Everyone has at least one of these coffee table books, right? These heavy, glossy, often overpriced tomes truly encapsulate the phrase “collector's item.” Everyone (or perhaps a certain kind of film-lover) seems to have collected (or perhaps accumulated) at least one of these in their lives. Studios will often feature these sort of marketing tie-ins to somehow lend a modicum of artistic credence to their blockbuster, even if the film proves to be unremarkable otherwise. To be fair, the films typically granted this kind of book are indeed visually striking in some way. Heck. Even the critically-panned 300 has a coffee table book. The Nightmare Before Christmas has one. Avatar has one. And, this Tuesday from Titan Books, Prometheus will have one too, courtesy of author Mark Salisbury.
Each of these books are pretty much identically constructed. They will go through each facet of the film's visuals (characters, costumes, sets, vehicles), and feature concept drawings, early drafts, and photographs taken during production, detailing the building and filming of said facets. There will also be a few still from the completed film, showing you the final product in action. The pictures will often be accompanied by a paragraph explaining what we're seeing, and perhaps a quotation from a production designer, costumer, or even the director themselves, explaining their inspiration. Most film buffs have, at the very least, familiarized themselves with the setup of these books (conveniently labeled for laymen).
I don't want to come down on any of the actual art of Prometheus, as it is a film I like immensely, and found the look and feel of the film to be impeccable. Indeed, for me it was fun to explore the origins of the film's aesthetics, and kind of take a picture book journey back into the world. Also, seeing as Prometheus is a Ridley Scott film, we're also treated to storyboards and scenes that were not featured in the finished film. Knowing Scott, we'll eventually get an alternate cut of Prometheus. I liked exploring pictures of the film's the dark mysterious caves, and hearing crewmembers and writers and Scott himself talk about how mysterious they wanted everything to look, and how implacable the creatures should be. There was a lot of pressure, evidently, to balance H.R. Giger's original and familiar designs from Alien with enough original art to look interesting and striking in its own regard.
I also want to say that getting some clear close-ups of the special effects is exhilarating for a film like this. Prometheus takes place largely in shadow, so when certain monsters briefly appear, we don't necessarily get a good look at them. The Art of the Film gives us all kinds of concept drawings, close-ups, and creepy models to allow extended perusal. It also provided nicknames for the creatures, in case you wanted to name them. That eel monster with the vagina face, for instance, was called a “Hammerpede.” There was even a thing in the film's epilogue that was nicknamed “The Deacon.” Who knew? It was refreshing to learn that Scott, being something of a classicist, insisted on as many practical effects as possible, so there are actual suits, sets, and monster models to witness.
So the actual content of the book is just as detailed and involved as any effort of this sort. The interviews are brief but cogent, and the layout of the pages is clear and rich. The only problem I have with the book is a very fundamental one: It has little appeal beyond a very specific niche. That niche is people who adore Prometheus. If you like the look of the film (and how could you not, really?), then it's worth a flip-through. It's the kind of book that can while away a good hour or two of casual browsing while you ponder the mysteries in the film. But I have a feeling you already know if you're the type of person ready to drop $40 on it.