- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Marvel; Slp edition (August 12, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0785185534
- ISBN-13: 978-0785185536
- Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 1.1 x 11.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Art of the Movie Hardcover – August 12, 2014
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This is another stunning book from Marvel. The hardcover and slipcase, with wrap-around artwork, are just as beautiful as the previous releases. The pages are thick and high gloss and it is packed with gorgeous art work and designs. The Guardians offer a unique opportunity to introduce an entirely new universe to audiences. So much of the film had to be developed from scratch that there is more concept art and weapon/vehicle design here than in any previous book since Iron Man. And the detail is off the charts! Every major character gets several pages devoted to look and costume, and many of the minor characters also. The Collector's assistant, Carina, even has two pages! I was delighted to see the evolution of each Guardian's look, with the many costume designs and make-ups tests considered. The section on Drax and his scars/tattoos was mind-blowing.
The book is laid out chronologically vis-à-vis the film, just as all the Phase 2 books have been. Since Star Lord is introduced in the film first, his is the first chapter after the introductions. As usual, the text ties back into the comics whenever possible to show how characters/costumes were inspired by or changed from the original works. I also loved how most of the concept art was previously unseen. Lots of images from the previous books were released (or leaked) online ahead of publication, but not here. The section of the Collector and his museum was brilliant. There were lots of Easter eggs for Marvel & comics fans in there and the book explores some of that.
The reason I didn't give this book five stars is that it has two issues that keep it from being amazing. First, there is a noticeable amount of gutter loss throughout, wherein images are obscured or corrupted by going into the spine. After producing nine art books, this is really inexcusable from a design stand point. For large landscape images of the settings, this isn't a problem - if a couple buildings go into the spine, no big loss. However, it is a big deal when it happens with characters. One image of Rocket which spans two pages has him completely "eaten" by the spine but the rest of the image is empty (e.g. there is NOTHING to the right and left of him except background color)! This happens again with Baby Groot. There is no reason these images couldn't be cropped to avoid the problem. And some of the group shots should have been re-sized to prevent characters from disappearing.
The second issue, as others have pointed out, is that the book really needed screen caps and character stills. Though this is an art book, it's really helpful - essential even - to see the final design as used in the film alongside all the concept art that led to it, especially for character costumes and make-up. The prior art books did this, so it's a mystery why it wasn't done so here.
Overall though, this is still an impressive production that truly opens up the universe of the Guardians. Highly recommended.
LONG VERSION: My frame of reference for movie art books was established by the Star Wars "Art of" series. The original trilogy art books were very heavily weighted toward design evolution, showing how AT-ATs and cloud cars and so on changed from initial conception to final product. They also had some matte paintings, especially for ESB, and some storyboards, mostly for space battle and speeder bike sequences in ANH and ROTJ. But almost nothing in way of explanation in terms of how and why artistic decisions were made.
The prequel trilogy art books started providing more explanation from the artists about how and why they made their design choices. The TPM book had a lot of design evolution and many lovely concept paintings. For AOTC, digital paintings used in pre-viz take up a lot more of the book, so consequently you get less in terms of design evolution. By the ROTS book, the design evolution element is barely represented at all; pre-viz paintings take up almost the entire book.
The GOTG book hits a really nice balance among all of the elements one might want in an "Art of" book: lots of design evolution, lots of pre-viz paintings (but a useful variety, not just three dozen different views of Geonosis), and over all of it, lots of explanations from the artists and creators about why they did what they did. This turns the art for each character and vehicle from a gallery into a narrative: here's what worked, here's what didn't, here's why certain things ended up on screen.
To pick just one example, I hadn't thought about how many ways there were to make Groot creepy. But the Groot that ended up on screen is surrounded by an uncanny valley (maybe an uncanny moat?) of horrible alterna-Groots: wooden skeleton Groot, asymmetrical pseudo-Ent that looks like it's falling apart, plant demon Groot that just stepped out of some jungle Hades, and so on. There must be a dozen or so possible Groots in the book, and except for the Groot we know and love, they're all one flavor or another of nightmare fuel.
Same thing for pretty much every other character in the book. And some nice design evolution stuff for the vehicles, too, and for locations like Morag, Xandar, and my favorite, Knowhere.
Some other nice touches: Many of the characters and vehicles in the book has a VFX frame from the actual movie for comprison. Practically every piece of art in the book has the artist's name at the bottom (unobtrusively) so you know who did what. Chris Foss gets a nice shout-out in the Forward, and the book includes some of his concept art for the movie--yes, he worked on the film! A few pages of cool storyboards by David Krentz show the visual development of the prison escape sequence.
I assume if you're interested in the book you must have liked the movie, and you're coming to the book in the hope that it will take you deeper into how the movie came to be. That hope will be rewarded. The cumulative effect of all of the art and all of the artists' thoughts about the art is to make the book into a sort of manifesto for doing visual sci-fi that isn't hostage to any one thread of influence. As James Gunn writes in the Forward: "Guardians of the Galaxy would be about color, and life. In-you-face, over-the-top, unrepentant COLOR. We would rescue the aesthetics of pulpy science fiction films from the fifties and sixties--films like Forbidden Planet, Fantastic Voyage, Barbarella--while simultaneously retaining the grittiness and workaday reality of later films."
Finally, the book itself is really well done as a physical object, almost luxurious in the quality of its production. It would be a nice piece of kit even without the slipcase. With its big wide pages, heavy glossy paper, rock-solid cover, and sewn binding, it was clearly meant to be enjoyed and pored over and shared. My 9-year-old and I turned every page and found wonders all the way through. Highly recommended.