StarBeast — Alien: Resurrection
Amalgamated Dynamics returned to provide the creature effects for the fourth chapter in the Alien series. The special effects artists were only allowed a tight production schedule. Tom Woodruff Jr. explained to Cinefex: “production told us that, due to Sigourney’s schedule, we would have to be ready to start shooting with a very short prep. We did a breakdown of the script and realized that the job was enormous — just way too big. And then that original shooting date came and went. Unfortunately, when they came back later, it was the same story. We were very worried about having enough time to do the job right. We knew that if we rushed it, the work would look bad, and we’d be the ones who ended up hurt. So we outlined some cuts, identified what was needed up front when Sigourney had to start, and pushed all the other stuff to later in the schedule. It was understood that we’d be showing up literally two days before shoots with very little time for tests or changes.”
Gillis remarked on the changes in mentality of film productions: “preproduction schedules are getting shorter, and we’re expected to produce these creatures faster and faster. But artists can’t perform at top speed all the time. The constant demand to do everything quicker tends to burn people out. And in this digital age, with so much wonderful stuff possible on the computer, we can’t afford sloppy work. If we drop the ball, it looks bad for our art.” Alien: Resurrection was, at the time, the largest special effects project for which ADI was ever hired, and to accommodate the gargantuan body of work, the company had to move to a larger workspace and hire new crewmembers (arriving to a total of 70).
In Alien: Resurrection, the imperfect cloning process used to bring the Alien Queen back to life causes the Aliens to be “tainted with human DNA,” according to Woodruff. They would this appear significantly different to precedent incarnations. For this reason, each iteration of the Alien life cycle was allowed to be redesigned within the estabilished aesthetic confines of the stages. “To me,” director Jean-Pierre Jeunet said, “it was very important to keep Giger’s style.”
The mutation influenced the secreted Alien hive material, which looked different when compared to the precedent iteration, seen in Aliens. Foam latex and silicone were used to create the new hive and cocoons. During the underwater chase, the survivors stumble upon a placenta-esque membrane, brought to the screen as a thin silicone layer.
Both director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and special effects team wanted to offer the audience something that had never been seen before in an Alien film. Among the ideas thrown in the pre-production stage was that of a living Giger-inspired landscape. Labeled by the director as such, the Viper Pit is a living, pulsating landscape of Gigerian textures whose actual nature was never detailed by the filmmakers. According to Sigourney Weaver, it was the single most memorable image in all four Alien films. In Alien: The Archive, the actress described it as “a Hieronymous Bosch nightmare of tentacles and protuberances.” The actress also said that it was a “sort of sensuous, sinuous world of parts and God help you if you’re there; and yet, at the same time [Ripley] wants to sort of surrender to it. To me it was, you know, all about life. It’s horrifying and [yet] you know you’re attracted to it. It’s fabulous stuff; but we had to fight of course for that scene, because it was not an action scene, it was all sort of this subliminal erotic stuff.”
The Viper Pit scene, intended as an homage to Giger, replaced an otherwise undescribed action scene in the original script. The director, however, wanted the scene to have a different vibe than originally intended, and end in the “poetic” image of Ripley 8 being carried by an Alien. Jeunet recalled: “it was an opportunity to make a homage to Giger. I imagine the beautiful painting of Giger’s. I imagine this kind of nest. it’s slimy, insane disgusting and more interesting than an action scene.” Woodruff otherwise told SFX Magazine: “it’s like an H.R. Giger painting come to life, and it’s enveloping her. It’s going to be a startling moment when you realize how all encompassing the aliens are to Ripley. It’s such a literal expression of the Alien all completely engulfing her.” A good portion of the Viper Pit’s structure and textures were based on Giger’s own painting Passagen-Tempel/Eingangspartie, a fact Giger himself pointed out in his second, outraged letter to Twentieth Century Fox — about his exclusion from the film’s credits. The same painting curiously enough had served as the inspiration for the original design of the Facehugger’s underside for the first film.
