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Tag Archive: H.R. Giger


Review by C.J. Bunce

When I was a kid Star Wars blew me away and when I think back it was the “wretched hive of scum and villainy”–specifically the creature cantina at Mos Eisley spaceport–that first introduced me to the idea of a wide, wide universe of alien beings.  Countless characters–makeups and costumes designed by movie artists in the real world–all milled about in one place and it was about as cool a thing as anyone could put on film.  My next great appreciation for aliens came from the Star Trek films, in particular the delegation of members of the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek IV: A Voyage Home–this bizarre assemblage of leaders, all wearing the common United Federation of Planets maroon officer uniforms, but each representing some far off world with all sorts of strange and exotic denizens.  Much of my excitement for aliens would come from Michael Westmore’s wonderful “aliens of the week” in the various television incarnations of Star Trek–I am a fan and self-proclaimed expert in the aliens of Star Trek more than any other corner of that great franchise.  Later I would be dazzled by the unique alien designs of Doctor Who’s 21st century Renaissance, where the British series really upped the ante of how unique and complex a weekly show could illustrate the potential of who is “out there.”  The updated Mos Eisley for science fiction fans would reach its zenith for me in two great ways in 2016 and 2017:  In the diverse cultures of the Yorktown space station in Star Trek Beyond and in the immensely populated Big Market in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  As much as the original Mos Eisley still stands strong on film, these two modern updates of “strange new worlds… new life and new civilizations” represent the best modern creativity in the world of cinema.  Makeup artist Joel Harlow, who won an Academy Award for his makeup work for Star Trek (2009), returned to the franchise for Star Trek Beyond, and in honor of the Trek’s 50th anniversary his team created 50 new alien races for the film.  A new book just released, Joe Nazzaro’s Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow documents in photographs and descriptions the development and creative ideas behind each new race for the film.  As a fan of aliens and Star Trek and this fabulous film, I haven’t anticipated a new publication as much, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the result.

Journalist Joe Nazzaro assembled Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow unlike most behind the scenes accounts that only punctuate descriptions with the odd quote from a creator, instead providing his narrative as a reporter would–interviewing and sharing Harlow and his creators’ complete, firsthand accounts of developing, designing, casting and even applying many of the makeups.  We hear about Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Beyond from Harlow and creators behind the scenes including concept artists Neville Page, Allen Williams, and Carlos Huante, sculptor/makeup artist Richie Alonzo, and designer/sculptors Don Lanning, Joey Orosco, Lennie MacDonald, Norman Cabrera, and Mike Rotella.  This is the kind of access to the minds of movie creators that fanboys and fangirls dream about.

Let’s start with Jaylah.  By my count, in the vast world of great Star Trek female characters Jaylah (portrayed by Sofia Boutella) is the most developed, most intriguing, best badass heroine of them all.  Harlow, Neville Page, and Richie Alonzo really flesh out for readers the idea to application method of the unique makeup for this lead character from the film.  Although it may not be the most complex makeup design at first look, it required elaborate and surgical artistry to replicate it each day, and balanced many requirements to allow the actor to move freely through action sequences and stand out as the driving force behind the plot of the film.  Equally important to the film was the villain Krall (portrayed by Idris Elba) a character made up of all the alien races he had absorbed (which included callbacks to Star Trek’s Jem’Hadar) requiring additional complexity in design and style via its character’s backstory.  Creators Harlow and Joey Orosco delve into the creation of the four phases of Krall’s design made for the movie.

The most brilliant makeup is no doubt the alien Natalia (who appears on the book cover), the fabulous, spectacular nautilus-headed design by Allen Williams and Don Lanning and sculpted by Joey Orosco with contributions from Werner Pretorius, Lennie MacDonald, Steve Buscaino, Cristina Patterson, and Toby Lindala.  The head, bust, and arms for Natalia must reflect one of the best creature designs to ever emerge from Hollywood, and yet, like many of the 50 new aliens designed for the film (technically 56 according to Harlow) the character did not get much screentime.  In fact many of the aliens were for background shots and astonishingly a few did not make it into the final cut of the film.  The artists in the book also confirm the H.R. Giger influence on some of their designs for Star Trek Beyond–his designs also influenced alien creations of earlier Trek incarnations.  One of my favorite footnotes to the Star Trek franchise, and certainly one of the most obscure references in classic Star Trek is an intercom on the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation paging Dr. Selar to the Null-G ward–which we never actually get to see–but the Abe Sapien-meets They Live alien called Satine (designed by Allen Williams and sculpted by Matt Rose) is exactly the type of alien I envisioned you’d find there.

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When you think of the Alien franchise, what iconic images come to mind?  Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in a giant power loader suit or going face-to-face with a Xenomorph?  The first facehugger?  Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez realizing they were facing something hopeless?  Queen of sci-fi Veronica Cartwright’s scream at the first terrifying chest burst?  Ridley holding Jonesy finally sighing with relief that they survived the alien onslaught?  Dozens of these and other iconic images are packed into a new adult coloring book, Alien: The Coloring Book, coming this May from Titan Books.

