Valerian – Movie Review

August 5th, 2017

movie reviewHere we go with the most expensive european/independent movie project to date. A movie that did cost something like 200mio dollars (advertising not included) really needs to capture a good audience to make that kind of money back. You can rightfully say that Valerian did bomb at the US boxoffice. So its last chance are the other markets. Especially Europe and China. Of course this film will also be (or is) compared to Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. Which wasn’t exactly a boxoffice hit either. But at least has had a Bruce Willis or Gary Oldman to make people interested.

Valerian is (how could it be something else these days) made after a story from a comic – Valerian & Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières that started in 1967. If you are familiar with sci-fi movies between 67 and now… you can see how the comic kind of influenced everything that came after it. Especially Star Wars, with its look and characters as one prominent example. Valerian is about two young special agents, Major Valerian (played by Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (played by Cara Delevingne). Both are part of the military and have to take care of the more complicated missions that tend to come up every now and then. I haven’t read the comics but from what I gathered it’s a giant mix of everything. From western to hard scifi. The definition ‘Space Opera’ comes to mind. Valerian Director Luc Besson read these as a child and was immediately hooked. When he later decided to make The Fifth Element, we can clearly see that the comics did have some influence on him. Also because french comic artists worked on the concept art for it. He even got asked why he does that Fifth Element movie when he should do his version of Valerian. Valerian, as envisioned by Besson, just wasn’t technically possible at the time. So he waited for the computer technology to catch up.

The film starts with a wonderful and well done intro that explains how the ‘City Of A Thousand Planets’ came into existence. We go through hundreds of years and see the city grow from what can be described as the the ISS to a gigantic structure inhabiting 30 million people of all kinds of races and species. Everyone peacefully living side by side. The situation in this place can best be described as controlled chaos. And it seems to work. Which is cool and sends the right message. The city is now named Alpha.

Then we get another intro that makes us familiar with the planet Mül and its natives. This planet can best be described as paradise. I would love to visit that place… even though I know I would never be able to afford it. Still! Beautiful beaches and fantastic vistas. The folks living there could brothers and sisters from the NaVi species we know from Avatar. Not blue but skinny and tall. Kind of what I imagine humans look like at the end of the book The Forever War. We see them enjoy life and go by their business when suddenly explosions happen and things drop from the sky. Obviously there is a battle happening in orbit and debris is crashing on the planet. How these creatures don’t get wind of the battle going on above their heads is a little beyond me. You can see stars and planets on the horizon but not that giant battle? A huge ship gets hit and crashes onto the planet surface which starts a gigantic shockwave that kills everything. Among the victims is a princess of the natives. Except a couple of the people who were lucky to have found shelter in one of the previously crashed ships. When that princess dies she explodes into some kind of memory beam, traveling through space and looking for the right being to catch it up. That beam finds Valerian and deems him worthy to carry the memory of that planet, its native culture and what happened.

After these two intros we meet Valerian and Laureline fooling around on, what seems to be, a holodeck. Valerian gets up, looks a little confused. But I didn’t get the indication what, what we saw of Mül, was a vision he had. 5 minutes later we learn that he has had a weird dream. However, we immediately learn what these two are about and it never really stops throughout the film. We are constantly reminded that Valerian loves Laureline and wants convince her that he’s not the douchebag womanizer from the past anymore. He’s got only eyes for her. She of course doesn’t really buy it. Even though she does like him quite a bit. Now we have seen this kind of relationship before in (can you guess it?)… Star Wars. Han Solo and Leia Organa. I wouldn’t be surprised if George Lucas didn’t model his two characters after the Valerian comics. There is a big difference though. At least when it comes to the movies. The chemistry between Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher was spot on and worked from the get go. When looking at Empire Strikes Back, where the romance gets in full gear, we have the best example of how to work the romance into the film. It’s cute, funny and makes us care about Han and Leia even more. The way the romance plays out in the Valerian movie is very awkward. DeHaan and Delevingne to me have no chemistry at all. Although you can see that both of them try their best to make it work. However, by the end of the film I did not care more about these two than 120 minutes earlier. While I think Dane DeHaan did a better job, the other folks I saw the film with claimed that Cara Delevingne did a better job and found DeHaan weaker. It’s also save to say that both of them just looked too young. Almost like fresh out of high school. She more than him. And we have to take them as highly qualified space ranger soldier type people. It just didn’t really work. Both of them are sent on a mission to retrieve a creature from a gigantic (Virtual/Augmented Reality?) market place. Here we get a glimpse of the visual power of this film. And it’s fair to say that it’s amazing to look at. Creativity that is missing in so many other formulaic movies these days. They go all in and it pays off. When it comes to the story it’s the start of a “I save you and you save me” chain that we’ll see throughout the film. While it does drive the plot forward it becomes a little much after a while. The creativity saves the movie in these parts. They manage to ‘steal’ the creature and leave behind a frustrated bad gangster boss that surely was supposed to get back in a sequel (which we’ll probably never get). Now after a little more than 30 minutes we finally get to Alpha… or the City of a thousand Planets.

