Feature by: Louis Savy (scifilondon.com)
TALKING about movies with friends is one of my favourite pastimes
- in fact, I have a reputation for doing re-enactments of movies
whether I like them or not!
I can often be found telling the tale of the latest overlong
Korean sci-fi movie, or remind everyone of the dialogue in our
mutually favourite movie scenes. Someone once said: "Oh
if you haven't seen it
ask Louis - he'll do a 10 minutes
Well, a few weeks ago, I scored maximum pub-points with my telling
of the Aliens Vs Predator (AVP) movie. Oh yes, I have seen the
whole thing - all 139 scenes of it, stuck on a wall in an old
warehouse in downtown Prague.
Those wonderful people at Fox took a group of hard-nosed news-hounds
from around the world to the set of AVP, which shoots in Prague
until the middle of February. For two days we got ferried around
to see sets, miniatures, creature costumes, meet the cast, the
crew and have words with the director; Paul Anderson.
I got quite worried when I heard Paul Anderson had the reins
of this project, I mean he made Mortal Combat and Soldier, and
I am yet to find one person who could say how good they were.
Mind you, he also did Resident Evil,
a great game-to-movie adaptation and the enjoyable Event Horizon.
However, from visiting the set and seeing how the movie is being
put together, and the talent that Anderson has pulled into assist
him, this movie looks like very exciting.
What's it about?
The movie is set present day. In the Antarctic, an archaeological
expedition, headed and financed by billionaire robotics industrialist,
Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen), have heard tell of an
ancient pyramid under the ice.
Finding a way under the ice from an abandoned whaling station,
they discover a massive pyramid decorated with hieroglyphics unlike
anything they have ever seen.
They go deeper and deeper in, finding more and more strange artefacts,
until they find a sarcophagus with some kind of clock mechanism.
As humans always do, they fiddle with things and open a 'world
Oh, did I mention that the pyramid is a training camp for young
predators and that they are on their way to Earth for the weekend?
And part of the training is to hunt Aliens? "Whoever wins...we
lose", the movie's tagline seems very appropriate.
Who's in it?
Lance Henriksen (Millennium, Near Dark, Aliens) is 'Charles Bishop
So, let's get the connections explained. 'Bishop' was the android
in Aliens and 'Weyland Yutani'
is the corporation in the 'Alien' universe. If you remember Alien
3, Henriksen played Weyland and was after Ripley and the Alien
So the story is that 'Charles Bishop Weyland' is the father of
advanced robotics and that is why some of the androids look like
makes sense. Maybe 'Yutani' looks like Bilbo Baggins?
Colin Salmon (The World is not Enough, Resident Evil, Die
Another Day) - plays 'Max Stafford' tough, practical security
guy. He is a good choice for 'intelligent muscle'
course, he would be called Max
or Dutch, or Clint or
Sanaa Lathan (Blade, Out of Time)
is Alexa Woods. Blade's mum plays the sexy, smart and ultra-tough
'Lex'. She knows the Antarctic and knows how to kick ass... but
is she a Ripley?
Raoul Bova (Avenging Angelo, Under The Tuscan Sun) is Sebastian
Wells. An Archeologist.
Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Snatch, Black
Hawk Down) is Graham Miller, a chemicals specialist.
The rest of the cast include Tommy Flanagan (Braveheart, Face/Off,
Gladiator), Agathe De La Boulaye (Jefferson In Paris, Michel Vaillant),
Joseph Rye (Ouija, Mean Machine) and Sam Troughton (Sylvia)
There is also a performance from tall, blond and sexy Carsten
Norgaard (Soldier, Gods And Generals) as Quinn, the Drill Team
What's it going to look like?
From talking to Anderson and the production designer. Richard
Bridgland, who did Resident Evil and was art director on the fabulous
1995 Richard III, both agreed that the original Alien
and Predator movies were scary
because we didn't really get a good look at the creatures until
halfway into the film.