The adult coloring book business is gaining steam with publishers taking extra efforts to see that the artwork inside meets the standard of the franchise.  Alien: The Coloring Book has pulled together artwork that resembles the actors and key scenes from the movie, but also does so in a visually interesting manner and conforms to the whole point of these books: to give fans a chance to color their favorite scenes (in or outside the lines).

Creating scenes from all of the Alien movies featuring heroine Ellen Ripley are artists Leandro Casco, Wellington Diaz, Vinz El Tabanas, Salvador Navarro, Guilherme Raffide, Rubine, Vincenzo Zerov Salvo, Adriano Vicente, and Daniel Wichinson.  Eighty pages provide Xenomorphs, chestbursters, Xenomorph eggs, your favorite characters, spacesuits, ships, Ridley Scott’s futuristic sets and H.R. Giger-inspired designs.  One of the fun illustrations features Lance Henriksen’s cyborg Bishop playing mumbletypeg with the hand of Private Hudson (played by the late Bill Paxton).

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weyland-yutani-report-cover

One of the best in-universe, sci-fi, tie-in books that we have come across is part of this year’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of James Cameron’s Aliens.  Insight Editions’ Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report is not only a great idea–a book that could have been a movie prop used by the likes of Paul Reiser’s junior executive Carter Burke–its execution is superb.  Remove the title wrap and you have a mock leather-bound, heavy duty field guide that you might see passed around by the corporate types in the next Alien movie.

Written by Aliens, Star Trek, and Resident Evil tie-in novelist S.D. Perry with lavish artwork and designs by Markus Pansegrau and John R. Mullaney, The Weyland-Yutani Report pulls out all the stops to deliver a comprehensive Board of Directors summary guide to the findings and technology uncovered with the Alien movies beginning with Ridley Scott’s prequel Prometheus in 2012 to 1979’s Alien, to Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1986), and through to Alien: Resurrection (1997).  (The Predator crossovers are not covered in The Report). 

yutani-spread-a

The most eye-opening data ties together–in a manner more clearly than portrayed in the films–Weyland-Yutani corporation and its founder Sir Peter Weyland, from details available in the films and information that was only character background that didn’t make it into the films.  The goals of the corporation that were the fabric that connected all the films is investigated with some top secret findings (and some redacted), including the hierarchy and gross (as in chestburster) anatomy of the Xenomorphs, groundbreaking (future) scientific achievements of “The Company,” as well as weapons, ships, tools, and theories of alien beings and their connections to early Earthlings.  (Learn even more about “The Company” at the corporate website here).

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luke-obiwan-peering-into-lightsaber

Review by C.J. Bunce

Roger Christian’s success is a testament to the idea of thinking outside the box.  If you stop in the middle of age-old processes, no matter what you’re doing and what field you’re in, and consider trying a different method, you may trigger something special.  In Roger Christian’s new memoir Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, it is the old Hollywood method of making movies that is the villain of sorts, with Christian coming to the rescue as the hero with a new way of creating movie magic for audiences in 1977.  And it just so happens he came to the rescue of George Lucas and landed a gig making of one of the greatest science fiction fantasy of all time, the original Star Wars, and the greatest sci-fi horror film of all time, Alien.

In Cinema Alchemist you learn Christian’s modern method of set decoration and design perfected in Star Wars, a method copied by many, that he would soon use again for Alien.  Ridley Scott specifically chose Christian to create the same look he came up with for the Millennium Falcon in his new ship the Nostromo and other sets.

Cinema Alchemist

In any memoir you can expect some amount of hyperbole, although Christian likely deserves a pass simply because the Academy Awards endorsed his work as set decorator of Star Wars with an Oscar.  So he is certainly the real deal.  Countless Star Wars fans have spent years re-creating his original design for the lightsaber, tracking down the original camera parts he used, as well as re-creating all the rifles and pistols used in the film.  Christian had his hands in the creation of R2-D2, C-3PO, the landspeeder, the Sandcrawler, Luke’s Tatooine homestead, the Millennium Falcon, the giant dinosaur skeleton in the desert sand, Mos Eisley and the Cantina, and set after set created for the film.

original R2-D2

George Lucas and the R2-D2 prototype Christian helped to create with a light fixture and metal bits and pieces Lucas called “greeblies”.

The value of the book is in Christian’s accounts of prop making, set design, and using found objects like old airplane scrap metal to create a “real world, lived-in” feel on Star Wars and Alien in light of severe time and money constraints, plus Christian’s personal recollections of conversations and observations with George Lucas on Star Wars and Ridley Scott, H.R. Giger, and Moebius on Alien, and his play-by-play of the filming of the Alien chest-buster scene, arguably the most famous horror scene of modern cinema.  After reading Cinema Alchemist, you will absolutely watch Star Wars and Alien differently, and notice details of the film you haven’t seen in your previous 300 viewings of the films.  That is quite a feat.