There is a lot of exposition talk in this movie. Of course there is a lot to explain about the world but it wouldn’t have hurt to just drop some of the stuff explained there. Most of it we don’t need for this film. But again, the movie wants to set up a whole universe and potential sequels. Once in the city we learn more about how the different species have organized and how the military works. We also learn that the creature we just captured plays a larger role in the upcoming plot. But before that we learn that the city has a problem. There is an area in its core that becomes increasingly radiated and a danger to the rest of the city. And that is where the movie leads us. An investigation of what is going on there. So the film transforms into some sort of detective story. In the end we get explained how everything we saw in the past two hours comes together and resolves the mystery. Just in case you missed the plot going on with all the eyecandy burning out your eye holes.

Now let’s talk the good stuff. As mentioned before the film (much like The Fifth Element) is a great source of inspiration. There is rarely a scifi movie that comes with more creativity in its look and design. The collection of creature designs alone is insane. And some of them we just see for a second. Still, they’re fully animated and detailed and there went some care into all of them. So visually this movie is amazing. The planet Mül is beautiful and its people/natives are really interesting. I would even go as far as saying that a movie about these people and their struggle to survive would have been a more interesting movie than the one we got. The glimpse we get from this world they created there really makes me want to like this film more. The direction of the action sequences also works pretty good. Just the right amount of kinetic energy without crossing the overkill line. A good balance in my opinion. Unfortunately it’s only the visuals and action sequences that really work. At least the main concept artists got a very early credit at the end. Well deserved and only fair. One of them even liked some of my own work in the past! Yay!

Now the bad stuff. Beside our two main characters we have some more played by Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke and Rihanna. The only ‘name’ actors in this film. Although I wouldn’t categorize Rihanna as an ‘actress’. At least Owen and Hawke do not get much to do. Which is a shame! Talking about Rihanna. Adding her was an insane decision if you ask me. Not because she can’t act particularly well. But because the scene they implemented her for grinds the movie to a complete halt for 15 minutes! It ruins the whole pacing of the film for a strip/dance number of hers. Completely unnecessary. Her character is 90% a CG character and I understand that we need this character to move the plot along. But it really didn’t require that dance number just to show off that you got Rihanna in your film. Which, in all honesty, nobody cares about to begin with! The dance number is cool and well done… but for the film it’s completely counterproductive and useless. Throw her out and shorten that part. Next we have the dialogue. Some of it reminded me of scenes between Anakin and Padme in Star Wars Episode 2. So wooden! Along with the dialogue we have the humor. And there are a lot of ‘supposedly’ funny scenes in this film. I rarely heard anyone laugh when I saw the film. 80% of the jokes completely backfired. I felt bad for the film. So what it comes down to is a bad script and bad writing. Almost every scene of dialogue felt staged and artificial. But hey, it’s a film that is 80% CGI… of course it feels artificial. So yeah, why not making this film completely CGI to begin with? That’s what I wondered throughout the film. Especially since the live-action elements do not implement with the CGI stuff too seamlessly in some parts of the film. Room for improvements. An example of the bad writing is that I cannot remember who the humans fought in the beginning next to Mül. I don’t even know if they actually mention what this battle was about. And this battle is the reason for the plot in this film. We know nothing about it. Or I simply missed it. Which doesn’t speak for the film either.

It’s a giant space opera… so… “How is the music?” you ask? Well, I don’t know. I can’t remember a single piece of music from this film. Except David Bowie at the beginning intro. A space opera like this needs a striking musical soundtrack! But there’s nothing! Some argue that the only good musical soundtrack is the one that seamlessly melts with the film and you don’t hear while it plays out. But no, that’s stupid. A movie like this needs memorable musical themes. But there’s nothing in it. Again, a shame.

