VGB Feature: Summer Book Club At The Movies 2017 Edition

We’ve now arrived at the last day of summer, before fall officially begins and leads us into the busy holiday rush. Capping off the season we present the 2017 edition of our annual Summer Book Club at the Movies feature, where we round-up the companion novels and art books for some of the latest blockbuster movies. If you’re looking to extend your enjoyment of a favorite flick or maybe don’t care about going to the movies but are still looking for something entertaining to read, we’ve got some books here that should hit the spot.

The Making of Dunkirk — Buy From Amazon or Insight Editions:

The Making of Dunkirk is not your average art book, but rather a detailed, insightful, and even inspirational behind-the-scenes look into the filmmaking mind of Christopher Nolan and the monumental effort that he and his crew put into faithfully retelling the true World War II story of the Dunkirk evacuation. Instead of masses of concept artwork and illustrations, you’re treated to stunning on-set photography showing the tricks and logistics behind how the movie was shot. Remarkably, the majority of the movie was shot using practical methods. Nolan shot and staged on the real beach where the evacuation occurred, innovated new ways to shoot in-camera rather than relying on digital trickery, and put in painstaking historical research to source the real planes and ships of the time period. Truly mindboggling is the work that was done on the airborne scenes, which put the opening Dark Knight Rises plane stunt to shame by putting the real actors in the real planes, flying and shooting with a real pilot behind them and an IMAX camera mounted on the wing. Given the largely youthful and unknown cast, the individual profiles on all of the primary actors serve as a helpful introduction to the newcomers and the thought behind their casting. Considering the movie’s ambitious scope, the book feels a tad small at only 144 pages, but other than that minor gripe this is a must-have for Nolan fans and film buffs alike.

War for the Planet of the Apes Revelations — Buy From Amazon:

Picking up after the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and filling in the two years that separate the second film from War for the Planet of the Apes, Revelations focuses less on Caesar and more on other characters that don’t get much screen time in the movies. Revelations fleshes out a broader narrative from the perspective of Cornelia and the female apes as they get caught up in continued plotting by the lingering resistance incited by Koba. Another primary story arc centers upon Blue Eyes as he’s sent to escort Malcolm and his family somewhere safe while also scouting areas to the south. Ray the orangutan, an entirely new character sent to accompany Blue Eyes, becomes a focal point of his own side story that’s surprisingly the most interesting aspect of the whole book (at least it was for me). From a storytelling perspective, the novel format allows for inner dialogues and conversations between the apes that are far more elaborate than what’s portrayed in the films. Author Greg Keyes effectively works in recollections of events from the previous movies, large and small, within natural context of the story. It’s also nice to get some closure to the relationship between the apes and Malcolm, Ellie, and Alexander as their roles in the story carry over from Dawn before reaching a conclusion. As a prequel should, Revelations does a splendid job at drawing you deeper into the universe by extending the lore in a meaningful and substantive way.

Alien: Covenant Official Novelization — Buy From Amazon:

Alien: Covenant‘s novelization, as many have said about the movie, reads like it’s caught somewhere between a reluctant sequel to the more ponderous and philosophical themes of Prometheus and a return to the deep space sci-fi monster horror of the original Alien. As someone who actually enjoyed what Ridley Scott brought to the Alien universe with Prometheus (the unanswered questions didn’t bother me), I’m a bit disappointed that Covenant didn’t fully entrench itself as a successor to that film (though I totally understand the reason why), especially as it relates to the continuation of Elizabeth Shaw as there isn’t a single crew member of the Covenant that is even remotely as engaging as Noomi Rapace’s starring performance from the previous film. That said, I still enjoyed Covenant a lot, the frequent idiocy of the crew notwithstanding. Even without the reinforcement of Michael Fassbender’s fantastic dual role performance, the dynamic between synthetics David and Walter makes the story worth page-turning through. Thanks to the novel format, you actually get pulled more into the characterization due to the opportunity for more inner dialogue from the twin androids. Flip off your internal real-world logic switch and I think you’ll enjoy the ride.

Wonder Woman Official Novelization — Buy From Amazon:

Adapting comic books into films is a challenging task, as countless failed superhero movies have proven over the years. Turning a comic into a movie and then adapting that movie into a novel is another feat altogether. Author Nancy Holder’s novelization of the box office megahit Wonder Woman hammers this point home, because it’s tough to fully convey the action and epic scope of a superhero saga in text only, without the colorful, imaginative artwork of a comic or the spectacle of a Hollywood blockbuster production to bring the experience visually to life. Fortunately for Wonder Woman‘s continuing of the modern trend of grounding superhero movies in some semblance of reality (at least those set in the DC Universe), the novelization still mostly succeeds. The writing doesn’t fully capture the chemistry and humor between the actors, and without the visuals you get a clearer idea that the plot and characterization are fairly shallow. The book reads like a straightforward origin story with some fun action and plenty of exposition, the World War I era alternate history mashup with elements of Greek mythology serving as a compelling backdrop to Diana’s rise from Amazonian princess to the legendary Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film — Buy From Amazon:

Where the novelization lacks the spectacle of the movie, the art book fully captures the film’s visual wonder with a gorgeous array of concept artworks, storyboards, set and promotional photos, and movie stills. Wonder Woman’s embodiment of love and hope and forgiveness is boldly proclaimed throughout via two-page spreads depicting a stylized movie still alongside a quote and the definition for one of her defining virtues, like power, confidence, courage, grace, and wisdom. The first half of the book, centered on the island of Themyscira, is the best part, featuring everything that went into building the paradise homeland of the Amazons, including their weapons and armor, Diana’s upbringing as well as profiles on the other beautiful, powerful women starring in the movie, and the spectacular beach battle scene, which unfolds over multiple spreads of concept paintings, set photos showing green screen setups and a camera rail system that was used to make the battle appear more populated, and storyboards next to stills of the matching movie scenes. A sweet collectible bonus comes at the end of the book, where an envelope from Wayne Enterprises is taped on the interior of the back cover, containing a clear plastic replica of the photographic plate Bruce Wayne sends to Diana.

