looks as if it’s been run through a factory of digital effects. Many of the characters have a translucent quality, meaning you can see the lighting and features from their background. If this all sounds really vague, it’s because I’m trying to describe a unique one-of-a-kind style that I haven’t seen elsewhere. The scans in this post should speak for themselves.

Dead Space Salvage 5

Kneeling in front of the marker, ’cause that’s what unitologists.

The obvious risk with abstract, experimental art in comics is that it can distract from the storyline. It’s one thing to have fancy pictures, but if the reader can’t tell what’s happening from panel to panel, the end result is an incomprehensible narrative. Salvage definitely straddles the edge of the cliff of incomprehensibility. Luckily, I would argue that it manages to avoid the plummet. That being said, it gets off to a rough start. The biggest problem with the art style is that several of the male characters look nearly identical to each other. To make matters worse, there are quite a few characters, and none of them are well introduced. In my case, it was only about halfway through the comic that I was able to distinguish between the various players. Although there’s little emphasis placed on developing each character’s personality, you’ll quickly start to become familiar with each individual based on the role they place in the story. Long story short, the characters are difficult to identify visually, but you’ll sort out who’s who, at least eventually. In fact, there’s a bio of each character provided at the beginning of the comic, precisely for that reason. So does the art detract from the story? Although I initially thought it did, by the end of the read I had really warmed up to the visuals and their ability to move the narrative along.

Dead Space Salvage 4

Isaac is that you?

Due to Christopher Shy’s atypical art style, the necromorphs come in all shapes and strange sizes. Instead of the typical variations we’re accustomed to, Shy explores all manner of exotic morphologies. Personally I think this approach works nicely, considering the organic nature of the necromorphs, and it almost makes me wish there was more enemy variety in the games. My biggest complaint with Shy’s style, other than the fact that certain characters look alike, is that there is very little detail in the backgrounds. Shy’s style doesn’t lend itself to precise details, so most of the backgrounds are just washes of wispy color. It’s not a big deal, but it’s rarely obvious what sort of environment a character is in.

Dead Space Salvage 9

All kinds of interesting necromorph variations.

To match the excellent visuals, Salvage was written by Antony Johnston, who also happens to have co-written the games and most of the tie-in fiction. Remember how I said there’s a consistency to the storyline between Dead Space‘s various spinoffs? Well, we have this man to thank. Of the various tie-ins, Salvage has my favorite story. Set in the year 2509, one year after the events of DS1, but several months before Dead Space: Aftermath, Salvage tells the story of a group of freelance miners known as the “magpies”. The magpies have a fleet of mining vessels, and use “shockrings” (picture a portable warp drive in the form of a large ring) to collect and transport minerals. Using a shockring, they mistakenly warp a large vessel to their location, which they later realize is the Ishimura. Meanwhile, EarthGov’s Defense Secretary David Chang is tasked with retrieving the Ishimura, which has been missing since the Aegis VII incident, and which they believe still contains the marker. Accompanying him are two shady EarthGov agents known as “oracles”. Oracles are ultra-elite operatives that seem to possess psychic powers. Chang eventually realizes the Ishimura is in the magpies’ possession, and sends the oracles and a squad of marines to eliminate them and retrieve the marker. Meanwhile, there are still plenty of necromorphs hanging around the Ishimura, so we’re treated to copious amounts of good old Dead Space carnage and mayhem.

Dead Space Salvage 2

Some of the pages from my comic fell out when I created these scans. IDW, if you’re reading this can I please get sent another copy? Pretty please?

As always with Dead Space‘s tie-ins, Salvage doesn’t add a whole lot to the cannon that couldn’t have been deduced from the games, but it is a fun diversion. Thankfully, Johnston did an excellent job with the dialogue. As someone who’s watched way too many movies involving a small crew in tight quarters, Salvage nails the element of interesting character interaction. The first third of the comic is mostly composed of banter between the various magpie shipmates, and to Johnston’s credit, the interactions are believable and fun to read.

As you may have noticed from the tone of this post, I really warmed up to Salvage. At first I thought the art was too obtuse (but still pretty), and that I’d never get the hang of the characters. Luckily I was wrong. The art is really impressive, as I’ve repeatedly stated. Completing the duo, Johnston’s writing is excellent as always. By this point, it could be argued that the “aliens on a ship” formula is getting stale, but we’re sci-fi horror fans, we’re not allowed to get bored with aliens on a ship. Salvage is the first DS tie-in I’ve reviewed that I feel meets the quality of the games. The other tie-ins had strong storylines, but left something to be desired from an artistic standpoint. All in all, Salvage is highly recommended.