For me as a scifi artist I look at this film and say, “Yep, that’s it. We officially have crossed the line where there really isn’t anything new left to do. It’s all been done. Whatever idea I come up with… it’s probably been done by someone else before me already.”. Yes, this film is definitely a fantastic source of inspiration for people like me. But if you want a good story with likeable characters… nope. I must admit that I was not a big fan of Besson’s Fifth Element movie when it came out and over time I learned to respect it and even like it. I don’t see this happen with Valerian. Which makes me sad. There is a lot of good stuff in here. It’s not entirely wasted but it’s not used properly either.

A 6.5/10 for me.

Valerian on IMDb

Endeavours – I Shall Pass

August 2nd, 2017



Endeavours – I Shall Pass

“Almost there! Like giants protecting a treasure. My wife told me that every tower comes with a different pattern. They suspect that these patterns can even change, which must be quite a sight! I just spoke to her and she suggested not to forget to breathe when seeing the towers up close! The shuttle needs at least 5 more minutes. Very long 5 minutes. Almost home!”

Now this one is a little special as it wasn’t part of the original second leg of artworks for the series and slipped in while I worked on something else and got inspired. I loved the look and scale and definitely wanted to add it to the series as an complementary piece. To show the towers a little more. I was creating a preview piece for my 8k heighfield terrain freebie when inspiration hit me. I liked how the lighting of the scene complimented the detail of the terrain and started playing around by adding the towers. A small stream of light suggests our small little planetary transport pod, zipping through the air. I really wanted to show the dimensions here and the scale works great. I’m also happy how uncomplicated (compared to my other stuff) the scene comes across.

Created, as usual, with Vue, to create a base to work from in Photoshop. I used my freebie The Ghost terrain and its materials and masks to create the landscape. Layout of the scene was done fairly quickly. Invested some detail work here and there nonetheless. In Photoshop I fixed some parts of the render, added some textures and atmospheric effects.

6000×2739 – Vue – World Machine – C4D – Photoshop – Lightroom

Plate

ENDEAVOURS Part One – Six

ENDEAVOURS Part Seven

ENDEAVOURS Part Eight

ENDEAVOURS Part Nine

ENDEAVOURS Part Ten

ENDEAVOURS Part Eleven

wallpapers available

The artwork on:
DeviantartArtstationDrawcrowdCGSociety

Regards

signed

The Ghost Resource (Free)

July 19th, 2017

The Ghost 8k Mountain Heightfield Package

This is a second try in offering some resources for you to play with. This one is a freebie that you can grab here – you can either pay an amount you think justifies the quality/content or just enter a 0 to get this package for free. No one will hold it against you. :D The contents of this package are free to use for personal and commercial projects. Please check the included readme.txt file for more info.

Beside the main terrain (8192×8192, 16bit) itself, this package contains a collection of masks (16bit) and colormaps (8bit) that allow you to go into very fine detail when giving the mountain character by adding textures and materials. It’s best used with Vue or Terragen but can also be used with any other sophisticated 3d package that’s out there. I also included a Vue scene file with an example setup of the terrain. Vue might ask you to reload the materials when you load the scene. Have fun with it! :)

The Ghost on Gumroad.com

Regards
signed

Endeavours – Port Fenster

July 16th, 2017



Endeavours – Port Fenster

“This trip felt like it took 6 years or an eternity! Finally approaching Port Fenster and the town of Valley Call. Imagined it bigger. From what I can see this environment looks very close to what I know from old pictures of the old Earth – except the towers. Look at these towers! They’re gigantic!”

For the most part of our journey we’ve been either in up the air or in space. It’s time to get back to the ground! Here we see our ship in its last appearance during a landing procedure. We see a small town here, which could best be described as a colony. It’s safe to assume that this place is destined to grow quite a bit in the years to come. Therefore I aimed for an established look and not something too fresh. It’s also not the only place we left our mark on here on this planet. There are small settlements all over the place. But this little town is one of the main places, managing the colonization process and all that comes with it. Although not everyone is allowed to just apply for a home there. This planet demands a more selective process. At least for now.

