Titan Books is one of my favorite publishers; they put out many outstanding series of books as well as one-offs, and I’m always impressed with the quality of the writing and the printing. Recently, I had three different oversized hardbacks arrive on my doorstep, each of them celebrating a milestone of sorts.
First up is the Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years, a 112-page celebration of The Original Series that also includes some nods to the later TV shows that owe their existence to that early 3-season run. As the title states, there are hundreds of full-color images from 50 artists (plus a few television stars and the US Postal Service) between the covers, many of them presented at full-page size. From humorous to life-like to original movie-poster-style to hard-to-describe, the artists in these pages are all Trekkies. Any Star Trek fan is going to find a handful or more pages that may very well force them to buy a second copy because they’ll want to pull those pages out and frame them–they’re that beautiful and eye-catching. (Two of my favorite are Patrick Connan’s own take on the Wrath of Khan movie poster on page 39 and Josh Lane’s pixel-ish, blue-and-white Strange New Worlds on page 57 that features Kirk, Spock, and McCoy looking like early-’80s videogame characters.)
The book features interviews with the artists about their submissions and a Foreword by Nicholas Meyer (director, ST:II and ST:VI), and includes many behind-the-scenes sketches and concept artwork along with the final artwork. You’ll also find some mixed media artwork here, including a Borg cube made from Mattel Hot Wheels cars (the artist, Neal Smith, can’t even recall how many cars made it into the final sculpture) and Calvin Ma’s clay-sculpted Enterprise with an aged-wood look and coloring. Even Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, has a special photograph titled Hand in Vulcan Gesture on display on page 75.
Commissioned by CBS, the artwork in the Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years is a must-have for any Star Trek fan.
Next up is Aliens: The Set Photography – Behind the Scenes of James Cameron’s 1986 Masterpiece. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since I first got to see Hicks, Hudson, and Vasquez fight side-by-side with Ellen Ripley back on LV-426. I’m a HUGE fan of the Alien universe (and yes, I even enjoyed Prometheus), and this 144-page oversized hardback has completely blown me away with the behind-the-scenes photos (a mix of black-and-white and color) and the interviews with so many of those involved in shooting and staging the Aliens film.
One of my favorite surprises from the book is the opening entry–a three-page essay from Carrie Henn (who played young Newt) about how she got the job, her experiences with Cameron and Weaver and the rest of the crew, and her going to the movie’s premiere. From there, the book dives into close-up photos of all the actors and actresses in the film followed by key personnel involved in the making of the movie. The on-set photos, from Hadley’s Hope (LV-426) to the Sulaco are there, with much discussion provided on equipment, special effects, and, of course, the aliens. Each key scene in the movie (such as the entry into the facility or the Med Lab ambush) has its own chapter and interviews, and the book wraps up with a special section on the artists behind the creation of the aliens, the Sulaco, the dropship, and more.
Fans will probably never get a more through examination of the making of the Aliens film, so file Aliens: The Set Photography under a must-have for an Aliens fan.
Wrapping up this Titan Book’s collection of reviews is The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence. I remember seeing Independence Day in Washington, DC, in 1996 on this huge, curved screen (anyone know the theater name?) while I was traveling there for work. Somehow I had managed to avoid hearing much about this movie, so while it was a bit over-the-top and very cheesy in many ways, I still left the theater with a smile. The movie was hugely entertaining with some great one-liners, and I must admit that if I find it running on TV, I’ll flip it over and leave it on in the background while I do other things (such as write book reviews). Consider that Independence Day was the highest grossing film of 1996; while we may laugh a bit at it in retrospect, let’s at least show it some respect for making big bucks and winning quite a few awards.
The sequel, however… hmmm. While it’s made money (the Internets tell me it’s made over $380M versus a $165M production cost), I don’t think it’s ever going to have the same love shown for it as the original. That said, after reading The Art & Making book, I’ve developed a huge appreciation for the work involved in creating the sequel. The book starts with a look back at some of the art and visual effects of the original movie, but it jumps quickly into examining how a world 20 years after the arrival of the alien invaders might look given a jump start in technology achieved from the leftovers that crashed to the planet. The book is FILLED with development artwork… TONS of it. From the Moon Base (and all its technologies seen on screen) to the shanty-towns that have formed around the crashed alien motherships, the book delivers. Aliens and aliens ships, humans and their weaponry–so much of the book is devoted to the huge action scenes that filled the screen.
Love or hate the sequel, readers of The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence will find it hard to deny the amount of work that went into creating the 2016 Earth extrapolating how life might look after a failed alien invasion… and how it will look when those aliens have their revenge.