Book Review: "Aliens: The Set Photography"

When James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton and the rest of the cast and crew of the beloved “Aliens” got together to film the sequel to the Ridley Scott hit film “Alien,” do you think they had any idea that they were creating an industry? There are new games, toys, comics, and even a new “Alien” film (next year’s “Alien: Covenant,” directed by Scott) in some current state of production. And there’s a massive market for books about the films that changed science fiction forever. There have been novelizations, graphic novels and several examinations of the filmmaking with detailed behind-the-scenes information. What could possibly be added to the conversation three decades later? The answer is not a lot, but that doesn’t make “Aliens: The Set Photography” any less fantastic for hardcore fans of the action classic.

Simon Ward, who produced the coffee table book “The Art and Making of Independence Day: Resurgence” for Titan Books a couple months ago, turns his eye to the making of “Aliens,” focusing almost entirely on behind-the-scenes photos from the actual production. Consequently, almost every one of the 144 pages in this new collectible volume consists of an actual photograph. Sure, there are captions and some new information, but the volume is incredibly thin on actual insight into how “Aliens” got made.

For those looking for something more than pretty pictures and reminders of how old we are (just by seeing how young Weaver and Cameron were when they made it), the book contains new insight from Carrie Henn (who played Newt, and would never appear in a film again) and Jenette Goldstein (the scene-stealing Vasquez). However, both contributions are slight. On the one hand, I admire the commitment to the purpose of the book—only set photography. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have minded brief asides to other elements of the production or longer anecdotes from the people involves in making it. As is, the book is a bit simple. It reminds fans of the book why they love “Aliens” and offers some new angles on a classic production. In that sense, it will make hardcore fans happy. Casual ones might want to look one of the dozen or so other books about the production.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also the Editor of Magill's Cinema Annual, a writer for The New York Times, Vulture, The AV Club, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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