For the scene I used Vue and some assets I bought via DAZ. I modified these assets so they helped me building this little town. It works good enough but I’m not super entirely happy with it. Which goes in line with the more experimental approach of the pieces in this series. Some things work better than others. =) The mountains/landscape was created via World Machine. “This alien planet looks kinda like Earth!”, you say? Yes, it does… there’s a reason for it I hope to explain in an upcoming series of images. For the foreground I used some HQ trees made by Aron Kamolz. Thanks buddy! =)

4500×2054 – Vue – World Machine – C4D – Photoshop – Lightroom

Plate

ENDEAVOURS Part One – Six

ENDEAVOURS Part Seven

ENDEAVOURS Part Eight

ENDEAVOURS Part Nine

ENDEAVOURS Part Ten

ENDEAVOURS Part Eleven

The artwork on:
DeviantartArtstationDrawcrowdCGSociety

wallpapers available

Regards

signed

Endeavours – Towers Of Entropy

June 20th, 2017



Endeavours – Towers Of Entropy

“We started the descend and entered the outer atmosphere. I remember from history class how the first ‘Astronauts’ always had a pretty rough ride through the atmosphere, down to the good old Earth. Now it’s a smooth transition. We still have to fasten our seatbelts though. Must be a traditional thing. And there they are, the mysterious Towers of Entropy. Can’t wait to learn more about them!”

For this one I decided to go for a more loose style. Main objective was to visualize the ship approaching the lower parts of the atmosphere of this planet. As well as showing the celestial environment with the planets. It may be a little cliche but I wanted our planet/destination to not just be a random planet. Since I plan to continue this series at some point. So I decided to add these towers. At this point we know nothing about them and I haven’t even mentioned them in the previous parts. So I hope to spawn some more interest by the sudden reveal of this element. Even though I’m not entirely sure where I want to go with them yet, I plan to investigate them at some point for sure.

Technically it’s a very basic scene. In Vue I rendered a plate for the landscape and an additional plate for the clouds. I tried working without clouds but the pic felt off. With the added cloud elements it came together much better. Especially the scale started to look more impressive. Photo textures and painting enhanced the scene. In Lightroom I found a nice colour landscape to go with as well as adding a grain effect which I really liked for this one.

4000×2163 – Vue – C4D – Photoshop – Lightroom

Plate

ENDEAVOURS Part One – Six

ENDEAVOURS Part Seven

ENDEAVOURS Part Eight

ENDEAVOURS Part Nine

ENDEAVOURS Part Ten

wallpapers available

The artwork on:
DeviantartArtstationDrawcrowdCGSociety

Regards

signed

Endeavours – Anticipation

June 6th, 2017



Endeavours – Anticipation

“There was nothing but darkness! I heard stories of ships that never made the passage complete. Poor souls. The captain just did let us know the passage went fine and we are about to enter the atmosphere. I always wondered why the passage costs the traveler a week though. It felt like just a second. However, the passangers started cheering and clapping. Guess I wasn’t the only one wetting his pants.”

For this one I was playing around a little more than usual. There are a couple of ways to read this image. At least to me. This wasn’t planned though. First after I got done with most of the work for it, I recognized that there is probably more going on than I thought. However, the main goal was to find a way to illustrate how that ship we’re following since the beginning of the series, drops out or exits the jump gate. I played with a couple of ideas and ended up with what we can see now. The slight blue glow on the bottom was added to suggest that we are about to enter the atmosphere of the planet that will lead us to the finish line of this part of the series.

Technically it’s again business as usual with using Vue to layout and render the scene. Photoshop to bring together the rendered material and detailing elements. Lightroom helped me find a nice colour composition since, in all honesty, the plain Photoshop result looked kind of boring. So I went through Lightroom twice until I got the colours I was happy with.

8000×5333 – Vue – C4D – Photoshop – Lightroom

Plate 1
Plate 2
Print Detail

ENDEAVOURS Part One – Six

ENDEAVOURS Part Seven

ENDEAVOURS Part Eight

ENDEAVOURS Part Nine

ENDEAVOURS Part Ten

wallpapers available

The artwork on:
DeviantartArtstationDrawcrowdCGSociety

Regards

signed

Nok Tiris – Webinar

June 4th, 2017

Nok Tiris Walkthrough Webinar

Here a couple of infos to the upcoming Digital Art Live webinar (next Saturday) where I explain the creative process to my Nok Tiris project. Originally created for a shortfilm I used a mix of 3d and 2d techniques. Using Vue helped to setup the scene and general mood. After rendering the scene I used Photoshop to bring it all together, enhanced and refined it. If you are interested and you want to participate go here and register for the event. The webinar will take place in a Fuze meeting and you will get all info via email. You need to install the client software but you don’t require an account to attend the webinar! You will get the room number via email.