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of images from Dead Space: Salvage

Dead Space 3 is just over a week from release, and rather than playing the demo, I’m busy exploring its intricate backstory. To cut to the chase, today’s offering is the second animated film, Dead Space: Aftermath. Rather than bore you a second time with the various reasons that I love this series, I figure I’ll just jump right in, so to speak.

Dead Space Aftermath Cover

I love this cover.

Dead Space: Aftermath
Director: Mike Disa
Producer: Joe Goyette
Studios: Film Roman, Starz Media, Pumpkin Studio
Distributors: Electronic Arts, Manga Entertainment
Country: USA
Release Date: January, 2011

Dead Space: Aftermath was released in January of 2011 to coincide with the release of Dead Space 2. I distinctly remember seeing it on store shelves in the cold winter months of 2011. The packaging is really attractive, so I remember being instantly interested. For whatever reason, I chose not to buy the movie until recently. I seem to remember that it had a fairly high price point, so as I’ll soon explain, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t purchase it at its original cost.

Dead Space Aftermath 2

The remains of Aegis VII.

Set in the year 2509, Aftermath takes place one year after the Ishimura incident, and two years before the events of Dead Space 2. That places it firmly in prequel territory, which is funny, because nearly every media tie-in with Dead Space is advertised as a prequel. There are considerably more DS prequels on store shelves than products that advance the story forward. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but lets just hope you like Aegis VII and the Ishimura, because the creative heads in charge of the series sure do.

Dead Space Aftermath 3

Ubiquitous marker-induced psychosis.

As you may remember, the events of the first DS ended with Isaac returning the red marker to the surface of Aegis VII, which in turn disrupted the gravity tethers that had been holding the planet together. Isaac then killed the main necromorph baddie, and escaped the destruction of Aegis VII on a shuttle craft. One year later, the USG O’Bannon (likely a reference to Dan O’Bannon, screenwriter of Alien) is sent by the CEC (a mining corporation) to investigate. It should be no surprise that the crew of the O’Bannon is sent under false pretenses, and that the CEC, in combination with EarthGov, is merely interested in monitoring the effects of the marker on hapless humans. It turns out Aegis VII wasn’t totally destroyed by Isaac, so the investigation team are able to navigate the surface of the planet, albeit with some difficulty. As expected, the crew encounter a fragment of the marker, they bring it on board the O’Bannon, and all hell breaks loose.

Dead Space Aftermath 15

Yes, Aftermath has nudity.

Aftermath is told from the perspective of the four crew members of the O’Bannon who survive the introduction of the marker fragment to the ship. An EarthGov ship intercepts the O’Bannon, retrieves the four survivors, and brings them to the Sprawl, which you may remember as the location of DS2. En route to the Sprawl, each survivor is individually interrogated; each one telling a portion of the events that lead to the deaths of the O’Bannon’s crew. Circa 2013, flashbacks aren’t an entirely unique storytelling device, but in Aftermath they add some flavor to what would otherwise have been a standard linear narrative. Unfortunately, the creators decided to take the flashbacks one step further…

Dead Space Aftermath 6

Are all those glowing lights really necessary?

Aftermath is a mess of movie, thanks to the decision to use five different animation styles, one for the present day events, and one for each of the four flashbacks. I can’t emphasize how badly this decision ruins the movie. Although it’s difficult to find the specific details, it seems that Film Roman contracted the animation to five different Korean studios. By far the worst offender of the five, the present day events are animated in some of the worst CG I’ve seen this side of the 90’s. To put it bluntly, the CG looks like total crap. Remember the show Reboot from the late 90’s? The CG in Aftermath quite literally looks worse. In all seriousness, I compared still frames from the two, and Aftermath loses. There’s almost no texture on each surface, and the environments are as clean, sparsely detailed, and lifeless as that guy’s apartment from the last short in the movie Creepshow. When I first started Aftermath, I didn’t realize the CG would transition into conventional 2D animation; had it stayed CG the entire time, I may well have stopped the film.The CG is so awful that I’m hesitant to even include any images of it on this blog…

Dead Space Aftermath 4

The CG… I captured the least offensive looking screen possible.

