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Tag Archive: James Clyne


Review by C.J. Bunce

A behind the scenes book for a 2019 movie, which consists of a third or more of its images from 2005?  As fascinating as the special effects developed for the film, the history of the movie merits its own book, and it gets it in Abbie Bernstein‘s Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie, now out from Titan Books.  It turns out executive producer James Cameron and artists were working on the pre-production of Alita: Battle Angel during the development of his film Avatar.  According to interviews with Cameron and Alita director Robert Rodriguez, in the early 2000s the technology was not yet advanced to deliver what they wanted for their adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga novel.  But now that it’s arrived, fans of the film can trace its development over the past 15 years.

Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie is filled with concept art, split between 2005 digital ideas in advance of knowing what actors might be cast and final characters developed, and a renewed look at the project as it began to get fully underway only a few years ago.  Key interviews with Rodriguez, Cameron, producer Jon Landau, production designers Caylah Eddleblute and Steve Joyner, art director Todd Holland, visual effects supervisors Richard Hollander and Eric Saindon, costume designer Nina Proctor, Weta Digital’s Joe Letteri, and others tell the story–a marriage of practical effects and CGI.  In fact the commenters almost seem to have a battle between those responsible between the practical effects and CGI–all with an eye toward realism.  The most interesting aspects of the discussion are the incorporation of Alita star Rosa Salazar’s motion capture (or per Rodriguez, “performance capture” since motion doesn’t include the “emotion” element required to make a story come together) with Proctor’s real-world costumes, and the CGI layering that ends up as the final image that made it to the screen.

No doubt a highlight of the film and of the book are detailed images of Alita’s cyborg body shell, as created by the character of Dr. Ido in the film.  In real life it looks incredibly porcelain, but the artists discuss how the body and all the components of the film were actually fabricated.  The commenters don’t reference their inspirations for the look of the Iron City in the film or its cyborg inhabitants, but fans of the genre will no doubt see the influences–from the borg designs to story elements–from films including Chappie, Elysium, District 9, Ex Machina, Ghost in the Shell, Mad Max: Fury Road, Cameron’s The Terminator, and even the light cycles of Tron.  Readers will learn more about the science behind the cyborgs in the film–how Cameron and others estimated weights of body parts, including Alita’s removable metal heart, as an example–all needed for 3D and CGI work and viewer believability.

Take a look inside Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie courtesy of the publisher:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy and the new film Solo: A Star Wars Story should take note of the fourth installment of Abrams Books’ Star Wars artbook series.  The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Phil Szostak not only looks behind the scenes of the production of the second of the modern anthology movies and fourth of the modern sequels, it reveals the finest and the most evocative Star Wars-styled concept art created since The Empire Strikes Back.  Taking a different path from the episodic sequels, the creators that imagined the look for Solo took their inspiration directly from the work of Ralph McQuarrie (original trilogy production illustrator and concept artist), Joe Johnston (original trilogy ILM art director), Harry Lange (original trilogy art director and set decorator), and Colin Cantwell (the first Star Wars spacecraft designer), concept artists behind the original Star Wars movie.  Including artwork both used for the final creation of sets, effects, and costumes, as well as imagery that didn’t make it to the final cut, The Art of Solo provides visuals fans back to the 1970s have only dreamed about.

Solo is also the first movie of the post-Disney period of Star Wars to draw back to the actual input from George Lucas for more than merely sketches and early descriptions of his earliest ideas from 1973.  Lucas was involved from the beginning, planning a Han Solo movie since before the Lucasfilm sale, and so this sequel has inspiration and concept direction from the creator of the franchise himself.  Lucasfilm/ILM lead concept designer James Clyne, production designer Neil Lamont, costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman, Neal Scanlan‘s creature department, and Rob Bredow and Pat Tubach‘s visual effects team were aware of the unique challenge facing this film–creating something faithful to the original trilogy and beloved characters while also taking the look and feel of the space fantasy into new territory.  The result is a film full of different worlds that still feels “Star Wars-y,” as the designers call it.  For this film, that meant a Western homage mirroring the American journey of settlers from the East Coast to the West Coast, and also importing story elements found in Akira Kurosawa’s Westerns, among many other classic films.