“The Viper Pit was important in terms of the story,” Woodruff said, “because it was something that we had never seen before, but it was always in your mind: ‘where would the Aliens take Ripley if they ever got hold of her?’ We knew we had to come across with something that was terrifying. What we ended up with was this large living landscape, a 20 by 20 feet set piece that basically came to life. It contained tentacles and tails of Aliens and a couple of Aliens in suits dragging Ripley through it.” The Viper Pit was built as an enormous, 20 by 20 foot set, with four soft polyfoam mats covered in an outer layer of foam latex. The Viper Pit required 25 to 30 puppeteers to maneuver (with levers) its thick outer layer of foam latex, and various components. A hole in its center (unceremoniously nicknamed “the sphincter”) allowed Weaver to sink beneath. Two performers in suits (Woodruff and Viniello) were also in the scene, among the twisting mass of organs, tendrils and other components.
Jeunet had felt that the Eggs in the precedent films had not been lively enough, and so instructed the ADI team to infuse more life into their form. “Early on, Jean Pierre commented to us that he felt that in the past films the Eggs looked a little mechanical,” Gillis said. “He felt that they just opened and that was it. So we took that as a challenge to improve upon the mechanisms of the Eggs. What [gave] the Egg about probably 25 points of movement, as opposed to the four the Eggs had had in the past. That included undulating movement on the edges of the petals so that even if the Egg was sitting still before it came to life you would start to see a little bit of movement, very subtle movement happening. The ‘body’ would squirm and twist.” The opening of the petals was actually devised in three different segments of the petals themselves. The Eggs were also fitted with air bladders, concentrated in an ‘organ’ that could be inflated and twisted. A silicone membrane through which the Facehugger could be glimpsed would split and peel away as the creature emerged. Three versions of the Eggs were built: hero Eggs, stunt Eggs, and partially mechanized Eggs that could house the puppeteers’ arms as they maneuvered the Facehugger hand puppets. The Eggs featured multiple layers of semitransparent silicone to simulate their organic quality. Jeunet was reportedly “absolutely ecstatic” about the final result, as said by Gillis.
The Facehugger design was cosmetically altered, but remained essentially anchored to the estabilished appearence of the creature. Several versions of this stage were built. Cable-maneuvered models were employed when fine finger articulation was needed. For the first time in the series, the Facehuggers were also built as hand puppets — allowing more movement in the body and in the ‘knuckles’ — with mechanical finger extensions. Stunt models were used for scenes where the Facehuggers had to be damaged or explode. In one sequence, a Facehugger attaches itself to Ripley 8; it was filmed in reverse, with the puppet initially positioned on Sigourney Weaver’s face, and then yanked off with a wire. The shot was also digitally enhanced to make the tail wrap around Weaver’s throat realistically.
The first Chestburster seen in the film is the immature Queen Chestburster surgically removed from Ripley 8 at the beginning of the film. For Alien: Resurrection, the Chestburster design was once again modified; other than cosmetic changes to the head silhouette, the tendons on the sides of the mouth were removed, and the disposition and size of the teeth was changed. For the extraction sequence, a false chest was created in a manner similar to the fake chests built for the previous films. In the set-up, Weaver positioned her body below the table surface with only her head, arms, shoulders and legs visible. Attached to her was a silicone fake chest, which extended from her collarbone to the knees. This prosthetic appliance featured a 5-inch thick layer of simulated bone and tissue, that covered the immature Queen Chestburster. The false chest was rigged to open when the surgical laser passed over it. Silicone tendons and veins are then cut, and the Alien creature (a life-size dummy) is finally extracted — still with a placenta-like sac attached to it. This specific effect was achieved with a thin silicone membrane.
