Titan Books publishes good art books. Not just those for movies, but those that follow incredible designers who influence the industry be it film, novels, or anything outside the box. The art of Fred Gambino, John Harris, and Ian Miller are testaments to that! This book however is a bit more special, in part because Syd Mead inspired so many films, but also because it’s original art used to make the upcoming Blade Runner: 2049 film.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist represents the most extensive collection of Mead’s visionary work ever printed, compiling hundreds of images, sketches and concept arts from a career spanning almost 40 years, many of which have never been seen in print before. Each entry provides a unique insight into the processes involved in Mead’s practice as well as illuminating the behind-the-scenes work involved in creating a fully realized, cinematic depiction of the future. With such a plethora of images from the many genre-defining films Mead has worked on, this is essential reading for film fans, artists and futurologists alike.
Why does this matter?
Syd Mead not only designed the world of the original Blade Runner but had a hand in classic science fiction films like Aliens, Tron, and the original Star Trek. Science fiction movies would not be what they are today without Syd Mead.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Mead created Johnny-5. That is all!
This is an excellent collection for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that the art is exceptional. Each chapter has at least a few schematics or painted pages to showcase how Mead was approaching the project. A lot of the art in this book has never been seen before and is organized by his earlier work to start, his most notorious work in the middle, and finally some of the work he did for films that never got off the ground at the end. There’s a wide selection of films showcased here with his most notorious filling out thicker sections of the book.
It all opens with a short foreword by Blade Runner: 2049 director Denis Villeneuve with some strong sentiments about why Mead’s work has been so important to him. Mead worked on the latest Blade Runner and Villeneuve goes into why he had to have Mead help design on this latest film. This is followed by an excellent essay titled “The Future According to Mead” which explains why and how Mead has influenced the movie industry. It helps convey Mead’s importance in the field of science fiction quite well. The detail that this section goes into showing how the art imbues a sense of discovery and genuine newness in an industry that tends to stick to the same old ideas is well written.
Each chapter either explains how the work was influential or why it’s so great. All of these intros are written by Craig Hodgetts with snippets of quotes from Syd Mead. Captions litter the book, usually to explain what we’re seeing, and the overall quality of the commentary is good. The book reads like it’s for folks who may not understand the artistic merit of what we’re seeing and gives the layman an idea of the impressiveness of the art.
As a fan of Blade Runner I loved the pages showcasing art from that film and from the upcoming sequel, but surprisingly the coolest chapters for me were those focused on a canceled live-action TV version of The Jetsons. Mead’s art works great for this property, though instead of the grit and grime he employed on Blade Runner, it has a sleeker and sexier look for this once in production show. It’s also neat to see the art Mead did for films that were never greenlit. A neat factoid you learn in this work is how Elysium hired Mead in part because the director of that film wanted to use a design Mead came up with for National Geographic years earlier. It’s yet another example of how Mead influenced film and will most likely continue to influence film for years to come.
A drawing from Mead for a film that never was.
It can’t be perfect can it?
My only gripe with this work is the lack of anecdotal stories from when Mead worked on these productions. Certainly, there are a few neat factoids, like how Mead learned on a canceled movie the writers had no idea how gravity worked, but more from Mead on his time working on these movies would have fleshed out the experience.
Is It Good?
This is an excellent art book that’ll go quite well on a coffee table or any science fiction aficionado’s library. Syd Mead is a creator who influenced film so greatly he deserves the recognition this book gives him. If you’re at all interested in architecture and design you should do yourself a favor and check this book out!