Thankfully, the CG eventually ends, and gives way to some pretty decent 2D animation. Had the entire movie been done in 2d, I would have a much higher opinion of it. EA would have been wise to scrap the CG and start fresh. They have a reputation for sacrificing quality for the sake of making an extra dollar, and I can only imagine that’s what happened in this case. Sorry to bring up the example of Halo a second time, but the comparison is apt. Frank O’Connor, the man in charge of maininting the consistency of Halo‘s creative image, explained in the Halo Graphic Novel‘s forward that they waited until they had the perfect team before crafting a Halo comic. EA on the other hand, a company who can financially afford to handle their properties properly, seem content to shovel money at the cheapest options available. There are hentai studios that release better looking CG, not that I would know…

Dead Space Aftermath 12

The animation from the last 2D section looks incredible.

Returning back to the animation, the four 2d segments all look great, with the possible exception of the fourth. The backgrounds are detailed, the character models are nicely proportioned, the movement is fluid, and the angles are dynamic and interesting. Each one is superior looking to the animation from Dead Space: Downfall. The third 2D section, in particular, is beautiful. The style is fantastic, and the animation is as kinetic as any of Japan’s best offerings. I wish so badly that the entire movie had been done in this style. Had this been the case, we wouldn’t have to deal with the jarring differences in animation. To add weight to my statement that the movie is a mess, each character looks completely different in each of the five sections. Different to the point of skin color changes.

Dead Space Aftermath 7

More incredible animation from the last 2D section.

Aftermath‘s story is fairly interesting, and does a nice job of tying off a few loose ends between the events of DS1 and DS2. Like Downfall, nothing particularly important is added to the cannon, but we do learn a few new interesting details. For one, I was never very clear on how exactly the markers turn humans into necromorphs. Downfall explains fairly explicitely that the markers reanimate dead tissues. Necromorphs then spread the infection to other humans as they rack up kills. This still doesn’t explain the necromoph variations, but perhaps those questions have been answered elsewhere in the fiction. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no DS expert. Another addition to the cannon is that we learn Nolan Stross’ backstory. Apparently there was a time when he wasn’t a raving lunatic. Finally, we’re introduced firsthand to EarthGov’s “Overseer” (the chief of the marker conspiracy), who to the best of my knowledge has never appeared directly in the games. Perhaps my biggest issue with the plot of Aftermath is that the necromorphs are introduced fairly late, and only get about ten minutes of screen time. Then again, this serves to emphasize that the humans are the true evil; an idea which is explored every time EarthGov appears.

Dead Space Aftermath 10

Every good sci-fi horror needs some tentacle action.

Once again, the voice acting is quite good, other than one of the characters who can’t seem to stop awkwardly dropping the f-bomb. If you’re familiar with TV actors and voice actors, you’ll likely recognize the cast. Personally I’m not, so I won’t waste your time by pretending I’m knowledgeable. All things considered, the only strong detractor from Aftermath are the offputting animation changes and z-grade CG; other than that, it’s pretty watchable. The story isn’t excellent, nor does it add significantly to the cannon, but it’s pretty good. To summarize, I would only really recommend this to the most die-hard Dead Space fans, everyone else will probably turn it off after seeing the CG. To any non-DS fans, this Aftermath a pretty tough sell, even if you’re into sci-fi horror.

The Dead Space 3 hype train will continue in the next post. As a small hint, I have a certain comic in my apartment. Here’s to hoping that it will be less mediocre than the movies. As always, please check out the facebook page, I’ve been posting lots of DS news.

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of my favorite images from Dead Space: Downfall

Dead Space 3 is a mere two weeks away, so I thought it would be appropriate to count the days by writing several Dead Space related posts. Along with Doom, Half-Life, and perhaps Bioshock, Dead Space is easily one of the best sci-fi horror video game series of all time. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is the best. The aforementioned series might be more critically claimed, but Dead Space is the most pure of the lot. Equal parts Aliens and Event Horizon, DS nails the atmosphere that we’ve come to expect from pure sci-fi horror. Space stations, grotesque aliens/monsters, demonic possession, futuristic weaponry; DS delivers on all fronts. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a really design-oriented guy. With that in mind, I’d probably be fairly happy playing DS even it played terribly — the design is that good. Thankfully, the gameplay is equally satisfying. DS took the standard 3rd person shooter formula, and added an extra layer of depth with the inclusion of strategic dismemberment. In most other shooters, players are encouraged to aim for the head or chest for maximum damage. In DS, survival is heavily dependent on pinpointing various enemy body parts. Shooting an enemy in the legs renders them immobile, whereas shooting them in the arms decreases their potential to do harm. Anyways, I’m sure you’re all well aware of this. DS is an excellent series, ’nuff said.

