BLOG Why Are Spaceships All So Grey These Days?

Steven Ellis wants the colour brought back into sci-fi

Is it me or are all the CGI space invaders and giant robots starting to look, well, a bit samey?

There seems to be a trend where the alien tech in sci-fi films is all starting to look a bit like they all went to the same spaceship dealer. I think I first noticed it with Megatron and some of the Decepticons in the Transformers film in 2007; that dirty-grey-metal-covered-in-spikes-and-ridges type thing, with little blue lights on it. Even the Autobots looked a bit drab until they picked which car they were going to copy. Later Transformers films followed the same route with some of the robots and ships designs, especially in Dark Of The Moon .

And then everybody else seemed to go down the same route. We had District 9 in 2009 with its very grey organic-looking tech, although the guns were a bit more colourful. Next we had Skyline in 2010 and Battle: LA in 2011, which both came along and had similar drab design aesthetics for their invading aliens and their tech. Even the aliens themselves were all grey and drab-looking too. Then there was the baddies’ ship in JJ Abram’s Star Trek . And more recently the trailers for Battleship where the invaders look like a watery version of the Decepticons. And just the other day we had the Avengers (insert Marvel, Assemble and any other words to that title as you see fit) trailer with the reveal of the snake/dragon/robot thing chasing Tony Stark at the end, which again looks like it could be one of Megatron’s gang.

Even TV is suffering from this dirty-grey-organic-metal-effect type design, with the likes of the V remake’s new – though admittedly not so spiky – mother-ship design and Spielberg’s Falling Skies baddies sharing a very similar aesthetic yet again.

And it’s not just the visual designs that seem to be blending into one shared aesthetic. There’s also that sound effect. You know the one that I mean: the reverb hum that seems to herald the arrival of any “spectacular” space ship/robot arrival these days and gives the cinemas’ bass speakers a bit of a work out.

So, is there a new cheap rendering/design program on the market that all these CGI houses are using? Has all the colour gone out of the imaginations of CGI designers and movie design artists? Did somebody buy a job lot of metallic grey digital paint and blue fairy lights and they’re selling it all off cheap? What happened to the right-angle? Did a hundred directors suddenly say, “Make it greyer and a bit more insect-like!” Or are the design teams running out of ideas? Maybe they’re all just trying to be more gritty and realistic looking?

Are the days of Star Trek , where each alien species had their own style and usually a specific colour to identify their ships, gone? What happened to the likes Star Wars with its myriad different design and style aesthetics? Where are the red go faster stripes? In a list of cool spaceships and alien tech I doubt anything in the last ten years or so would make the cut. There’s nothing as cool as the Millennium Falcon or iconic as the TARDIS or as colourful as Red Dwarf ’s Starbug or Blake’s 7 ’s Liberator these days is there.

Maybe the aliens of the galaxy are all going to the same ship dealer… Maybe there is a universe spanning franchise on evil robot/spaceship sales. And in charge is an alien version of Henry Ford out there saying, “You can have any colour as long as it’s black.” Except with spaceships and robots it’s grey?

I’m not saying I want to see the planet invaded by the rainbow aliens or anything as garish as that, but I just think a little more imagination, maybe the odd splash of colour here and there, and just a little effort to make these different aliens actually look a bit different from each other would be welcome. Because as it is now you could swap and change most of them and not really notice the difference. Sure they’re all evil killer aliens from outer space, but at least with a bit more colour their ships could look cool while they destroy us all.

Are you bothered about this recent move to uniformity in our alien enemies? Had you even noticed it? Do you miss the days when the monsters that fell out of the sky had a bit of style and design sense when they came to destroy us. Should our alien menace have a bit more colour to them?

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