Tag Archive: Syd Mead


altered-carbon-resleeved

Review by C.J. Bunce

Audiences have seen some great animated films in recent years, with movies upping the ante on technology and visual magic, whether in Ferdinand or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse or Spies in Disguise or Klaus.  Netflix’s new anime movie, a sequel to its live-action, futuristic, sci-fi hit Altered Carbon, takes animation and visual effects even further.  Altered Carbon: Resleeved is part Blade Runner 2049, part Marvel’s The Punisher (season two), and part Wu Assassins.  Live-action action sequences are rarely as thrilling as those choreographed in this film.

As with the live-action Altered Carbon, the inspiration from Syd Mead’s trademark futurism is all over this film, and that world looks just as stunning in anime form.  The storyboarding and layouts, the surprise screen angles, wipes, and character movements are like nothing you’ve seen before, and the details are at times life-like and three dimensional.  The story and execution is a vast improvement on the second season of the live-action show, which was a really good season of episodes to begin with.

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Two years after the end of season two we catch up with Takeshi Kovacs, resleeved and working a job for Mr. Tanaseda, who has him pursuing a girl named Holly, a tattoo artist with cybernetic eyes and pawn of the yakuza, who carries some critical secrets.  Working for CTAC is Gena, a badass agent carrying secrets, who clashes with Kovacs early on.  It’s two days from an ascension ceremony–the anointing of a new mob boss–and in that time Kovacs must figure out why Mr. Tanaseda has set him on this job.  The anime film, available with English subtitles or dubbed, has a new hotel and a new concierge named Ogai (voiced in the dubbed version by Chris Conner, who plays the concierge, Poe, and hotel manager in the live-action series).  Ogai is a holographic Japanese man loyal to the new boss, but fond of Holly.  Fans of the series will find his hotel to have equally exciting defensive feature’s as Poe’s hotel, The Raven.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re a fan of hard-hitting science fiction and noir of the Blade Runner variety, your top pick for binge-watching this month should be the first seasons of Altered Carbon (reviewed here and here at borg).  Abbie Bernstein, author of several film and TV tie-in books arrives with her latest book, Altered Carbon: The Art and Making of the Series.  In design and layout, this is the next book in the series of behind-the-scenes studies of top-level sci-fi television series from Titan Books that includes The World of the Orville (reviewed here) and The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World (reviewed here).

Unapologetically pulling its look and feel from the original Blade Runner, the creators of Altered Carbon made a world that could easily be a spin-off of the Philip K. Dick realm, a region just north of the cityscapes in Ridley Scott and Syd Mead’s futuristic dystopia.  Altered Carbon: The Art and Making of the Series is not a look at the concept art, but full coverage of the first two seasons of the series as seen through the eyes of the writers, cast, production designers, costume designers, stunt department, visual effects artists, and more.  Based on a trilogy of books from novelist Richard K. Morgan, the challenge for series creator Laeta Kalogridis and second season showrunner Alison Schapker and a team of writers was how to split up the novels between seasons.  Pulling Morgan into the writers room they based season one on the first novel and the theme “what does it mean to be human”–a common theme of many sci-fi stories–but more loosely adapted the next two books into the second season, focusing more on the love story between lead character Takeshi Kovacs and his former leader Quellcrist Falconer, asking, “Can love between two people survive, even for centuries?”

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Bernstein doesn’t hold back any content or story arc, digging into the relationships between characters, taking apart key sequences, and highlighting dozens of the series’ key characters, including accounts from the actors.  Because of the significant physical combat sequences among the major cast, the actors joined their stunt performers in daily sessions to bring greater believability to the visual effects elements.  Readers can expect hundreds of full-color photographs, including set photographs, film stills, and an entire chapter of sample storyboards from the series.

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It’s a fantastic sci-fi series with a stellar cast and a story and production values that rival the original Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel.  It’s Netflix’s Altered Carbon, based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of the same name, a story about Takeshi Kovacs, a future soldier in a world where science has developed a hard drive called a “stack” that is implanted in humans’ necks, allowing our memories to be uploaded to storage and replanted over and over so they seemingly can live forever, even in new bodies called “sleeves.”  See our review of the first season here.  Allowing Kovacs and other characters to be played by any number of actors (allowing the series to run forever like Doctor Who), for the second season that means Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Winter Soldier, The Adjustment Bureau) is replacing Joel Kinnaman (RoboCop, Suicide Squad) as series lead.  Netflix revealed its first teaser for the new season this week.  Check it out below!