2008 was the year of the dismembered hand.

2008 was the year of the dismembered hand.

Dead Space: Downfall
Director: Chuck Patton
Producers: Joe Goyette, Robert Weaver
Studio: Film Roman
Distributors: Electronic Arts, Manga Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment
Country: USA
Release Date: October, 2008

Released as a tie-in with the original DS, Dead Space: Downfall is an animated movie that tells the events that occurred prior to the start of the game. In DS, the protagonist, Isaac Clarke, arrives on the mining ship USG Ishimura to discover that all hell has broken loose. In Downfall, we witness how all hell broke loose. Fun fact: Isaac Clarke was named after Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. It’s nice to see that DS was written/designed by people who have respect for classic sci-fi. I doubt the same can be said for most modern game designers, although I’d love to be proven wrong.

The marker: much more evil than it looks.

The marker: much more evil than it looks.

Before getting into the real nitty-gritty of the film, I have to address the elephant in the closet. Downfall was animated by a studio called Film Roman. Film Roman is an American animation studio, through and through. Their major claims to fame are for shows like The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy, and many other American cartoons that you’ve inevitably heard of. Why EA decided to contract a Dead Space movie to these guys is totally beyond me. The most mature properties in their repertoire previous to Downfall were Hellboy Animated and X-Men Evolution. These are hardly on the same dark level as something like Dead Space. Downfall isn’t awful looking by any means, but I can’t help but think it could have looked much better. When it came time for Halo to explore the world of animation, 343 Industries made the wise decision to enlist several Japanese studios that had proven experience with hardcore subject matter. If I were in charge of the Dead Space property, I’d have done the same. In fact, previous to seeing Downfall, I totally assumed it was an anime. Again, the animation in Downfall is competent, but I’m sure it could have been so much more. Perhaps the biggest problem is that you feel as if you’re watching a Saturday morning cartoon, but with incredibly disturbing content. It’s a really strange mix. Personally I’m still able to enjoy the movie, but the same probably can’t be said of all DS fans. A friend of mine who’s a big DS fan owns both movies, but can’t get over the visual style. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, the images in this post should probably give you a suitable impression of how you’ll feel about the style.

The crew.

The crew.

As I mentioned earlier, Downfall serves as a prequel to the first game. In the year 2508, the mining ship USG Ishimura is busy performing a “planet cracking” (mining) operation on the planet Aegis VII. Colonists on the planet have discovered a large relic known as a “marker”. A religious cult called “Unitology” bases a large portion of their beliefs around these markers. It is soon revealed that the Ishimura was sent by the Church of Unitology with the express purpose of retrieving the marker and returning it to Earth. After the marker is brought on board the ship, strange occurrences start taking place on Aegis VII. Violence and murder spreads among the colonists who live on the planet’s surface. By the time the crew of the Ishimura respond, it’s too late. The colonists are all dead, and the “virus” has started to spread to the ship. This virus takes the form of ex-human creatures called necromorphs that kill everything in their path. The remainder of the movie is centered on Alissa Vincent, head of security on the Ishimura, and her security crew, as they attempt to eliminate the foreign menace from the ship.

The cure for a headache.

The cure for a headache.

The plot is actually pretty decent, and more comprehensible than your average anime. Although the crew mainly serve as fodder for the necromorphs, they’re actually fairly distinct. The creators did a good job of somehow making one-dimensional characters somewhat memorable. Don’t expect much character development from DS; once the action starts (early on), it doesn’t slow down for the remainder of the movie. If action doesn’t get you wet, steer clear of this movie. To the studio’s credit, they did a fantastic job of animating the action scenes. The choreography is good, and every kill has weight. Speaking of kills, this movie delivers them by the boatload. This is possibly the most violent animated movie I’ve ever seen, and that’s including Koichi Ohata’s entire repertoire. The blood and gore literally never stop flowing. It’s as if Film Roman spent the last twenty years repressing their desire to animate gore, and were only finally given the opportunity to act out their desires. This probably isn’t far from the truth, because judging by their resume it looks as if this was their first R-rated production. The dismemberment is rampant. In one scene, one of the crew members, who we’re meant to identify with, is slowly carved in two by another crew member. Intense.

