H.R. Giger, the man behind the game-changing production design for Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece “Alien,” died of an accidental fall at age 74. Giger won an Academy Award for his work on “Alien,” and would return for “Alien 3.” Giger’s influence on the way Hollywood depicts and filmgoers see space is impossible to overstate.
At Hollywood Elsewhere Jeff Wells says Giger changed sci-fi design forever. “In one fell swoop,” Wells writes, “Giger erased all those smooth antisceptic sci-fi space-travel imaginings that began with the Flash Gordon serials and The Day The Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet[.]”
No question. Suddenly space was presented more often as something darker, scarier, haunted, creepier, slimier…
Like “The Matrix,” “Alien” floored audiences who knew they had never seen anything like this before and yet it felt so right that it would influence moviemaking and our own concept of what something was “really” like from then on.
And the effect was immediate. Look at the difference between 1979’s sterile “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which was much darker and even employed slime-creatures for those mind-altering pests Khan dropped in Chekhov’s ear. Giger certainly seemed to influence the Klingon ships that arrived later in the franchise. In the “Next Generation,” would there have been part man/part machine Borgs without “Alien?”
Giger’s influence is still with us. Even if you didn’t like 2012’s “Prometheus” (I’m warming to it), it looks amazing. Director Ridley Scott and production designer Arthur Max took Giger’s genius into a new century where it looked every bit as cutting edge, harrowing, unique, awe-inspiring, and startling as it did thirty years earlier.
If Giger had been paid a royalty for every piece of Hollywood design influenced by his work, he would have died with more money than Microsoft.
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