They also loved the two original movies because they were shot
tightly and there was a lot going on with shadows and dark spaces.
Ok, Predator was in a jungle, but it was still claustrophobic.
Looking over Bridgland's bookshelf, I spotted Giger, Frank Lloyd
Wright and many other great artists and designers - there was
even a copy of the book detailing the Jubilee Line extension -
'"you get influences for everywhere', said Bridgland.
One thing is for sure, it will look great. Like him or not, Anderson
has always made a lot of his sets.
Resident Evil looked incredibly slick and those who cannot stand
Event Horizon all agree it looked fantastic. After walking around
a couple of the pyramid sets - and seeing the detail they have
worked into the architecture - I hope they light it, so we can
see some of it on the celluloid.
There are wonderful 10 feet tall sculptures of Predators and,
at the bottom of pillars in the largest of the pyramid's chambers,
are unnerving representations of charging face-huggers, scary
The scenes that take place in the Antarctic also look amazing
and we got to see some of the 'whales graveyard' set - it reminded
me of the massive ribcages in Pitch
Black, eerie in all white though.
I was also lucky enough to get some time with the miniatures
team, who took us over the sets of the whaling station itself.
Amazing detail and so great that it will not be done using CG.
Lately, I have found movies using CG for big effects start to
look so unreal, there is something missing. We even got to see
some tests of the station collapsing into the ice... Oops, was
that a spoiler?
Well let's get some of the other set related spoilers out of
the way here. We get to see deeper into Alien eggs, we get to
see some great new weapons and we get some shots inside a Predator
and they all look great!
So what about the creature effects?
The creative talents of Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff , who worked
on Tremors, two of the Alien movies, Starship Troopers and many
more under their mentor, Stan Winston, are leading the creature
effects crew. Their company is called ADI, Amalgamated Dynamic
well they can't be good at everything.
They were put through a long pitch process to get the gig but
won it mainly because Tom Woodruff was the Alien in 3 movies -
yup, I met the actual guy in the rubber suits
What was great was walking around a room full of Alien and Predator
heads, rubber suits, Alien Eggs and a Predator weapons - look
out for the cool Shuriken. We also got to see a few things we
shouldn't - in a big box marked 'hybrid' - but enough of that.
I don't want Fox's lawyers on the phone.
Again, it was impressive to see the level of detail going into
the production. ADI have developed an amazing articulated robotic
body for the Alien as well.
They can basically move the body around with hydraulics until
they get a performance that they like. Then play it back on a
computer, seeing all the key movements as points, which can then
be tweaked to make it all smooth an natural looking.
They then hit 'go' and play it back - the model then enacts the
movements exactly. Apparently, this is most complex unit ever
built, fitting that is should portray the wickedest bug ever!
And while I remember, John Bruno (Abyss, T2, True Lies) is in
charge of all the visual effects in the movie, he is one of the
best in the business
and he dislikes CG immensely - hurrah!!!
We heard the tale about him actually putting a jet plane on
a crane on top a tall building because it looked better than a
composite shot in the computer. Cool guy and certainly one that
will make AVP feel realistic.
Another highlight for me was seeing the Predator in the flesh.
Standing 7 feet 9 inches, he is tall, very tall
mean looking. Mind you, I then got to see the mild-mannered Ian,
7 foot 1 inch and from Newcastle, who is inside the costume. He
plays the part very well - but is destined to be the David Prowse
of the AVP world.
The whole team have really stamped their own look and feel onto
the movie, but also have made it fit so well with what all the
fans know and love from the movies, games and comics.
Like I said, I know the end of the movie - I have seen what was
in Anderson's head and translated to the storyboards - but I am
not going to spill the beans here. Catch me in the pub and I might
act out a 10 minute version.
AVP is released in the USA in August 2004 - hope we get it here
UPDATE: UK is set to see it October 22 - or so I hear!
This article has been brought to you thanks to the kind permission
of Louis Savy and Twentieth Century Fox