Let's just be glad these things aren't real.

Let’s just be glad these things aren’t real.

The voice acting is extremely solid. So solid that I barely remembered to mention it. None of the voice actors’ names stand out to me, but they all seem to be veterans of animation. The solid voice acting makes it easier to identify with the characters. As I said earlier, the characters are actually fairly memorable, thanks in no small part to the cast.

Dead Space fans will appreciate the references to the original game. Although you could easily enjoy this without having played the game, there are some nice little occasional nods. For example, the incident between Dr. Terrence Kyne and the ship’s captain is explored in full detail. In addition, fans will recognize the locations from the game. Specifically, the medical hall, bridge, and hydroponics facilities are all featured prominently. That being said, not everything is covered faithfully. For example, the plasma cutter is wielded as a sort of lightsaber rather than as a weapon that fires rounds from a distance. This creative liberty is actually pretty fun in the movie, because the protagonists get to slice the enemies apart.

Some healthy gore.

Some healthy gore.

So, now for a verdict. Dead Space: Downfall is a fun little side diversion in the DS universe. Although it tells a nice compact narrative, it adds very little to the overall fiction. Nearly everything that’s covered is explained at some point in the original game. Furthermore, the visuals aren’t nearly as stylish as in the game, which is a big shame. Should you avoid the movie because of its mediocre visuals? Definitely not. The animation is actually pretty good, it’s just the style that’s a little off-putting. If you’re looking for a shallow, hyper violent extension to the DS universe, Downfall should serve you nicely. Luckily it doesn’t drag, so you should be entertained from start to finish.

And with that, I’m done my first post in the Dead Space 3 hype train. Expect to see more soon! If there’s anything Dead Space-related that you’d like to see covered, please shoot me a message on the facebook page. I’m always super excited to hear your feedback!

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of my favorite images from Dead Space: Downfall

A couple of months ago I was worried that this blog had become too Aliens-centric; now I’m worried that it’s become too Prometheus-focused. Oh wait, Prometheus is in the same extended universe as Aliens, so I guess the blog is still caught in an Aliens loop. Oh well, with a name like Xenomorphosis, you really can’t fault me for spreading too much Aliens love. Today’s product review was way too enticing to pass up. We’re talking about a giant tentacle alien action figure that comes with a detachable “appendage” that’s expressly meant to orally rape a second action figure. Sorry if that sentence was a bit of a mouthful. Seriously though, the fact that this exists baffles me. This figure set would be right at home in some sleazy back alley erotic figure shop in Akihabara. Erotic figure shops: they probably exist.

Alien rape. In space.

Alien love. In space.

Perhaps even more baffling than the fact that this exists, is that it was a Toys”R”Us exclusive. Yeah, you read that right. While shopping for baby clothes at Babies”R”Us, you might as well pick up an alien rape toy before making your way to the cash. The second I saw this set announced, I knew I had to have it, and that it needed a write-up on this site. Because it was an American-only exclusive, it took some clever planning and some help from a few friends to get this exotic import delivered to my apartment in the far North (Canada). A friend of mine’s girlfriend happened to be planning a visit to Ottawa from the States. She was gracious enough to allow me to have this monstrosity shipped to her dorm, and to then risk bringing it across the border. This thing is basically a creepy sex toy, so it must have taken some real bravery on her part to involve herself in my scheme. To add insult to injury, she lives in an all-girl dorm, and apparently the set got its fair share of creeped out stares as it lingered in her room before her visit North.

In all seriousness, this is a pretty cool set. I just couldn’t resist poking some fun at the nature of it. I tease because I love. As I mentioned earlier, this set comes with two figures: a “battle damaged” engineer, and a trilobite. Just to refresh your memory, the trilobite was the large tentacle alien that impregnated the engineer at the end of the film. This set was specifically created to reenact that scene. As far as I can remember, the term trilobite isn’t actually mentioned in the film. According to Prometheus: The Art of the Film, the name trilobite was coined because the creature was partly influenced by the appearance of actual trilobites.

