Titan Books celebrates 30 years of extraterrestrial terror with Aliens: The Set Photography
Few horror movies carry quite the legacy as Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece, Alien. However, while Ellen Ripley’s nightmarish experience aboard the doomed ship Nostromo is widely considered a timeless classic, responsible for burning the visage of the terrifying Xenomorphs into the conscience of millions of moviegoers over the past three decades, it’s 1986 sequel, Aliens, took the series in a more action-packed direction. Replacing Scott at the helm of the film, The Terminator director James Cameron masterfully melded the tense, brooding atmosphere of the original film with a more intense and visceral focus on combating the insect-like aliens against the backdrop of a colony on The exomoon LV-426. The film was a massive success for Cameron and studio 20th Century Fox, and in the 20 years since its big screen debut it’s still widely praised for its stunning visual effects and cinematography.
Now, 30 years since the release of the film that started it all, publisher Titan Books has released Aliens: The Set Photography. This lavishly-produced celebration of James Cameron’s thrilling sequel offers a captivating look at the creation of the 1986 blockbuster. From jaw-dropping spreads of the sprawling sets that Cameron and the team at Brandywine Productions created at Buckinghamshire’s Pinewood Studios to behind-the-scenes shots detailing the painstaking production to create the film’s iconic Xenomorphs, this coffee table book serves up a visual smorgasbord for fans of the film, offering an unparalleled look at its production alongside candid shots of the cast and crew who brought Cameron’s science fiction nightmare to life.
Authored by Simon Ward (The Art and Making of Independence Day), Aliens: The Set Photography clocks in at 140 glossy pages and includes a foreword by actor Carrie Henn, who played Newt in the movie. Each page is adorned with numerous shots that detail the making of the film, accompanied by additional commentary from Henn and Jenette Goldstein (Private Vasquez) that shines a light on the casts’ candid memories of its production. Never-before-seen pictures and and fun tidbits of information – like the humorous revelation that the stringy film that lines maws of the Xenomorphs was made from shredded condoms, or Henn recounting sharing tea with the Xenomorph Warrior before it pulled her beneath the tunnels of LV-426, add some welcome levity to contrast the hundreds of shots from the film’s derelict space colony.
If you read my previous review of The Art of Alien: Isolation, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the quality of Titan’s art books, and this handsome collector’s piece is no exception. The book’s jacket showcases the silhouette of Ellen Ripley in stark contrast to the searing flames spewed from the flame thrower that’s been duct taped to the side of her Smart Gun. The paper is also nice and thick and the binding feels sturdy as you’d expect from the publisher’s previous releases. Each page is also put together in a clean and dramatic fashion, with the more dramatic shots from the film getting a special focus in large, multi-page spreads that really show off all of the painstaking detail that was put into crafting the various sets and props that were used in the film.
While Aliens: The Set Photography’s $40 price tag may seem a bit steep, but I think die-hard fans of the franchise will find the book’s quality and wealth of content does a lot to justify it s price. From the commentary detailing the intricacies of building the stunning and atmospheric set pieces that dominated the film to the heartwarming recollections of Jenette Goldstein and the then eight-year-old Carrie Henn as they recount their interactions with Cameron and the rest of the crew, Aliens: The Set Photography offers a unique and in-depth perspective on one of the most memorable films of all time, and fans of the series will no doubt want to add their bookshelves.
That said, if you’re an Alien aficionado looking to celebrate 30 years of sci-fi terror then this is the book for you. It’s a hugely entertaining read that will grab your attention with the tenacity of an eager Facehugger from cover to cover. It packs a ton of details over the span of its 140 pages, giving readers a front row seat to the making of James Cameron’s horror masterpiece. You can purchase Aliens: The Set Photography on Amazon as well as on Titan’s online storefront.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Aliens: The Set Photography, written by Simon Ward, is published by Titan Books. It is available now. MSRP: $39.99. Materials for this review were graciously provided by Titan Books.