Following the cut of a cord (or tendon) that connected the creature to Ripley, the monster screeches in pain. In this scene, the Chestburster was portrayed by a larger-than-life scaled animatronic, set in oversized surgical tools matched with its proportions. It was built by Luke Khanlian, and it was cable-maneuvered. Subsequently, the Queen is placed in an incubator. Its feeble movements were achieved with a simple wire attached to the life-size dummy portraying the creature. Another scene involving a Chestburster was when Purvis forces Wren’s head against his chest, making the Chestburster inside him erupt through both his chest and the villain’s head. The Chestburster is first seen in Purvis’ throat — a sequence that used the oversized Chestburster inside a silicone throat, composited with another sequence of the camera entering Purvis’ mouth (which was filmed in reverse). When the Chestburster violently erupts from Wren’s head, the effect was achieved with an animatronic head, filled with a spring-loaded Chestburster, then replaced with a partially mechanized version.
The adult Alien was considerably redesigned, both in silhouette and textures — even though the ADI artists wanted to remain within the estabilished qualities of the character. Woodruff said: “in general, there’s only so much you can do within the general context of the Alien creature. There’s a lot that audiences expect of the Alien, and you want to deliver that; but you also want to give them something new.”
As a result of the imperfect cloning process, the Aliens appear less biomechanical than before, and therefore fleshier — due to the human DNA. As shown in the film, several attempts were made to separate Alien and human DNA — with Ripley 8 and the Queen extracted from her being the first viable, though not flawless, result. “The cloning process would naturally be contaminated,” Gillis explained to Fangoria, “so the Aliens would have slightly messed-up DNA and be somewhat different. We thought this was the perfect opportunity for us to do something like give them longer arms and other subtle things. Our belief was that the design from the first movie was very successful, and you don’t want to fix something that ain’t broke. So all our effort went into improving it and making it look more organic, having more of a bio-mechanical exoskeleton feel, instead of going for the easier route of combining car parts into the clay before we cast it.”
The Aliens also went through a number of other aesthetic changes. Woodruff said in the Unnatural Mutation featurette: “the biggest change that we did to the Alien was to make him seem more cunning or more vicious. In terms of the way to do that, designwise, was to look for more directional lines, sharper angles, and a lot of art elements that went into it. We had the dome, for example, [which] is more pointed this time around; the chin is more pointed and brought forward; we’ve exaggerated the shoulders; elements of the ribcage appear to stand out more and help reduce the forms around it. It’s like a process of [total] honing, refining something each time you go through it.”
These changes were also influenced by Jeunet and director of photography Darius Khondji’s own visual style. Returning from the previous incarnation was the dome, but the shape of the head was significantly elongated (by about 10 inches) and modified — making the front more streamlined, with a pointed chin, and the phallic silhouette of the back of the head more subtle, by elongating and flattening it on the underside. Within the dome, the Alien’s skull displays an overlapping ridge pattern, as well as indentations evocative of eye sockets and subtle nostril holes. The four back appendages were reimplemented into the silhouette, this time able to move independently. The Resurrection Aliens also have digitigrade legs — an idea proposed because the digital effects could actually allow to properly portray it. Jeunet recalled: “I remember they proposed to put the legs in three parts, a little bit like a frog, because this time we could see the legs. It was the first time because [the CGI could allow it].”
In order to portray the Aliens’ adaptive abilities, the filmmakers decided to show them for the first time swimming underwater. Visual effects supervisor Erik Henry explained: “one of the early things we talked about was — what happens when the Alien [is born] and, you know, they grow up so fast, and they’ve never been in water before? And we wanted to make sure that people realized that these guys were so bad that when they encountered something like a new environment — water being one — they immediately knew what to do. They could breathe underwater; and they [could swim] like experts immediately. There wasn’t any trepidation, ‘is the water cold?’ or anything like that. They had to be real badasses. It’s what the whole series is about.” To portray the new swimming ability, ADI added a laterally-flattened, fin-like extension at the end of the tail. Gillis elaborated: “we let the fact that they swam influence the design of the new Warrior creatures to a degree — so we put a paddle-like blade at the end of the tail.” The new trait was based on a crocodile’s tail. The spines along the vertebrae, down to the tail, were also increased, because first versions of the story featured the Aliens swimming and emerging from the surface — thus exposing said details. Those scenes were, however, removed. Completing the Aliens was a new colour scheme based on sepia tones, with textures and subtle details based on Giger’s paintings. Chris Cunningham’s final creature design was sculpted by Jordu Schell in maquette form.