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riddick-blu-ray-box-art

Review by C.J. Bunce

Many times when a movie is heavy with CGI and matte paintings, the overall look can suffer.  Not so with Riddick, coming to Blu-ray and DVD on January 14.  In his third live-action performance as Riddick, Vin Diesel finds his character marooned on an unnamed desert planet in its own primitive, almost Jurassic stage.  The first half of the film showcases the night-visioned anti-hero in an almost Conan the Barbarian-like quest for survival in a very Frank Frazetta-inspired fantasy world setting.  It’s a setting that really pops in the new hi-definition Blu-ray format.  We’ve previewed the Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios, including its extra features.

Riddick manages to surpass the epic second franchise entry Chronicles of Riddick with its more basic and tightly-written survival story.  We get a cameo from Karl Urban’s Vaako, including some of those great Necromonger soldiers and futuristic costumes familiar to fans of the series.  But this Riddick has more of the feel of the first entry into this world, Pitch Black, also written and directed by David Twohy.  Because Twohy has maintained control over the universe and its characters, the three films (plus the early animated entry, Dark Fury) all make for a cohesive and well-designed saga.  Twohy discusses his take on the character at length in the special feature “The Twohy Touch.”

Riddick and storm

Along with the stunning Monument Valley on Mars sets is some excellent CGI and motion capture creature work, including vicious mud-demons which take Riddick down a Ridley Scott-esque path toward films end, and some dog-like jackal beasts.  Riddick ends up raising one of these dogs as he finds his way through challenges to grasslands and an abandoned science station, where much of the remaining action takes place.  He sets off an S.O.S. beacon which brings two opposing groups of bounty hunter mercenaries, one to get the bounty for his head in a box, the other a military based group with a more personal agenda.  Their two ships become Riddick’s target for a plan to leave the planet.  His shadow ninja abilities allow him to drop in on these mercs, and create his own form of psychological war.  And his early encounter with the mud-demons plays into the coming rainstorm and his face-off with the mercs.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ridley Scott suggests a “sequel to the prequel” is a possibility in the feature material to the October 9, 2012 release of his is-it-or-isn’t-it-a-prequel to Alien blockbuster Prometheus on Blu-Ray, 3D, and DVD.  The trailer to the video release gets it just right–there are so many unanswered questions left in this summer’s big-budget blockbuster, sci-fi release that you may think you’re watching 2001: A Space Odyssey.  What was this Dr. Manhattan-looking being in the distant past and in our distant future eating that dissolved him into the ocean?  How does that being relate to the rather squiggly creature that emerged in one of the movie’s key scenes?  Why didn’t Scott just come out and call this a prequel?  Surprise, people!  It’s a prequel!  It’s actually really good at being a prequel, because unlike other prequel movies, it doesn’t re-hash every bit of the original film or films.

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Along with the recent history of great (Star Wars) and not so great (Star Trek) Vault compilations to hit the shelves is the new Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film by Ian Nathan.  I checked this out at the bookstore today and found it to be an impressive collection of photos and a typical sampling of reproduced ephemera from Ridley Scott’s science fiction and horror classic.  Compared to other Vault offerings this one falls in the middle.

The book includes a compilation of previously released information, available in the out of print Book of Alien by Paul Scanlon and Michael Gross, Giger’s Alien by H.R. Giger, and in the additional materials included with the Alien DVD boxed set.  If you haven’t seen those, this will be new to you.  The book is slipcased, and smaller than prior Vaults, which are typically unwieldy in their weight and wide “landscape” style design, so small is good here.  The illustrations are interesting for the Alien fan who has done no prior reading on the subject–behind the scenes views of the set design, particularly of the Nostromo rooms and corridors, could cause you to spend a good deal of time gawking at this book.  It features director Ridley Scott’s annotated storyboards, Polaroids and script excerpts, costume designs, sketches and blueprints of the Nostromo, photos of cast and crew, and images of H.R. Giger’s concept artwork.  The film itself not for the squeamish, expect to find several special effects images of chest bursts, the alien monster itself and plenty of alien goo.

As with each new addition in the Vault series, the Alien version includes its own swag, this time ten inserts, tucked into vellum envelopes.  As with the Star Trek Vault, the inserts are a bit lackluster, mainly in scale, and any time items are folded they lose a bit of any allure they might have had.  The inserts include:

  • storyboard reprints (quad folded)
  • Nostromo blueprints (quad folded) and additional blueprint
  • two small Giger concept artwork prints
  • Nostromo ship sticker
  • copy of annotated script page with continuity Polaroid images on reverse
  • 2 mini marketing posters

The closest book this resembles is the Art of Star Trek, and with that comparison this must be a decent assemblage of behind the scenes data.  With little in print currently available to Alien fans, this book is a long time coming.  Although this book has vastly less material to assemble, it is arranged similarly to the Art of Star Trek and has a broad view of the movie production process, from concept to design to costume creatios and special effects.  At 170 pages and each of those pages full of photos, there is not a lot of content by way of text here, but combined with the boxed Alien DVD set this should give the uber-Alien fan who has yet to delve into “the making of” view of the film something to be happy about.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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