Find the registration page: here
Start Time: 20:00 BST (London)/21:00 GMT (Berlin)/12:00 PDT (Los Angeles)/15:00 EDT (New York) – The duration is estimated to 1.5 to 2hrs. Saturday, June 10th 2017!

This event is sponsored by the fine folks at E-On Software, the creators of Vue! Big thanks to them!

Introduction:

Project Info, Used Hardware

Vue:

Scene Setup in Vue, Perspectives, How to render for Post-work, How to create Scifi Rockformations, Create your own Scifi city assets

Photoshop:

Compositing, File Setup, Possibilities of rendering with Multipass

See you there!

Regards
signed

Alien: Covenant – Movie Review

May 26th, 2017

movie reviewRidley Scott is one of the best filmmakers of our time. He has some modern classics under his belt and rightfully so. Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator or Kingdom Of Heaven (Yes, a completely underrated gem of a movie!). All these films deal with either historical aspects or try to explore the human condition. Always trying to find visual answers certain questions. In Alien it’s the fear of the unknown. In Blade Runner about humanity. In Gladiator it’s about corruption and how to overcome it. In Kingdom Of Heaven it’s about Religion, Faith and how to deal with it. That’s at least how I read these films. Even Prometheus, despite all its flaws, at least tries to ask interesting questions. Now we got Alien: Covenant from Ridley Scott and expect him to continue on his path of asking questions and maybe even deliver some answers. With this film being a direct sequel to Prometheus (which is a giant question without any answers) it’s the least to expect, right? This will be a long review.

We ‘board’ the Covenant. A colony ship with a little more than 2000 people on board and about 15 crewmembers. The movie throws us right into it. The crew drops out of hypersleep due to a random shockwave that hits the ship and damages it. So we’re there with these people and know nothing about them. At least if you haven’t seen any of the promo videos on Youtube. While the crew is trying to wake up and understand the situation, we see a hypersleep pod that is damaged. The Captain is in there and because the pod decides that there is no way of survival for him… it automatically cremates his body. And there goes James Franco. Not even a minute of screen time. You can see more of him in the promo video on Youtube. It’s a useless marketing stunt. There is no reason to have him in there. While you could argue that the reaction of the pod is stupid, I think it’s well thought out and a plausible mechanism to implement into these things. The next one in the chain of command is Oram (Billy Crudup). We get told (multiple times in this film) that he’s a religious guy, a man of faith. We never get to see him act out his beliefs though. The movie doesn’t even care to explore that ‘faith’ angle. And the movie starts to categorize or put its characters into boxes because it doesn’t even care about laying out a foundation for these people. Everyone is a cardboard cutout of some cliche of a character we have seen in so many other films. Especially in the horror genre. Our main woman (because it’s the vital ingredient of any Alien movie) is Daniels (Katherine Waterston). And she falls flat too. Because there is no foundation for her as well. No time to bond with her character. Although she seems to be one of the only people with something like a brain in her head. Then there is the android Walter (Michael Fassbender). Last but not least the only other character worth to mention is a pilot named Tennessee (Danny McBride). The rest of these characters is cannon fodder. Did I mention that all these crew people are either married or couples? Is that fact supposed to build some emotional connection to these cardboard characters? If so… it doesn work at all and makes the whole situation, they eventually stumble into, just even more stupid. So much for the introduction of the characters.

They suddenly pick up a message while repairing the Covenant. They find out where it comes from and that it’s not too far away. Plus the planet it comes from seems to be habitable and safe for humans. So they decide to cancel their original mission. A mission to colonize a certain planet it took them decades to investigate, prepare and map out. And their main argument is that they don’t want to go back into hypersleep. Their second argument is that it takes only a couple of weeks to get there instead of the 7-8 years to get to their original destination. We get a somewhat nice scene between Daniels and Oram. They discuss how useful it would be to cancel their original mission to investigate that signal. Daniels is against it. Rightfully so. Oram, who doesn’t have the best standing with the crew at this point, decides to go with most of the crew instead. Because… you know… hypersleep sucks. And so the Covenant changes course to that mysterious planet.

