Friday, 5 December 2014

Review: Alien the Archive - the Ultimate Guide to the Classic Movies

Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Hardcover
Released: October 31st, 2014
Rating: 9/10

Amazon summary:

Alien is one of the most original, thrilling, and beautiful franchises in cinema history. From Ridley Scott's elegant horror masterpiece and James Cameron's visceral and heart-poundingAliens, to David Fincher's nihilistic Alien3, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's twistedAlien Resurrection, these are the films that birthed a monster and a cultural phenomenon. Alien: The Archive is a beautiful celebration of these landmark films, delving deep into the process of how all four films were created. From the earliest script ideas to final cut, this book showcases the making of the series in exhaustive and exclusive detail. Featuring storyboards from Ridley Scott, exclusive concept designs from Ron Cobb and Syd Mead, behind-the-scenes imagery of the xenomorphs being created, deleted scenes, unused ideas, costumes, weapons, and much more. 


This behemoth of a book is, as it states on the cover, the ultimate guide to the classic Alien movies. It's packed full of interviews, art work, concept art, film stills and behind the scenes information. I even prefer it to the Alien Vault, which is saying something because I love that book!

Alien The Archive has four sections focusing on each film, and kicks off proceedings with a new conversation with Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver. Alien is then the first focus film, before moving on to Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. The Alien section is my absolute favourite, as it features early designs (many which Prometheus revisited and explained), lots of H.R. Giger work and sections on the facehugger and chestburster. I love these two aliens, so finding out more about them was well worth reading this book for! The Xenomorph alien itself also has a fantastic eight pages dedicated to it, making this first section of the book the best by far.

This book has a great balance between images and text, and is very easy to read. I read it over a number of weeks, dipping in and out when the fancy took me, and found that that was the best way for me to absorb everything. There's a lot of information to take in within these pages, and to do so quickly would be a real shame. Looking at all the various images takes hours, so I can't imagine skim reading and missing all the good stuff!

Although this book is heavy and huge, it's organised and set out very, very well. Each film is easy to find, thanks to the contents page and clear sections, and the layout is similar to the aforementioned Alien Vault. Obviously there's a lot more here because of its much longer page count, and the whole thing reads like an on-set scrapbook. I can't see anything that has been omitted, from any of the four films, and that's no mean feat when it comes to this franchise. There's so much out there about Alien, so to compile it all must actually be a bit of a nightmare. That doesn't appear to be the case with Alien The Archive, though - it's amazing!

I absolutely love this book and can see why it's being lauded as the definitive volume on the subject. Alien fans are so lucky to have something like this, so rich in detail and visual aids. As a fan myself I was so excited to delve deeper into this classic horror franchise, and I was not disappointed by what was waiting for me. This is a book that demands to be read fully and then revisited on a regular basis, either to check a particular fact or to relive the brilliant image of the chestburster biding his time in a pool of blood. Either way this book is a veritable treasure trove of Alien insight, and should be owned and read by all movie fans and enthusiasts. I don't think there can a be a better book about the Alien films, though never say never. I'd like to see someone try!

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