So fans of the Syd Mead, Ridley Scott, and Philip K. Dick brand of futurism, and all things borg, should catch up on the first season now.  What does it mean to be human, and how much can you shed away and replace with technology and still retain the “self”?  Altered Carbon tackles the philosophical questions The Matrix film series tried to answer.  Kovacs is a 300-year-old soldier.  As a seasoned fighter 250 years ago he was the last of a mercenary group called the Envoys, leading a rebellion against the new world order.  This is a bleak world, filled with virtual reality and virtual sex, body swapping and trafficking, and the kind of tech noir, bleak, dystopian realm seen in Strange Days, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Ready Player One, The Running Man, Brazil, Total Recall, with the violence of A Clockwork Orange.  

The new teaser trailer showcases Mackie, but also shows glimpses of returning characters, including Kovacs former platoon leader, played by Renee Goldsberry (Star Trek Enterprise, Life on Mars), the original Kovacs, played by Will Yun Lee (Hawaii Five-O, Bionic Woman, Witchblade), the artificial intelligence named Poe who is the runner of a seedy hotel, played by Chris Conner (Burn Notice, House, Bones).  Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the fantastic cop Kristin Ortega, played by Mexican actress Martha Higareda (McFarland USA, Royal Pains), will be back, but new additions include Simone Missick (Marvel’s Luke Cage, The Defenders), Neal McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, Walking Tall, The X-Files,), and Alessandro Juliani (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Battlestar Galactica).

Check out this quick look at season two of Altered Carbon:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a fantastic sci-fi series with a stellar cast and a story and production values that rival the original Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel: Altered Carbon is based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of the same name, a story about Takeshi Kovacs, a future soldier in a world where science has developed a hard drive called a “stack” that is implanted in humans’ necks, allowing our memories to be uploaded to storage and replanted over and over so they seemingly can live forever, even in new bodies.  That conceit allows Kovacs and other characters to be played by any number of actors, which could allow the series to run forever much as Doctor Who’s regeneration mechanism allows replacement Doctors.  Originally launched on Netflix in 2018, Altered Carbon has been extended for a second season, with filming underway last year, and viewers should expected a second season trailer and 2020 air date any day.  Which means fans of the Syd Mead, Ridley Scott, and Philip K. Dick brand of futurism, and all things borg, should catch up on the first season now.  What does it mean to be human, and how much can you shed away and replace with technology and still retain the “self”?  Altered Carbon tackles the philosophical questions The Matrix film series tried to answer.

Kovacs, played by several actors (more on that below), is a 300-year-old soldier.  As a seasoned fighter 250 years ago he was the last of a mercenary group called the Envoys, leading a rebellion against the new world order.  Kovacs’s stack is shelved for the intervening 250 years until one of the wealthiest men alive, Laurens Bancroft, played by James Purefoy (an actor who has been runner up for the James Bond film roles and appeared in A Knight’s Tale and The Following), buys his stack and puts it in a new body or “sleeve,” giving Kovacs the opportunity to live anew if he agrees to find Bancroft’s killer.  This is a bleak world, filled with virtual reality and virtual sex, body swapping and trafficking, and the kind of tech noir, bleak, dystopian realm seen in Strange Days, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Ready Player One, The Running Man, Brazil, Total Recall, with the violence of A Clockwork Orange, but maybe not so hopeless as in Elysium, Mad Max, Gattaca, Terminator, and Dredd.  

The series, which has a slow start and doesn’t kick into high gear until the second episode, also has the John Carpenter Escape from New York vibe but with Blade Runner visuals and effects, plus the creative elements of Total Recall that made for some unexpected surprises.  Altered Carbon is a close match to RoboCop as future science and technology goes, so it’s easy to see why the casting agents brought along RoboCop remake star Joel Kinnaman as Kovacs’ primary sleeve in the first season.  This sleeve was last owned by a cop killed in duty named Ryker.  Ryker’s partner, Kristin Ortega, played by Mexican actress Martha Higareda (McFarland USA, Royal Pains), takes on the role of the season’s co-lead, struggling as she sees her old partner’s body and acting to protect his sleeve, trying to solve the murder of Bancroft, and uncovering the bad cops in the bureau.  Ortega is a badass character in a small package who gets in and out of several fights that would take down anyone else in any other story, and she is the high point of the series–at one point an incident results in a loss of an arm, soon replaced by a powerful cybernetic arm.  An interesting twist is that her family are Catholics, and in this future Catholics don’t believe in the stacks, which means once they die they are dead forever.  This sets up one of the more interesting plot threads.  If it seems like the series has a lot going on, that’s because it does. But it all comes together in a satisfying way in the final episodes.