The Great Wall: The Art of the Film — Buy From Amazon:

The first thing that immediately jumps out about The Great Wall: The Art of the Film is just how gorgeous it looks. The pages are trimmed with gold while the binding is tied with red string and left open so you can see the layers of the page edges, lending the book the aesthetic of an ancient Chinese document or scroll. Inside, clear plastic pages and parchment dividers printed with the colors and animal emblems of the different Corps section off the book with an extra touch of artistry. Certain pages also show an enlarged shot of a character or prop that is coated with a glossy finish against a matte background for a subtle 3D-esque pop. Other highlights include two 4-page foldout spreads, one showing a scale of the different Tao Tei creatures in relation to each other as well as a Nameless Order soldier, the other a top-down blueprint of the Wall and its transformation into a siege war machine. Beyond the good looks, the book delves into the logistical challenges of so many people from different countries and cultures coming together to work on the film, and showcases the design work that went into crafting the armor, characters, weapons, crane rig stunts, and epic set piece battles. Regardless of your knowledge or like/dislike of the movie, this is straight up one of the most purely beautiful and elegant art books you’ll lay eyes on.

The Art of Captain Underpants The First Epic Movie — Buy From Amazon:

From the moment you crack open The Art of Captain Underpants to be greeted by a foreword written and illustrated in comic strip format by series author Dav Pilkey, you know you’re in for a treat. The book is wonderfully presented to capture the playful, offbeat spirit Captain Underpants is known for. Body text is printed over notebook paper background blocks thumbtacked onto the page, thumbnails appear as if they’ve been tapped on, and captions are stuck on like simulated sticky notes, as if George and Harold themselves created the book in Tree House Comix, Inc. Keeping things accessible for younger fans, the book does a great job of presenting its colorful, charming artwork alongside small blocks of text that is informative without beating you over the head with too much detail. The challenges the animators faced in adapting the books’ drawings and unique style and humor to CG are a lot of fun to read about. I also appreciate how in a number of places a thumbnail of Pilkey’s original art is placed next to a similar set from the movie, so you can get a clearer vision of the adaptation process. Admittedly, I don’t know a thing about the world of Captain Underpants, but this art book totally makes me want to read the book series and watch the movie. If it has that effect on me, I can only imagine how much true fans will enjoy it.

The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Buy From Amazon or Abrams Books:

Star Wars art books are always the best, from those in the past that have showcased Ralph McQuarrie’s legendary work in bringing the original trilogy to life back in the day, to now seeing concepts on the modern films from newer directors and creative teams. The Art of Rogue One compiles just a fraction of the six thousand pieces of art that went into realizing director Gareth Edwards’s vision for Star Wars. What’s especially fascinating is seeing how the team had to create and transition design concepts to both provide fans with something fresh and new while also maintaining visual continuity with A New Hope. The book is full of artwork for things that never made the finished film, such as alternate character outfits and designs as well as character concepts that were switched around with other characters or got cut outright. In general it’s just so much fun to look at designs for aliens and worlds and technologies that are distinctly Star Wars, that could only exist in a galaxy far, far away. I don’t think there’s a Star Wars fan alive who wouldn’t absolutely geek out over this book.

Assassin’s Creed: Into the Animus — Buy From Amazon or Insight Editions:

The Assassin’s Creed movie didn’t exactly set the box office on fire or wow many critics or average moviegoers, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Reading Into the Animus, a thorough behind-the-scenes account of the film’s production, may give a greater appreciation for what was ultimately put on film. Until the book, I honestly had no idea that Michael Fassbender was so instrumental in the movie’s development from very early on, beyond just being the star actor. Reading about the stunt choreography is one of the more interesting parts of the book. You might be surprised to learn that 80% of the stunts were shot in-camera, without CG characters, meaning that the overwhelming majority of the parkour was done by real people. The fact that the stunts had to be possible was intended to ground the action in the reality that Assassins are highly skilled but not superheroes capable of superhuman feats. Fassbender’s stunt double, Damian Walters, actually performed a record 120-ft air bag jump for the Leap of Faith, a scene that was initially going to be a 30 to 40-ft green screen dive before Walters suggested going for the world record. Similarly, the weapons, including the hidden blades, were designed so that they could exist and work in the real world. Into the Animus offers extensive commentary on everything from the design and evolution of the Animus for film to the recreation of the Spanish Inquisition, including interviews with the cast and the creative and stunt teams. Easter egg references to the games that were easy to miss watching the movie can now be more closely appreciated, and the book even comes with a few removable inserts, like an Animus DNA report on Callum, Alan Rikkin’s business card, and a pencil sketch set schematic, for added collectability. This is an impressively informative book.

Other Movie Books to Consider:

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!