The Aliens were built as a series of practical models, ranging from suits to dummies. The full-size sculptures for the suits were based on the main performer — Woodruff. Accompanying him in scenes where more than one Alien was needed onscreen at once were Mark Viniello and David Prior. ADI was able to give the new creature suits several structural improvements: other than new kinds of foam latex and silicone used for the skins, the head’s weight was reduced and more evenly distributed to reduce performer fatigue and allow more fluid movements. Sculptural detail in the Alien’s neck concealed two eyeholes covered in black screen cloth, allowing the performer to see the surroundings.
Both stunt versions and articulated versions of the heads and suits were built; the hero heads were either cable-actuated or radio-controlled — the latter were also implemented with pneumatically-controlled ejectable inner jaws (built by John Lundberg). The tongues, at times (such as for Perez’s death sequence), were used in combination with fake skulls and other body portions. Tubes that ran down the back of the suit and out of the tail mount provided both methocel (for the saliva) and dry ice vapour for a visible breath function. The vapour breath “gave it an extra foetid quality,” Gillis said.
The hero suits featured cable-operated finger extensions. Separate, insert mechanical hands were also built. The appendages sprouting from the Alien’s back were animatronic units, able to move independently from each other. This last feature, mechanized by James Hirahara, was only displayed when one of the Aliens emerges from the water during the chase in the second act. All suits featured harnesses to attach the tails, allowing the weight of the extensions to be carried more comfortably than before. These harnesses were designed for specific types of tails, three of which were made: a tail that emerged straight out of the back (for walking scenes); one that aligned with the spine (for swimming or climbing scenes); a floppy tail maneuverable with wires; and a self-supporting tail devised with laminated polypropylene sheets inside it to support its structure. The last type could also offer a realistic whipping motion with just a swinging motion of the hips — something never seen onscreen. The same tail was also used as an insert model for scenes where it is seen whipping across frame.
Whereas the suits featured no leg extensions — which could not convey the organic movement of the Aliens’ legs given the technological constraints of the time — ADI built several full models of the creatures. Several of them portrayed dead Aliens; one such model portrayed the Alien torn apart by its cage mates — who exploited its acid blood to escape. An elevator device directly under the simulated guts was lowered in order to create the illusion that the acid blood was actually corroding the floor of the cage. In collaboration with All Effects, ADI also constructed wax versions of the Aliens for the underwater sequence, and wax heads and bodies rigged with explosives to portray Aliens hit by bullets or explosives. An additional full-size Alien featured a mechanized tail and could be pulled underwater — with a wire — to simulate the swimming Alien.
A last touch to the Aliens was a thick coat of slime; compared to the precedent creatures, the Resurrection Aliens were covered in larger quantities of KY Jelly, this time mixed with other materials. “Rather than just putting a glazing coat of slime on the Alien, we mixed up a viscous slime that made the creature look like it was under half an inch of mucus — much wetter and sleeker than in the past.” This decision was primarily dictated by Khondji, who wanted the Aliens to capture and reflect light in determinate manners. “I love what Darius did with the slime,” Gillis explained in a commentary to the film. “He really put a lot of care into shooting, and designing the lighting [of the film]. He at times built almost a ‘cage of fluorescence’ around the Alien, so that you get a million of little [reflections on] the slime. He kept going back to us, asking for thicker slime, because the stuff we had used in the other movies was too runny for him — he wanted a quarter of an inch build up, so we started going for a slime that was almost like gel; and it really had a different look.” Gillis also explained to Fangoria: “the shapes [of the Aliens] are bolder and a bit more aggressive, because those shapes read in a different way on screen due to the thicker version of methylcellulose we used. The way Darius filmed the Aliens was like product photography. He used a lot of fluorescents with filters over them that are just out of frame: they made an incredible reticulated pattern all over the creatures, and the thick slime made them that much more reflective. It gave the Aliens a lot more kick; it looks like they’re covered in a half-inch of mucus. It’s really gorgeous, and a lot of that is Darius Khondji and his craftmanship.”