The reaction of the crew regarding this signal is weird. The movie doesn’t establish for how long mankind is doing this colony space stuff and how regularly they catch up signals sent out by ‘what could be’ an alien species. Not one of them is reacting really surprised and amazed. How can it be? How is this possible? Aliens, wtf? Are we making first contact? It becomes even weirder when they find out that it’s a signal sent out by a human! Which is even stranger than having a signal by aliens at this point. No one recognizes this as overly weird and asks how this is even possible. And, except for that short discussion between Daniels and Oram, they immediately set course to investigate. Wouldn’t it be more natural to wait 2 or 3 days to think about it first? These people act so irrational. Maybe the hypersleep did something to their brains. Maybe that technology isn’t developed enough and leaves people dumb. Maybe the technology needs a little more work until we’re in the Alien (1979) timeline (20 years after the happenings in Covenant) and they figured out how to avoid brain damage from traveling with hypersleep pods. Because in the 1979 movie everyone of these characters acts rational!

The Covenant arrives at the planet that is the source of that strange signal they catched up and except for three crewmembers all of them decide to land on the planet. While a giant storm is going on. Please don’t wait for the storm to be over. Please make this endeavour as risky as possible! They manage to pass through the storm and find a spot to land. The fact that the air is breathable on this planet is enough for them to go out (into a completely unknown ecosystem) and start their investigation. They don’t even have breathing masks on. And again they don’t care about landing on an alien planet. They walk out of their landed ship onto the planet surface as if they walk out of a subway train. The most common thing ever. No one even states how crazy weird and amazing it is to (what seems to) be the first group of humans who set foot onto that planet. Again very irrational behaviour of our characters. Yes, you could argue that, with the signal seemingly originating from a human, they are not the first to set foot onto that planet. And yes, you could argue that, if that human being in the signal can survive on this planet, we don’t need precaution when it comes to breathing masks an all that. Still, it’s uncharted territory. An ecosystem they don’t know. There have to be precautions other than “let’s take some guns with us”.

With the crew setting foot onto the planet, we leave the first act of the movie. And the part I enjoyed most. From here it’s almost constantly down hill. Characters that can barely be described as 2 dimensional are constantly doing stupid things just to move the plot forward. We discover what happened to Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and David after Prometheus. We see how the original Alien came to be. Get very unsatisfying answers to formerly interesting questions. See an ending that completely disappoints but still made (at least) me want to know where it goes from there.

Now you ask, are there at least some parts of the film that were good? Yes. The design and VFX work is outstanding and pretty much seamless. Except for a couple of times that made me raise my eye brows… silently asking “wtf was that?”. There is enough stuff in this movie that would have made a far better film than what we ultimately got. We get some interesting scenes when Walter is confronted with David and his ideas. A lot of people complained about the casting of Danny Mcbride and I wasn’t one of them. I think he did the best job of all the characters in the film. Usually you cast him as a dirty comic relief but not in this film. He’s ‘space trucker’ deluxe in this film and probably the most believable character of the whole crew. Almost to a point where he doesn’t fit in anymore. Even though we don’t get the grand imagery we know from Prometheus, I would say the photography is mostly well done. When it comes to the music I have to say that the parts where they re-used the score from Prometheus and the original Alien film work really well. It was pretty neat to hear stuff from the original Alien re-used here and there. All the musical pieces that were new… I cannot even remember.

The problem of the Alien franchise is its diversity. Diversity is a cool thing. It allows to explore a topic with a different point of view. The original Alien (1979) is a straight horror film. Aliens (1986) is a straight action film. Alien 3 (1993) goes back to horror but changes the setting. Alien 4 (1997) is action again but also just for fun ridiculous. Prometheus (2012 – Not really an Alien movie but part of the franchise) tries to be a little more heady and asks interesting questions with its more philosophical approach. So we have quite a variety here, tackling the subject from different angles. But this also splits up the fans. Some like the slow burn original Alien because of its mystery and horror elements. Others tend to enjoy the second film more because of the action. Then you have a third group of fans that really liked what Prometheus tried to do, which is almost completely going its own, more philosophical route. So you end up with three groups of fans who all want their share. Mystery, action, horror and ‘what if’ philosophical stuff. You cannot put all these things into one film. It would be a mess. And that (unfortunately) is what we got with Covenant. A try in resetting the course Prometheus did set up and going back to the stuff we already know and (seemingly?) what people want.

For me this film was a disappointment. What I hated (yes, hate is a strong word but in this case it’s the only one I can use) most in this film is what they did with the character of Elizabeth Shaw. From my understanding she and David, at the end of Prometheus, had some sort of mutual respect going on. She repaired him. Which is a sign of compassion and (again) respect. After finding out what happened to her I felt betrayed. I haven’t felt this angry since Star Trek: Into Darkness. Or maybe Interstellar? Well, with Interstellar I was more confused than angry. However, I didn’t have too high expectations going into this film. Even though you can rightfully have higher expectations. It’s the Alien franchise and Ridley Scott. There will always be certain expectations. Scott started the whole thing! Under that presumption you could say that it’s his good right to run it into the ground as well.