Trilobite vs. Engineer (Battle Damaged)
Manufacturer: NECA
Release Date: November, 2012
Height: 8.5″ (Engineer), 17″ (Trilobite)

As with NECA‘s pressure suit engineer figure, these figures are incredibly detailed. Aside from some minor changes, the engineer is nearly identical to the aforementioned pressure suit engineer figure that was released in September. The hands are flexed differently, there’s some burn damage on the upper chest and face, the mouth is open rather than closed, and the paint job is slightly darker. Other than that, you’re looking at the same figure. For whatever reason, the engineer feels sturdier this time around, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why. Perhaps it’s because the joints seem less stiff. As with last time, the figure isn’t very posable, but in its defense, it’s really only meant to assume one position. The burn damage and open mouth serve to accentuate NECA‘s craftmanship: each individual tooth is independently sculpted, and the scar tissue is rendered in minute detail. As I’ll explain shortly, the mouth is open for a reason…

Here you can see the feelers and "petals".

Here you can see the feelers and “petals”.

The trilobite figure is pretty interesting. From a distance it looks like a giant spider, but it has 7 large tentacles rather than 8 arms. The top of its body looks somewhat like an actual trilobite fossil. The underside of its body is the most interesting part. There are 6 petal-like protrusions that give the impression of the opening of a flower. Jutting from the petals are 6 whisker-like feelers. Although the figure looks like it’s fairly posable, in practice it really isn’t. The large tentacles are bendable, but they can’t be permanently bent into a new position. This seems like a big missed opportunity, because the figure could have been infinitely posable. In addition, the large tentacles are prone to dislodging from their sockets when you attempt to bend them. Luckily they fit back into place with ease. The overall detail is adequate, but not as impressive as the engineer. That being said, I’m probably just being  nit picky, because the trilobite is inherently less detailed than the engineer.

I’ve saved the best for last. When looking at the packaging for this set, there are three separate parts: the engineer, the trilobite, and a long detachable “member”. This member/penis can easily be bent into any shape. No curve is too nimble for this knob. If only the tentacles had been fashioned from the same material. One end of the penis fits into a groove in the underside of the trilobite. I can only imagine that it comes separately to avoid potential outrage from the parents of the one or two kids who chose to buy this sex trap from Toys”R”Us. Fear not, the head of the member fits snugly into the mouth of the engineer. Remember how I mentioned that the mouth is open for a reason? Yeah… To be fair, this set does re-enact an actual scene from the movie, so it’s not as if NECA was responsible for imagining this exotic display of affection between man and alien. That being said, I don’t specifically remember the penis looking so much like a penis in the film. Call it creative license, but the detachable sex object actually has a circumcised tip. As my roommate put it: “I don’t remember that level of detail in the movie…”

The trilobite looks sort of like an actual trilobite, but with large tentacle appendages.

The trilobite looks sort of like an actual trilobite, but with large tentacle appendages.

So, should you buy this perverse package? There are a probably a couple other people on the planet who will find this set as funny and appealing as I do. Like I said, the moment I saw this advertised, I knew I had to have it. Anyone who buys this will know exactly what they’re in for. You get a near perfect re-creation of the trilobite/engineer scene from the movie, so if that sounds interesting, don’t hesitate to make this purchase. As with anything from NECA, the figures aren’t flawless, but they’re pretty decent. Plus, I’m sure this will become extremely collectible, so if you’re smart, you’ll buy several copies and keep them in the packaging. Personally, I sacrificed my retirement income by opening the box to take some photos for you, my readers. Oh well.

As promised, I will one day return to Alien Rip-Offs in Film. Until then, please join the facebook page. I try to post a fair bit of sci-fi horror/sci-fi military news items, so it’s really the go-to place for random news posts that don’t merit a blog post.

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Being the art scholar that I am, I figure I’ll try my hand at another artbook review. Prometheus: The Art of the Film is my latest piece of acquired merchandise from the Prometheus/Alien universe. Thanks to Titan Books, we received a surge of Alien-related books in 2012. The re-releases of The Book of Alien and Alien: An Illustrated Story, as well as Prometheus: The Art of the Film all hit store shelves throughout the summer and fall months of last year.

Prometheus The Art of the Film Cover

The Cover. Nice and spooky.

Prometheus: The Art of the Film
Author: Mark Salisbury
Country: United Kingdom
Featured Edition: Titan Books, June 2012

Prometheus The Art of the Film 1

The alien ship, which was actually slightly re-designed for Prometheus.