The Alien design was overseen by Jeunet– from Chris Cunningham’s concept designs to Jordu Schell’s maquettes. However, the ADI team wanted to keep the full-size Alien suit a surprise until it was finished — and the director did not see it until the day of the first test footage, when the suit was finalized. Jeunet recalled: “I remember the first day when we saw the Alien on the stage during the test. It was Tom inside the suit, and he appeared on the stage. There was complete silence. We had goosebumps — it was amazing!” VFX supervisor Pitof added that “it looked like a real Alien.”
Filming the Alien suits posed concerns on how to precisely frame them. Visual effects supervisor Pitof recalled: “to disguise the fact that it was a man in a suit, the trick was to shoot the Alien just right and keep it moving. We framed the shots so that we were always cutting at about mid-torso, and we kept the Alien in darkness. Because the arms looked so much like human arms — with their motion determined by the actor inside the suit — they were shown only in quick cuts or held back and at his side.” Despite that, Jeunet knew that he wanted to show the Aliens more clearly than in the first two films. “In the first Alien,” he said, “the most interesting thing is that you can’t see the Alien itself. But after three movies, I thought, ‘now we know the Alien. We can show more because the surprise is finished now.'”
The most complex scene to film was the underwater chase, for which Woodruff actually had to move underwater whilst wearing the suit. The hero head of the suit was first fitted with a radio control mechanism, whose range was however too short — for this reason, it was replaced with a cable-controlled head. Woodruff elaborated: “my face was inside the neck of the Alien, so there was no place to put any kind of eye wear that would allow me to see underwater. And there was no room for any kind of breathing apparatus because the neck was just an eighth of an inch thick across my face. All I had was a slit in the throat where I could put an external regulator in my mouth. I would go underwater and be led into place. There was an underwater speaker to direct me. Then, as the cameras rolled, I would take the regulator out of my mouth and hand it to Rod Francis, the divemaster, who was positioned just out of frame. The moment they yelled ‘cut!’ I would put out my hand, Rod would place the regulator in it, and I would put it back in my mouth. We just got into a rhythm. I had to get to a point where I trusted the people who were to support me. If I’d thought about it more, my concern could have gotten in the way of my job. It was difficult enough for me just to perform underwater — to move that big head or hold it steady — without also worrying about safety issues.”
To portray the Alien grabbing Hillard by the ankle and dragging her away, Woodruff was secured to a ratchet mechanism — built by All Effects — and to Kim Flowers’ ankle, allowing the two to be dragged backwards by the mechanism. Woodruff explained: “I was locked off in the cable rig and I couldn’t get out of it quickly, so we put a small bottle of air inside the suit, which would have given me about five minutes, if I needed it — but I never felt in danger. Had things gotten bad, there were enough divers that somebody would have been there to help.” Most of the footage shot with the suit did not live up to expectations in the end, and was replaced with digital shots. Visual effects supervisor Erik Henry said: “the Alien had many spectacular highlights when shot on stage, and those lent to its eerie and beautiful look; but when we got to it underwater, all of those highlights disappeared, and it tended to look dull. The details suddenly seemed very sculptural and the colours washed out. Water just wasn’t very flattering to the character.” Only a limited number of shots with the suit survived the final cut of the film.
For the first time in the Alien series, in fact, digital models were used to portray the Aliens in certain sequences. Blue Sky Studio was chosen for the digital creature effects, based on their work on Joe’s Apartment — for which they had provided the film’s dancing cockroaches. Kerry Shea, visual effects coordinator, explained to VFX HQ: “we were looking for Alien effects that were sort of insect-like, and [Blue Sky] had done such a terrific job on the cockroaches in that film.” Reference material from ADI was used to build the digital Alien model. Full-size castings of the head and tail were provided and scanned. Technological constraints of the time only allowed them to be 3D templates for the digital model, due to their sheer level of detail. For the rest of the body, a half-scale painted casting of the left side of it — sculpted by Steve Wang –was provided by ADI, and simply used as reference. The digital model was, in fact, built from scratch by modelers Mike DeFeo, Shaun Cusick, and Alexander Levenson. Once the model was constructed, painters texture-mapped the colours in the ADI reference sheet onto the model, degrading them to match the worn appearence of the suit in the live-action footage.
