There would, however, be a film in which the Yautja would challenge the xenomorphic aliens. Alien vs. Predator was released in 2004 and would adapt a 1989 comic book written by Chris Warner and Randy Stradley. Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Susett received writing credit because the story for this movie included elements of the Alien series. Paul W. S. Anderson and Shane Salerno adapted the story into a screenplay, drawing on Aztec mythology and the work of writer, Erich von Däniken.
Von Däniken is a Swiss author responsible for Chariot of the Gods, a best-selling book claiming extraterrestrials had a direct influence on human culture in our earliest, most primitive years. This theory, according to the author, explains the placement and construction of the giant pyramids all over the globe.
There were a lot of ideas thrown about for a third Predator film, many including the storylines going on in the comics being published by Dark Horse. Producer, John Davis rejected them all, wanting to set the next film on Earth. Nothing materialized, however, and interest waned until 2002.
Alien vs. Predator worked out its script issues, settling on one which drew from the previous sources and from H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness and the Aliens vs. Predator comic books. The intended five aliens appearing in the film was now three. The film’s objective was to serve as a sequel to the Predator films and a prequel to the Alien series. Anderson wanted to make certain the continuity for Alien stayed intact. This is why the film was not set in New York, as Ripley had no knowledge of the creatures and there would have been vast media coverage if there had been aliens in New York.
Up to thirty life-sized sets were built for Alien vs. Predator. Most of these were pyramid interiors with carvings and sculptures influenced by Egyptian, Cambodian, and Aztec civilizations. Third scale miniatures, several meters in height, were created for wider shots. Seven hundred bags of artificial snow, made by forcing water and pressurized air through a snow canon, were produced for the whaling station. A miniature of the icebreaker, standing four and a half meters, cost the film $37,000 and took ten weeks to create.
Arthur Windus served as visual effects producer. “With computer graphics, you need to spend a lot of time making it real. With a miniature, you shoot it and it’s there.”
This sentiment seems at odds with the trend in the 2000s toward CGI. Many films were creating whole worlds through the process.
ADI was hired for the movie, having worked on Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. For five months, creatures were redesigned, as were costumes, miniatures and effects. The basic shape of the Predator mask stayed the same. Technical details were added to show the evolution and to distinguish one from the other. The masks were made from clay molds. The finished fiberglass pieces were weathered to make them look worn and used. As for the alien, a hydraulic puppet was created with a “slimline and skeletal” appearance. Again, they did not want an actor in a suit. The puppet required six operators with facial features controlled by remote. Movements were recorded on a computer so puppeteers would not need to repeat movements. The puppet was used in the fight scene with the Predator, taking one month to film.
CGI was kept to a minimum. Anderson thought practical effects were scarier. Almost seventy percent of the scenes were created with practical effects. The alien queen had a 4.8 meter practical version, a 1.2 meter puppet, and a CGI version. Twelve puppeteers were required to operate the puppet. CGI tails were added because they were difficult to animate. The inner mouth was automated by hydraulics. A blend of the different techniques made for a convincing final product.
Alien vs. Predator grossed $38.2 million its opening weekend and was number one at the box office. Alien Resurrection was released in the United States and Canada on November 26th, 1997 and debuted at number two at the box office and grossed $47.8 million. It would be the least successful of the franchise, in spite of its earned profits.
James Cameron said, “It was Frankenstein Meets Werewolf, like Universal just taking their assets and starting to play them off each other.” Although he liked the first crossover film, he decided not to be involved in any future films in the series.
In 2007, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem would be released. Written by Shane Salerno, it would be the directorial debut of the Brothers Strause. This film was criticized for poor lighting, bad editing, and a lack of originality. With a budget of $40 million, it grossed $130.2 million worldwide.
A good portion of the visual effects were done using Autodesk Maya (shortened to Maya), a 3D computer graphics application for Windows, macOS, and Linux. The interior of the Predator ship was created with CGI instead of building a set. Four hundred and sixty of five hundred visual effects shots were done using Hydraulx, a visual effects company in Santa Monica. Although there were no “pure” CGI shots, many practical effects of previous films were done via computer.
With Predator enjoying critical success with its latest installment, Prey, and an Alien television series in the works for FX, it appears these two monster franchises will be around for years to come.
SpFx Part 17: Aliens vs. Predator
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