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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:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s what Blade Runner fans have been waiting for, and if your appetite was whetted by the movie Blade Runner 2049, then you’re going to want to check our the next era of Blade Runner stories as Titan Comics goes back to a parallel Earth future in Blade Runner 2019.  The future is now.  It’s been worth the wait, as the new story looks and feels like we’re back inside Philip K. Dick’s original vision in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  In the neo-noir city of Los Angeles, 2019, Ash, a veteran Blade Runner, is working the kidnapping of a billionaire’s wife and child.  Is the CEO of the new Canaan Corporation any better than those behind the Tyrell Corporation?  Written by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049), with co-writer Mike Johnson (Supergirl, Star Trek), get ready for Blade Runner to experience the treatment we’ve seen in recent years for franchises like Firefly, Planet of the Apes, and Alien, as another new world of science fiction storytelling opens up.  Green and Johnson have written a perfect first chapter.

This very first original, in-canon story set in the Blade Runner universe is illustrated by Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America) with brilliant color work by Marco Lesko.   You’re going to see something surprising in Guinaldo’s artwork–not only is this the world of Philip K. Dick, Ridley Scott, and Syd Mead′s neo-noir future, readers will see influences from cyberpunk and tech-noir classics like John Carpenter′s Escape from New York, Luc Besson′s The Fifth Element and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Neill Blomkamp′s Elysium, James Cameron′s The Terminator and Aliens, Robert Rodriguez′s Alita: Battle Angel, and the other futureworlds adapted to film from Philip K. Dick′s stories.  It all probably comes down to the versatility, breadth, and influence of concept artist Syd Mead, but the creators do give due credit to Dick, Scott, Hampton Fancher, David Peoples, Michael Deeley–and Mead–for the look and feel of their new story.

The first issue arrives next Wednesday, and you can pick from four cover options, from Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Andreas Guinaldo, John Royle, and an original concept piece by Syd Mead.

Check out our sneak preview of the first issue of Blade Runner 2019, courtesy of Titan Comics, plus a new trailer for the series released just today:

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As we first previewed here at borg last July, Titan Publishing and Alcon Media Group, the producer behind more than 30 films over the past 20 years, announced a partnership that will mean the beginning of an expanded universe of stories for Rick Deckard, Replicants, and the world of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.  Today Titan Comics released its first look at the new comic book series, and revealed its title, Blade Runner 2019The original film and this year have been the subject of millions of shared memes commenting on the fact that the real 2019 looks little like Ridley Scott’s 1982 vision of 2019.

The new series will be “in canon” comics and graphic novels that dive deeper into the Blade Runner world.  According to an Alcon representative, “The Blade Runner universe has barely been explored; there is so much more there.  It’s an honour to be bringing this world to life in new ways for a new audience – and to reveal tales from that universe that you’ve never seen before.”  Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was adapted from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel by science fiction legend Philip K. Dick, who endorsed the original film project in 1982, but died before its release.

New character concept drawings for Blade Runner 2019.

Launching this summer, Titan Comics’ new series will be set during the exact timeframe of the original 1982 Blade Runner film, and feature a mostly new set of characters and situations.   Artist Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America) created the above first looks at characters featured in the new story.  He joins Oscar-nominated Blade Runner 2049 screenwriter Michael Green (Logan) and Mike Johnson (Star Trek, Super­man/Batman) on the series.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

From Star Trek V: The Final Frontier to four Next Generation movies and the J.J. Abrams Kelvin timeline movies, and Deep Space Nine through the Enterprise and Discovery series, concept artist, illustrator, prop designer, and model maker John Eaves has designed ships and objects familiar to any sci-fi fan.  This Tuesday the eagerly anticipated behind-the-scenes book Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves arrives from online retailers and book stores, and we at borg.com previewed a copy.  Just as you would expect, the book is full of hundreds of concept art designs, most of them ultimately used for the final model or CGI renderings seen on film.  John Eaves has developed his own style over the years, so in the past decade when even passing fans saw a ship on the big or small screen, they could usually tell when Eaves designed it.  Take a look at our preview pages from Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves here.

Eaves tells his story, referencing those artists of film that inspired him, some he would work with directly and others he admired from his youth: Joe Alves, Ron Cobb, Greg Jein, Grant McCune, Robert McCall, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston, Richard Edlund, John Dykstra, Syd Mead, and others.  The shifting look of Star Trek, its ships, and props, began to take on a new look with his designs for the Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generations, which required a modification to the Excelsior model to accommodate a key scene featuring Captain Kirk.  For the update to the ship Eaves incorporated a design from the World War II Catalina PBY-5A airplane.  Eaves grew up near an airfield, where he was first given a pad and pencil to make his own illustrations, and his understanding of aerodynamics can be found throughout his work.   And as Eaves tells it, Star Trek designer Michael Okuda would often be nearby to point out relevant components to incorporate.

The Eaves design aesthetic is unmistakable, in the elegant Vulcan lander and Phoenix rocket in Star Trek: First Contact, in the arc-shaped Son-a warship concepts in Star Trek Insurrection, in the removal of the “neck” and compact configuration of the Enterprise-E, and in the Reman Scimitar, the Romulan Valdore, and Scorpion fighters for Star Trek Nemesis.  The artist says his Discovery designs were inspired, surprisingly, by the rocket that took Taylor away and back in the original Planet of the Apes.  You can see the inspiration in the view of the ship from below.