Reference footage of various kinds of animals, including felines and insects, was used as reference for the animation of the Aliens. Footage of Woodruff in the Alien suit performing on set was also used. Blue Sky animation Jan Carlée elaborated: “I put together a reference tape of different animals walking or swimming, and presented that to Jean Pierre, Pitof and Erik, and we discussed the pros and cons of each. For example, in underwater scenes, the Aliens’ movements are kind of a composite between a sea iguana and a shark, with the shark element adding menace and a predator-like behaviour. In addition, Pitof put together an animatic that combined the storyboards and the live-action plates so that everyone knew how large the creature should be in the scenes.” The main swimming animation was based on that of a marine iguana, as well as alligators. “Jan [Carlée] at Blue Sky had a lot of great ideas as to how the Aliens should move underwater,” Henry said, “and gave the production a lot of options. He showed up one day with a videotape of a sea iguana swimming, from a National Geographic video. The way that it moved through the water was oddly elegant, which is precisely what the director was looking for.” Henry elaborated: “we had something that we knew could swim elegantly and we also knew that when the time came it would be very violent and attack.” The artist mainly referred to the rapid motion crocodilians perform with their tails when ambushing prey. “We came up with the idea that when the alien committed to attacking someone that its tail would violently thrash, just like an alligator would when it’s attacking its prey,” he added. Animating underwater creatures was an exciting prospect for the artists at Blue Sky. “We had an opportunity to pull off some effects that have never really been done before,” Kopelman said. “I can’t remember seeing any other underwater CG creatures in a film before.”
Animators Steve Talkowski, James Bresnahan, Doug Dooley, Nina Bafaro and Jesse Sugarman developed walk and swim cycles, also determining the movements of the skeleton and the muscular contractions under different conditions and in different movements. Renderings of the digital Aliens were achieved with suitable resolutions for each shot — with the most ‘data-intensive’ being the scenes set underwater and in close-up. Visual effects supervisor Mitch Kopelman said to Cinefex: “the high-res model that we had was about 85 megabytes of data, which was the most complex and detailed model that we’ve ever made. On top of that, the close-up model required something on the order of 300 megabytes of texture maps. Fortunately, the majority of the shots were a little more reasonable, so we could do them fairly economically, without sacrificing image quality.” According to Kopelman, the Aliens were the most complex digital creatures Blue Sky had to create up until that time. Rhett Benatt, David Esneault and Thane Hawkins were among the compositing and lighting technicians.
Digital Aliens were used both on land and underwater — with the latter being the most complex shots to achieve. Kopelman explained: “the underwater stuff presented a unique challenge to us. There were a lot of issues we had to deal with, such as the interaction of the Alien with various set pieces. We used volumetric lighting techniques for shadow effects. There was also the effect of caustic reflections from the rippling water surface creating little strands of light cascading across objects below.” In order for the Aliens to be inserted convincingly into the environment, air bubbles had to be composited into the shot and interact realistically with the swimming Aliens. Different layers of digital bubbles were created to interact with the Warriors coming towards the camera, in order to maintain a correct depth relation. For the scene where one of the Aliens is actually hit by Johner’s weapon, “we set up a black, wax Alien that was blown up underwater by the special effects team led by Eric Allard — it was rigged to blow up just as the little grenade that was wired and aimed directly at the wax Alien hit the creature,” Henry explained. “We also shot a clean background plate of the underwater set and of course, the animation elements provided by Blue Sky.” The number of underwater shots was also increased when footage of the practical suit was mostly deemed unsatisfying. Techniques to help conceal the digital nature of the Aliens included adding multiple atmosphere layers, as well as increasing the number of bubbles to certain shots. When the Alien chasing the survivors violently bursts from the water and grasps the ladder, the original plate was shot with a full-size black Alien dummy with cables, launched with a pneumatic ratchet and pulleys. The dummy was then replaced with its digital counterpart, animated by John Siczewicz. Digital Alien acid spit was also employed after practical tests at ADI were deemed unsatisfying.