Many of the portraits and landscape paintings are poster-worthy.  Earthbound physical locations were tracked down to define new worlds Corellia, Mimban, Vandor, Kessel, and Savareen, along with CGI renderings, all to look like they belong in the Star Wars galaxy.  As Star Wars was created in the 1970s–taking place ten years prior to the original Star Wars–the artists looked for styles and ideas from the 1960s via movies, bands, computers and technology, and other cultural influences for costumes and set decorations.  So before Emilia Clarke was cast as Qi’ra, images of the character needed to establish her locations and costumes included drawings that look very much like Grace Kelly.  Incorporating images of younger versions of both Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams were obvious choices for creating their first looks, like the duo at the gambling table where Lando would lose the Falcon to Solo.  But soon Alden Ehrenreich’s image became the face of Han Solo.  All along, Chewbacca was Chewbacca, only the crew aimed to convey a different view of the Wookiee, where having all his hairs styled in place was no longer important–this was the young, wind-blown companion from the past, the one quicker to tear someone’s arms off.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For Star Trek fans, since the 1990s the first place to look to dig into the artistry of the sets, props, and costumes was the book The Art of Star Trek, by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, the ultimate art reference for decades of Star Trek productions.  It explored the concept art and creative works from the original Trek series through the seventh film in the series, Star Trek Generations.  Herbert Solow’s Star Trek Sketchbook and John Eaves’ Star Trek The Movies Sketchbook supplemented these books further and in 2016 Terry Erdmann and Paula M. Block’s Star Trek Costumes honed in on an end-to-end look at costumes spanning the franchise up to that date.  In 2016 CBS re-branded the three most recent films “the Kelvin Timeline,” since the storyline splintered from the original series events beginning with the destruction of the USS Kelvin in the 2009 Star Trek film (formerly the “alternate reality” or J.J. Abrams trilogy).  Separate and different from typical “behind the scenes” books, the volume of Star Trek reference material (and the large fanbase) allowed for these many, detailed looks into the creative process.  Many of these books and much more can be found in our 2011 survey of Trek books found here and here.  Bringing us closer to the present, the first look into the artwork of the Kelvin timeline was Mark Cotta Vaz’s Star Trek: The Art of the Film and last year’s Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow, but fans now have access to a broader look at the artwork behind all three Kelvin timeline movies: Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond, in Jeff Bond’s new book, The Art of Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline.

Star Trek fans will find The Art of Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline a must-read and a natural extension, or sequel of sorts, to Reeves-Stevens’ original art overview.  With chapters on each of the three films, expanding on the material from Cotta Vaz’s book, this new volume provides insight into the reboot and updates to the starship Enterprise, the bridge set, and Starfleet and alien costumes, and great attention is given to the concept art that resulted in the strange new worlds in these films.  Best of all is access to interviews with concept artists John Eaves, Ryan Church, James Clyne, John Goodson, Sean Hargreaves, visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, visual effects art director Alex Jaeger, makeup supervisor Joel Harlow, production designer Scott Chambliss, supervising art director Ramsey Avery, creature designer Neville Page, art director Yanick Dusseault, production designer Thomas A. Sanders, visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang, Star Trek Beyond costume designer Sanja Hays, actors Zachary Quinto and Benedict Cumberbatch, and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin.  The artists’ environmental, planetary, and geological concept work in many instances is the quality of final production matte paintings.

Those who already have read Cotta Vaz’s book on the art of the 2009 film will be happy to see this book provides photographs and discussion of ideas not covered before.  Fans of Sanja Hays’ costume designs in Star Trek Insurrection get to see how Hays approached returning to the concepts of both Starfleet and aliens of new civilizations in Star Trek Beyond.  And although he is not interviewed for the book, costume designer Michael Kaplan’s costume designs can be found across the book’s coverage of the first two films.

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