If you read everything up to this point… hats off to you sir or madame. =) My rating for this film is a 6.2/10

Alien: Covenant on IMDb

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Movie Review

May 22nd, 2017

movie reviewThe first movie was a surprise hit and a legit fun movie. With its far out ideas and presentation it managed to make a point in saying that it wants to distance itself a little from the rest of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). It was a neat ensamble movie that brought together characters that each are their own thing but still build a consistent and fun group. Now we meet that group of characters again for a new adventure and wonder… will it be as magical as the first time we had an adventure with them?

The strength of director James Gunn seems to be to play with expectations and trying to avoid them but still giving the audience what it wants. It’s quite the talent to be honest and it’s at display right at the beginning of the film. It starts with our group of (questionable) heroes trying to fight a monster. Now there is a fight but we don’t get to see much of it, since this opening sequence focusses on Groot, dancing around and enjoying himself along to some fun music. All that while the rest of the team is battling a giant beast with tentacles in the background. But don’t worry, we still get to see enough of the fight. Of course our heroes win and we get introduced to the Sovereign. A society striving for perfection in everything. They hired the Guardians to fight the monster. Everything goes well until Rocket manages to upset the queen or leader of the Sovereign. The Guardians flee the planet. Luckily some mystery ship appears and helps them get away just in time. Still, they end up with a highly damaged ship and crashland on another planet. With the Guardians stranded there and trying to figure out how to move on… that mentioned mysterious spacecraft shows up and lands next to their crashed ship. We meet Ego (Kurt Russell) and learn that he’s the father of Star Lord (Chris Pratt). In the meantime we have Yondu (Michael Rooker) looking for Star Lord and closing in on his location. The Guardians decide to split up with Star Lord, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) following Ego to his planet. The rest of the gang stays behind trying to repair the ship. Soon Yondu shows up and captures the gang left behind with the ship. Yondu is facing some problems as well. Mutiny. Half his crew isn’t very happy with him and manage to push him aside. Suddenly he’s in the same boat with Rocket and Groot. They now have to work together to get away, which gives us some really nice and funny moments. At the same time we have Star Lord learning more about his father and what he’s up to. Of course not everything is what it seems. Gamora and Drax kind of try to deal with their past and work out things. Especially Gamora gets to deal with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). And there is some stuff to work out for both of them. And in the end… it’s all about family.

So much for a brief, unspoiled, summary of the first half of the film. This movie is so stuffed with characters and I only mentioned the first tier so far. There also is Mantis (Pom Klementieff) who is a companion traveling and being on with Ego for a long time. Then there is Kraglin (Sean Gunn) who is Yondu’s loyal right hand. Or Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereign. It is amazing how all of these characters get enough space to shine. There literally is no character that falls short and everyone of them gets something to do. And all of them do a great job with what they got. So it’s quite an achievement for writer/director James Gunn, making it work so well. While the characters are written very nicely, I do have some problems here and there. with other parts.

We have a good pacing in the beginning up until we crash on that planet. Then it slows down. Which is good because we need a break. Up to that point we have had almost entirely action scenes. So it’s good to get some breathing room and learn a little more about our characters. We can also see that there passed some time since the first film. Groot grew a little and can run around now. It appears that there has also been something more emotional between Star Lord and Gamora. They accepted the fact that they are a team now and they seem to like it. However. I’m not sure if splitting up the gang in the second act of the film helped. Star Lord deals with his father, Gamora with her sister and Drax with his past by befriending Mantis, with Rocket and Groot not even on the same planet. Sure, you can’t always have these characters together and expect to see individual development of each character. These individual moments still work nice but it’s also a fact that it’s most fun when the gang is together. So it’s a mild nitpick from my side.

With a fast paced actiony start of the film and a more quiet part in the second act, we close the film with a huge action sequence that closes the circle and brings all characters back together again. And having all the gang back together certainly helps the film. Nonetheless the sequence is far too long. This ‘neverending action scene overkill syndrome’ in these kind of filmes really fatigues you at some point. It’s visually amazing and well done. I won’t argue about that. But it’s always too long. Unfortunately in this film too. Even if, again, every single character gets a moment to shine and take a valuable part in the final battle. It’s just too long. There is a reason why fireworks should never be longer than 15 minutes. By making it too long it will lose its magic.