Ripley 8 is carried to the heart of the Aliens’ hive after her fall into the Viper Pit. It is there that she finds the Alien Queen, in the throes of giving birth to a blasphemous hybrid of human and Alien — the Newborn. The same creature is seen early in the film, when Perez, Gediman and Wren go to inspect it in its initial confinement. With time and budget constraints, ADI had to find a way to bring the Queen to the screen respecting those two demands. Woodruff explained: “the Queen is featured prominently in the script, but we didn’t have enough time to make a new one. They had a certain window to shoot in order to work with Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder’s schedules and to make the release date, so we had to investigate getting whatever pieces we could of the Queen to save time.”
The team had found some of the original moulds of the Aliens Queen, which had actually been thrown away in a storage bin, whilst making the effects for Alien³. By the time of Resurrection, however, they were in almost unusable conditions. “The moulds had literally been thrown into a huge steel bin,” Woodruff said. “They were silicone rubber with a fiberglass jacket, and the silicone and fiberglass were shredded to pieces. I believe what happened was that somebody wanted an Alien Queen for themselves and had pulled a fiberglass copy, and the remaining pieces were shipped to Distortions, a company in Colorado that was manufacturing big polyfoam versions for people to buy. That’s where we tracked the moulds down, and we paid to have them shipped to us here in Los Angeles, but they were useless. There was little of them left that could even be pieced together.” Most of the Queen’s body had to be resculpted starting from what could be cast from them; as such, it appears cosmetically altered. For example, the hands of the inner arms have two opposable thumbs each — a trait which was present in the miniature models built for Aliens, but carefully hidden in order not to conflict with the full-size Queen, which only had one opposable thumb on each hand of the inner arms.
Fortunately enough for ADI, whereas the original body could not be retrieved, the head of the Aliens Queen had actually been salvaged in Bob Burns’ collection of film memorabilia — along with a number of other moulds. Woodruff recalled: “we got the head from Bob and gave it a new, detailed paint job, refabricated a body and did new sculptures for the body and neck. We also used some moulds that we found which were still intact. Had it not been for Bob Burns, though, there would not have been a Queen in the movie, because there wouldn’t have been enough time to get it done.” The new colour scheme, which included sepia tones and a light fogging of pearlescent blue, was devised and applied by Dan Brodzik and Mike Larrabee.
Unlike the Aliens Queen, however, the Resurrection Queen would be a fully animatronic character, positioned on an elevated set. Mechanized by Luke Khanlian, the creature was powered by extensive hydraulic mechanisms. Aquadraulics — which employ water instead of hydraulic oil — were used for certain parts of the body, such as the neck and head. Limbs and other components were cable-maneuvered. Tubes running to the head were used to pump slime and dry ice vapour in the same manner as the other Aliens.
H.R. Giger, the original Alien designer, was not originally credited for the film (allegedly due to “an oversight”). In a letter to Fox, he said: “the creatures in Alien: Resurrection are even closer to my original Alien designs than the ones which appear in Aliens and Alien³. The film also resurrects my original designs for the other stages of the creature’s life-cycle, the Eggs, the Facehugger and the Chestburster. Alien: Resurrection is an excellent film. What would it look like without my Alien life-forms?” The artist would later claim that the new Aliens “looked like turds.”
The filmmaking team was satisfied with the results on Resurrection‘s effects work. Henry said: “there was a desire on the part of Jean-Pierre, Pitof, and myself to lay money issues aside and just make the [effects] look as real as possible. And we definitely made the right decision on who to go to for these effects. Their hearts were in the right place — and, fortunately, so were their talents.”
For more images of the Aliens, visit the Monster Gallery.
For a look at the failed Ripley clones and the Newborn, visit the article: Aberrations of the Auriga [COMING SOON].