Prometheus: The Art of the Film was written and compiled by Mark Salisbury, who was an editor of Empire, and seems to have a rich history of writing visual companions to movies. Clocking in at 186 pages, this book is actually deceptively beefy. The pages are much wider than they are long, which seems to lend itself nicely to the art inside (but was a pain in the ass to scan). The result is that the art within appears in a “widescreen format”, so to speak. The book is hardcover, and one of the nicest features is that when you open it, it stays open without any need to weigh the edges down! This sounds like a minor perk, but trust me, it’s nice to be able to read a book while eating cereal without having to hold the pages open with one hand.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 2

The evolution of the cryobeds.

So what’s inside? The book is filled with a combination of film stills, photographs, storyboards (ridleygrams, for those in the know) and concept art. The content is divided into sections that mimic each feature of the film, and follow roughly the same chronological order of appearance. Each element from the film is present. The Prometheus, the engineers, the pyramid, the trilobite, etc… Along with an assortment of imagery, each section has at least a paragraph of text that explains the creative process that crafted a particular element. The sections flow nicely, and it was really nice to have a textual companion to the images.  Although the information is sparse in parts, the advantage is that it never distracts from the imagery. The book is never at risk of becoming a full-on making-of, but it has enough tidbits to satiate a bit of that desire.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 4

The bridge of the Prometheus.

The almighty Ridley Scott wrote a 100-something word forward for the book, but it’s pretty worthless. It has something to do with “fantasy intersecting with reality”, or something to that effect. Basically, don’t get your hopes up about the forward, it doesn’t tell you anything about the movie, or even the book. Oh well. Much more interesting is a 5-page segment focusing on the thoughts of production designer Arthur Max. As you may remember, I wrote about Arthur Max in the Pressure Suit figure review. Along with Ridley Scott, Arthur Max was the mastermind behind Prometheus’ look and feel. He was responsible for organizing the incredible team of concept artists that were locked away in a room for several months and tasked with designing a new world from the ground up. As I’ll explain shortly, this book doesn’t do a good job of introducing you to those concept artists, which is pretty disappointing. Anyways, the segment with Arthur Max is really interesting, and explains the various influences and design choices that were considered along the creative process. A fair amount of emphasis is placed on how they struggled with how strongly they were willing to mimic Giger. In the end, they spliced more Giger into the design than they originally intended.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 14

We all know how this ended…

The various photographs, storyboards and concept art are all arranged really seamlessly and attractively. Seen together, they create a visual dialogue that extends from concept to finished product. Personally, I would have preferred to see more concept art as opposed to photos, but I guess without the photos you wouldn’t get the aforementioned comparison between concept and finished product. There’s also a noticeable lack of concept sketches, which are usually my favorite part of the design process.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 8

A massive landing strut.

The concept art almost all takes the form of digital art, but some 3D models and real-life sculptures can also be found. The detail in each painting is incredible! Each piece could easily serve as the cover of a sci-fi book or an album cover. The texture and lighting are so convincing sometimes that it’s hard to tell if you’re looking at a painting or a photograph. After having watched the making-of the film on the collector’s edition Blu-ray, I know that many of these pieces were produced almost overnight, which is mind-boggling. It takes me like a month to come up with a small drawing, and these guys were producing photo-real digital art overnight.

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One of my favorite pieces.

Perhaps the biggest let-down is that the concept art isn’t credited… I ranted majorly about this last week. How can you release an artbook that doesn’t credit the artists!? Alien’s concept artists, H.R. Giger, Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, and Moebius are all household names, but artists like Gutalin are only mentioned once in this book! I couldn’t begin to tell you who Arthur Max’s team consisted of, let alone who was responsible for each design element. It’s really disappointing, and I’d be pissed if I were them. Having recently watched the Prometheus making-of on the collector’s edition Blu-ray, I can tell you that it gives you a much better feel for the concept artists and the creative process.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 13

The space jockey, re-designed.

So should you buy this book? That’s a good question. At the end of the day, anyone who’s interested in learning about the making of Prometheus’ design elements will be much better served with the Prometheus making-of on the collector’s edition Blu-ray. In fact, the text in this book sometimes feels like it was ripped straight from the making-of. That being said, I wouldn’t bet my life on that statement, because this book was released months earlier. If you’re like me, and you enjoy having a physical copy of artwork at your fingertips, than this book will still serve you well. It’s a high quality product, but will probably only interest a small niche of people who’ve already bought it.

I have another Prometheus product review coming at you sometime in the near-future; expect it! As always, please join the xenomorphosis facebook page, and leave me some replies!

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of my favorite pieces from Prometheus: The Art of the Film