Review by C.J. Bunce
Typically a sci-fi movie’s tech manual is a compilation of spec designs and blueprints used in a film’s production, from designs and drawings, model making and miniature effects, drafting, and set building. Graham J. Langridge′s new book turns that around. Alien: The Blueprints is the culmination of more than a decade of side projects by Langridge, an architectural student when he began creating ship drawings for the franchise, and now he’s the artist and designer of an expansive set of blueprints based on the ships and sets from the franchise. It’s all timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror classic, the original 1979 film Alien, which sees a return to theaters this month as part of the Fathom Events series (details on that below).
Similar to tech manuals you may have seen from other series and intended to be read in conjunction with the 1995 book Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, this month’s follow-up work Alien: The Blueprints discusses the creative work behind the ships of Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, Prometheus, and Alien: Covenant. But the bulk of its 156 over-sized (10.5-inch by 14.6-inch) pages consists of detailed, newly-created engineering drawings. These are the key ships and creations anyone who has seen the films will be familiar with: the Nostromo (with ten pages of detailed drawings), the Narcissus, and refinery from Alien, the Sulaco (with 11 pages of drawings), the alien ship, space jockey, armored personnel carrier, dropship (10 pages of drawings), powerloader, Hadley’s Hope (16 pages of drawings), and tractor from Aliens, the escape vehicle and penal colony facility from Alien 3, the Betty and Auriga from Alien Resurrection, and the Prometheus and Covenant (10 pages of drawings) from the latest films, and a lot more.
Along with an afterword by the author explaining his process, a section on each film discusses the film designers, with contemporary quotes and reference information from Roger Christian, Ron Cobb, Martin Bower, Syd Mead, H. R. Giger, Norman Reynolds, George Gibbs, Nigel Phelps, Sylvain Despretz, Steve Burg, and Chris Seagers. A few close-up photographs of models of the actual ship props and original concept artwork fill out each chapter. As a bonus, the Suloco and Covenant ships get full pull-out, double-page spreads for their design drawings. The entirety is an end-to-end compilation of finely detailed artwork for the diehard Alien fan. And each page is printed on thick, glossy paper, making them ideal for framing.
Check out this preview of a few of the ship and tech blueprints in Alien: the Blueprints:
Alien returns to theaters this month over three days, October 13, 14, and 15. Commentary will be provided beforehand by Turner Classic Movies (usually hosted by Ben Mankiewicz). Check out the Fathom Events website for tickets and local showtimes.