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Titan Publishing and Alcon Media Group, the producer behind more than 30 films over the past 20 years, announced a partnership that will mean the beginning of an expanded universe of stories for Rick Deckard, Replicants, and the world of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.  So expect new comic book series, tie-in fiction books, and maybe even a new book on Syd Mead and that tech noir futurism the franchise is known for.  It would seem the possibilities are endless.

In a press release issued late yesterday, the companies said they will develop and publish a variety of both fiction and non-fiction print media.  The program will feature new, “in canon” comics and graphic novels that dive deeper into the Blade Runner world.  They also plan to create a variety of publications focused on the visual and technical sides of the films.  Titan is also well-known for its Hard Case Crime imprint featuring the best of classic, lost, and new crime genre stories.  What better avenue to issue a vintage-style Deckard and femme fatale Rachael noir story than in a Hard Case Crime novel?

Alcon expressed its confidence that the world of Blade Runner will continue to organically grow in a way that refuses to sacrifice the quality, tone and high standards of this beloved property.  “We are extremely excited to be publishing Blade Runner comics and illustrated books,” said representatives of Titan.  “The Blade Runner universe has barely been explored; there is so much more there.  It’s an honour to be bringing this world to life in new ways for a new audience – and to reveal tales from that universe that you’ve never seen before.”

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was adapted from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel by science fiction legend Philip K. Dick, who endorsed the original film project in 1982, but died before its release.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Credit for the success of Blade Runner 2049 as a worthy sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner is a shared prize for director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario), the writers, including screenwriter Michael Green (Logan, Alien: Covenant), source material creator Philip K. Dick, and original Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher (The Mighty Quinn), plus at least two dozen other unnamed creators whose early science fiction works were mined for the story.  Predictable, derivative, slow-paced, and overly long, Blade Runner 2049 still lands as a solid sequel and will no doubt please fans loyal to the 1982 film.  The beauty of the sequel is the earnest, ambitious effort of Villeneuve under the eye of executive producer and original Blade Runner director Ridley Scott to give the story a reserved touch.  The sequel has the now classic dystopian look of the Mad Max or Terminator: Salvation variety, stretching the original Syd Mead futurism and punk noir vibe into a different but logical new direction–think Blade Runner with the lights turned on.

From the first scene Villeneuve & Co. dig in to not just sci-fi tropes but cyborg heavy themes that sci-fi fans know very well from similar explorations in countless books, television series, and films since the early 1980s, when the idea of adapting something like Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? into a big budget film was something less familiar to film audiences.  The filmmakers touch on many classics–Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Pinocchio, Shakespearean tragedy–to countless episodes of the Star Trek franchise (lead character and Replicant K/Joe played by Ryan Gosling revisits several direct themes the android Data explored in Star Trek: The Next Generation).  More than ten minutes is spent revisiting the latest technology called an “emanator” that Star Trek Voyager fans will be familiar with as the Emergency Medical Hologram’s “holo-emitter,” a device allowing holograms to move around the world.  What in the early 1980s may have wowed audiences is here not so eye-popping because of the legacy Trek tech called the holodeck.  But none of these flashbacks to sci-fi’s past really takes anything away from the elements re-used in Blade Runner 2049 because they are all stitched together into a clean story.  To some it will be a Where’s Waldo? of sci-fi storytelling and to others the simple nostalgia of exploring Isaac Asimov’s themes of the Robot and the Self will be worth a revisit.

Many questions are asked in the lengthy 2 hour-and 43 minute-long film, and some, but not all, will be answered, disappointing a few loyal fans of the original.  Deaths of characters and actors since the original limit the return of certain characters from the original, but where they happen it’s done right.  One scene, however, is a complete misfire–a character walked onto the screen to the gasp of this reviewer’s theater audience, only to find it wasn’t really who was expected based on the build up of the scene.  But the biggest misfire is Villeneuve’s use of sound and score.  Villeneuve turned to Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer for the musical score, unfortunately creating a dreadful use of sound in the film, compared to the original film’s excellent score by Vangelis.  Where the use of Vangelis’s synthesized cautious, futuristic melodies took a backseat to story and dialogue in the original, here Wallfisch and Zimmer lean on dissonant John Cage-esque chords and blare noises like someone sitting on a piano or a kid plugging his guitar into an amp for the first time, over and over, at full volume–the aural equivalent of J.J. Abrams’ lens flares.  The poor sound takes away from a visual work that could have benefitted from a closer look at the use of sound in the original.  I.e. take at least one earplug along, especially in an IMAX or other digital theater.

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