With all the focus on the latest film in the series, Alien: Covenant, it’s probably a good time to revisit the original Alien films. Alien: The Archive—The Ultimate Guide to the Classic Movies is an excellent resource to get your xenomorph fix on. Covering the first four films, this coffee table art book delivers the goods on everything you’d want to know about concept, storyboarding, production, and editing about the creation of these iconic films.
Broken down into four sections, covering all four of the original films, this book is an Alien geek fest designed to capture your imagination and send it into hyper drive. Alien starts us off, introducing us to the iconic cast, the set design, even the problems of bringing H.R. Giger’s art to the screen. Giger’s detailed drawings weren’t difficult to translate into physical structures; the problems came from their actual size. The set pieces were huge, especially concerning the scenes with the derelict spacecraft and the Engineer. So huge in fact, that the actors you see in those wide-angle scenes climbing around the structure are actually director Ridley Scott’s children wearing the space suits. The behind-the-scenes shots of the crew applying makeup to Ian Holm’s Ash character, and the chestburster scene in the dining area are captured in full, gory detail.
Aliens continues the story, showcasing these new characters, including Newt, Corporal Hicks, Burke, Hudson, Vasquez, and of course Bishop. We get a chance to see director James Cameron’s storyboards, weapon and vehicle design, including the cargo-loader Ripley uses at the end. Of course, this section wouldn’t be complete without a rundown of the Alien queen. Interviews with the crew and cast intersperse the whole book, and add insight to the behind-the scenes shots that accompany the story.
Moving on to the problematic, yet effective Alien 3, we get to see director David Fincher’s vision, even though it wasn’t completely fulfilled after he quit the film. Shot basically without a full script, Fincher’s idea to scale down to a single xenomorph actually works in delivering the scares. This section also dives into the abandoned concepts brought in by Vincent Ward. The studio didn’t go with Ward’s ideas and he was eventually fired, yet some of the core story ideas remained in the design.
Finishing with the heavily snubbed Alien: Resurrection, this section gives us a better appreciation for what director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was trying to accomplish. Unfortunately, not all his ideas translated to the screen, with the final product much weaker than the previous films, and almost laughable at the film’s climax with a universally hated creature design. What this film does bring to the series is lasting images of Ripley’s clones, and a stellar cast including Ron Perlman, Brad Dorif, and Michael Wincott.
With tons of behind-the-scenes photos, storyboard scenes, pre-production stills, and more, Alien: The Archive, is definitely a book for any fan of the Alien film series. If you’re looking for something that will make you squeal in excitement with the turn of every page, then this book comes highly recommended.
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- Chalk by Pat Cadigan
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