If you like deconstructing things, it’s almost better to read the art book of a movie than actually experiencing its source material. You get to see how it was made, the process they took to get to the final product, and the ideas that were lost along the way. Sometimes art books aren’t so robust and skimp on insider details. Having read and reviewed a few of these now (The Art of Elysium was fantastic) it’s pretty clear which ones get a thorough treatment and which ones skimp on the details in an attempt to sell a coffee table picture book. So which is it for Independence Day: Resurgence?
The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence (Titan Books)
Why does this book matter?
As of this writing Independence Day: Resurgence has a global box office total of $266 million after nearly a month in theaters. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. This is the type of film that’s supposed to break a billion. It’s not a huge hit, but considering its $150 million+ budget it’s going to have some mind blowing effects. Director Roland Emmerich is known for using mostly practical effects for the first film, which would mean a lot of art went into that and this latest film. You got to be curious what they cooked up for this one, right?! Plus, if you’re not going to see the film this is an effective way to figure out the movie and see what happened without, you know, actually going to see it.
Nice orb dude.
Much like the movie, the art in this book is epic and really, it’s the type of film that truly deserves an art book. We get lots of different types of art too, from 3D renders of aliens, sketches of ships, to painted double page pieces. That’s quite something when you consider this book is oversized! The writer of this book, Simon Ward, has brought together many different types of art for this book, but more importantly has organized it in a logical sort of way.
For me the best element of the book is the schematics and drawings of technology which includes hybrid human/alien tech developed after the first film. It’s neat to see how the artists conceptualized the alien tech to join with our current aircrafts like a helicopter that’s basically retrofitted with an alien anti-gravity machine. You get direct quotes from the artists and production designers and it’s fascinating how they had to consider fictional elements in their design. One such element was how the alien tech runs hot and how that would work as humans have yet to develop a way to keep it as cool as the aliens did.
While Roland Emmerich wrote the foreword, he doesn’t get quoted much in the rest of the book, but that’s okay because many of the artists speak to what it was like working with him. That’s an interesting way of learning more about how a film director works. In fact, this book does a fantastic job inserting quotes directly from the artists throughout the process, which is something not all art books can say. You can tell research was done to get their voices in the book and it enhances the authoritarian feel of it.
Images of the aliens–and possibly some hints at ideas for the sequel–add a lot to the book.
There’s of course art that didn’t make it into the film too (like different races of aliens we may see in the third one) including some early art before the team locked down visuals on certain elements. This book amounts to getting an inside look at the production of Independence Day: Resurgence from the comfort of your own home.
The biggest surprise was how this book spends the first 50 or so pages going over the first film. In effect this is a definitive art book for both films. It not only delves into the characters from the first film (including a full page on Will Smith), but it talks about and shows art from the first film as well. That includes memories from the art team including production designer Oliver Scholl and quotes from the likes of Brent Spiner on his thoughts at the time of shooting the film (spoiler: he had no idea it’d be such a huge hit).
Another surprise was a diary from Jeff Goldblum’s character David Levinson which opens the book (after the foreward of course) about his state of mind before the attack. It runs a couple pages and serves to get inside the character’s head, but wait there’s more! We get another diary entry on his thoughts after the invasion of the first film and again at the very end of this book serving as an afterword for this book and for the sequel. These diaries are not only great for diehard fans as they delve into the character and tell us about what is going on with the story, but they also are nice ways to break up the chapters in the book itself. As if to prepare us for what’s to come we get these diary entries.
While what is in the book is great eye candy it would have been nice to see more on how it was developed and made in the computer.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The first 50 or so pages devoted to the first film was a bit of a let down, but then again this book is over 170 pages long so it wasn’t a detriment really. The pages explaining the characters from the first film did read a bit like padding, but then again we get similar pages of characters in the sequel so it’s probable they were just creating some symmetry between the two movies in this book.
Having not seen the film, it’s hard to say what is missing from this book, but it does seem decidedly low on weapons. The spaceships themselves are weapons sure, but by my count there’s only one image of an alien gun in this book. At one point one of the designers explains why Emmerich loved the way guns were strapped to the aliens’ backs, yet there’s no images of that here. Maybe they didn’t want to spoil the film, but it would have been very cool to see.
Aside from some gorgeous destruction paintings there isn’t much art in regards to the CGI work that went into the biggest draw this type of film brings. It would have been nice to get a bit more than the preliminary images and for that matter storyboards. Again, there are a few, but not a lot which was a surprise.
Some of these images are drop dead gorgeous.
If you dig spaceships this is can’t miss coffee table book reading. There are also details scattered throughout the book that reveal what the producers might do in a third film, which for fans of this series really shouldn’t be passed up.