I’ve reviewed my fair share of art books, especially those for films and the one thing I’ve learned from reviewing these is the production process always creates way more art than can ever fit in the final product. Take the art book for
Elysium for instance, which contained many weapons and robots never seen in the film. These books allow us to view the spark that started and inspired the final product, which sometimes is much more grand and spectacular than put to any piece of celluloid. The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 art book is no different. The question is however, how thorough are they, and is it worth a look having seen the film or not?
Writer: Jacob Johnston
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The Guardians are back! After saving the universe, Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot find themselves with expunged records and a new mandate: Guard what needs guarding. Now, go inside the studio in this new collectible volume! Discover exclusive concept art, production stills, and commentary from cast and crew-including returning director James Gunn and Marvel’s extraordinary Visual Development team. Complete your ART OF THE MOVIE collection with this latest installment as the Guardians soar to new heights
Check out our flip through video to get a peek inside:
Why does this book matter?
If you’re an art fan you’re going to want to see the sketches, storyboards, and 3D designs that inspired and started what will be in one of the biggest films of the year. Plus, you get a foreword from the director, an inside look into creating the sequel film, and it’s all in a beautiful hardcover package.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Star-Lord and Gamora are looking good.
Speaking of the format, damn is this book gorgeous and well worth the price based on the materials alone. Contained in a cardboard slipcase, the book slides out of a box that’s not only pretty, but will keep your book safe. The finish on the box feels expensive and somewhat waxy. The book contained within has a strong spine, glossy pages, and feels like it’ll last till the year 3000. It’s also in a widescreen format, which suits the subject. The art on the cover is actually one painting stretching across to the back cover, which is beautiful in its own right. On the front are the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the back the supporting characters.
Author Jacob Johnston and book designer Adam Del Re clearly put a lot of thought into this book as every page–even the copyright page–feels purposeful. The table of contents, splayed across two pages, houses all the chapters via celestial bodies with a retro digital look. The book is set up generally how the film flows (I assume; I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it’s clear from the text too) starting with the world that opens the film and eventually ending with art from the big climactic battle. After the foreword the book is organized by showing art from the first planet, each of the main characters, and then additional worlds and characters in the order in which you see them in the film.
Speaking of the forward, James Gunn opens the book with a general outlook on the production and closes with all the excellent artists who contributed and made this thing happen. It’s a nice way to set up the art book as it specifically points out not only the artists, but the types of artists involved. 3D fractal work, cinematography, costume designs, storyboard artists, prosthetics…it goes on and on.
Some incredible science fiction art in this one.
Surprisingly for an art book, a lot of time is spent discussing the difficulty of making a sequel and why this second film worked out so well. Johnston interviewed key producers for this section, which helps lend a voice to the higher level of production. This section also contains quotes from Gunn, which help flesh out the production difficulties and rationale. Really, this entire opening section is like the special features on a DVD, but with no fluff.
From there the book progresses with character designs, motivations for those designs, and a hell of a lot of cool art. The art varies throughout the sections, with some painted work, 3D work, and even some actor’s faces Photoshopped into the art. Fans of costumes should love this book as they spare no expense at showing the varied looks for each of the heroes. One of the more fascinating takeaways from reading this was how many looks were created for Ego, Star-Lord’s dad played by Kurt Russell. You have to wonder if they had a hard time pinning down his look and kept going back to the drawing board literally to figure him out. There are 18 pages with multiple character designs per page, which surpasses any other character.
There are also a bunch of surprises in this book. Let’s just say, do not read this if don’t want the movie to be spoiled. It’s rather widely known that Sylvester Stallone is going to make an appearance in the film, but boy does this book spoil his role in the film. In fact, his inclusion and other characters linked to him are detailed quite well here, which will totally ruin a surprise.
Love the addition of Drax and Gamora here.
The second to last chapter focuses on Ego the Living Planet exclusively which also contains art from the final scenes. I mention this section specifically because the art is gloriously awesome. It’s the science fiction dreams you can best enjoy via the classic book jackets of the pulp novels of the 70s and 80s. The art is of varying types, but most is incredibly detailed and imaginative. Clearly the best artists were tasked with creating Ego, as a lot of time was put into creating these amazing designs. If you’re a science fiction fan you’ll love this chapter.
Finally, the book closes with a chapter on the marketing campaign, which is a nice touch you don’t see in movie art books. It’s a short chapter for sure, but it’s nice to see the art that serves a different purpose.
The cover artist and visual development supervisor writes the afterword for this book, which helps bring a little perspective to the entire production. There’s a lot of thanks made of course, but it also delves a bit into what it’s like working for Marvel Studios for over seven years. After this, there’s a page and a half of bios of all of the contributors in this book. Another nice touch in case you’re curious who is speaking in the book.
Awww, baby Groot!
It can’t be perfect can it?
This is a very thorough art book, which is saying a lot given how many skimp on certain aspects of the production. One might argue there’s not enough from the actors, but this isn’t that type of art book. So that said, my only gripe is the foldout poster that’s at the center of the book. On one side are hundreds of storyboards–no problem there, but on the other side is a lovebot from the film. The significance might be lost on me since I haven’t seen the film, but it seems like a somewhat random thing to feature on a foldout poster.
Not the tape Groot!
Is It Good?
This is an excellent art book from beginning to end. The materials are nice and will last a long time and the content thorough and interesting. There’s a good amount of reflection and detail on why designs and production went the way they did and there’s a lot of art. Organized as it is, this will spoil a lot of the film, but if you’ve seen the movie you’re going to need this on your coffee table.