Even though the script is really well written I felt that the dialogue was a little weird here and there. I rewatched the first film and felt the same with that one. But in this second film it stood out a little more. There are a couple of scenes that spell out too much stuff we (as an attentive audience) suspect anyway. There is no need to tell us everything that might go on in this film. The actions of the characters tell us enough. It’s also more fun to suspect where the plot might go instead of having it spelled out and directly know. So yeah, there are a couple of scenes where the dialogue by certain characters hammers it down the audience’s throat. That, to me, felt very unnecessary and too much like “let me take you by the hand so you understand EVERYTHING”. Unnecessary. Trust in your audience and actors a little more.

Like I said before the visuals in this movie are fantastic. I really enjoy the colour palette they work with and (in my point of view) it elevates this movie from the more ‘earthbound’ installments in the MCU. The fact that it’s in space, which allows the material to go off into a more fantasy kind of direction, works to its benefit. Something Marvel struggled with when it comes to the two first Thor films. After seeing the trailer for the third Thor movie it seems they are embracing the more fantastical elements with a little more freedom. They ‘figured out the formula’ so to say. Taking a path away from the sort of more gritty realism we usually get from an Ironman or Cpt. America movie. It’s great and a lot fun to see how much inspiration and imagination is going on there. So a big ‘well done guys’ to the concept and vfx crews that worked on this film. The creative freedom pays off.

As a final verdict I must say that I liked the first movie a tiny bit more. But that, by no stretch, means I did not like this second movie. I enjoyed it a lot and I love the universe they created there. I rarely go back to rewatch other marvel movies but the Guardians movies… I can see myself go back to watch these a couple more times in the future. I like to revisit that world.

Visually the film is a treat so try to catch it on the big screen!

7.9/10

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on IMDb

Endeavours – A Promise In Light

May 9th, 2017



Endeavours – A Promise In Light

“Oh wow, I guess this city is a big one! And there is the gate to a new life. I have never done a trip through one of those. Even thinking about the science and xeno-technology that goes into it makes me feel dizzy. See you on the other side!”

When starting this series in 2011 I definitely wanted to show a megacity from farther away (an almost orbital level). Unfortunately my PC power wasn’t strong enough to really do it back then without having it super complicated in the post work stage. What I did instead was my ‘Leaving The Fields Of Steel‘ piece. Which comes close to the original idea I had in mind. And also worked better with the first part of the series showing the progression of the transition from surface level to space.

Now, with a little more power under the hood, I had the opportunity to move farther away and play more with the city and the scale a bit. The ship is about to enter a portal or jump gate. The technology for this isn’t necessarily ours. In this world we discovered an ancient old alien technology and decrypted/reverse engineered it enough to make use of it to a certain extent. Old idea, I know. =) I don’t want to define what year all this plays in but what I can say is that the alien technology is in our arsenal for quite a while now. But by no means do we fully understand it.

The challenge here was to find a good camera angle and some nice landscape shapes that compliment city details. I admit that the overall composition isn’t exactly amazing and the city is pretty far away. My main goal of suggesting a nice sense of scale works good enough for me though. So I am rather happy with the outcome since I did not want to repeat what I already did with ‘Leaving The Fields Of Steel’.

I started developing the scene by opening the Vue scene file of the ‘Leaving The Fields Of Steel’ piece in Vue. I made a bunch of copies of the city and refined parts of it by placing several buildings in different parts of the city. To make it look not too uniform. But before I fully tackled the city I created an infinite terrain (which I haven’t used much yet) for the landscape and looked for a sweet spot to place my city on. I definitely wanted it to sit on a coast. Found a good spot and moved around the city parts. After rendering the scene I did some extensive work on adding life to the city by adding lights. Also added the clouds, which makes the scene look much more natural. I originally tried it without clouds. Just didn’t look right. The jumpgate was done with kitbashing a number of models I already had. I’m fairly happy with how it turned out at well.

6000×2888 – Vue – C4D – Photoshop – Lightroom

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ENDEAVOURS Part One – Six

ENDEAVOURS Part Seven

ENDEAVOURS Part Eight

ENDEAVOURS Part Nine

ENDEAVOURS Part Ten

wallpapers available

The artwork on:
DeviantartArtstationDrawcrowdCGSociety

Regards

signed