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
Author: Mark Salisbury
Country: United Kingdom
Featured Edition: Titan Books, June 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of my favorite pieces from Prometheus: The Art of the Film