StarBeast — Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, the Predalien
Whilst Alien Vs. Predator marked the first film appearance of an Alien birthed from a Predator host — abbreviated in ‘Predalien’ — the concept had already been explored in the eponymous comics and video games, starting from the 1995 run Aliens Vs. Predator: Duel. Shortly after the publication of that series, freelance concept artist and illustrator David Dorman was approached for the very first attempt at making a film version Alien Vs. Predator. Dorman was assigned the design of the Predalien — which he produced over the course of a few months.
That version of the film, still embryonic at that stage, would actually never be greenlit — although Fox archived Dorman’s concepts and illustrations for possible future use. A decade later, Dorman would notice similarities between his design and ADI’s. “I had produced those designs for Fox and then they scrapped the production,” the artist said on his blog. “The art went into the vaults. And I thought they would never see the light of day… well, it appears someone might have done some digging because the similarity is striking. It would have been nice to be acknowledged for the work. I doubt I will get any credit.”
The Predalien Chestburster that makes its appearance at the end of Alien Vs. Predator, when it erupts from the corpse of the Scar Predator, was designed by Patrick Tatopoulos. Since the beginning, Shane Salerno’s drafts for the sequel — which would eventually get the title of Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem — involved the very same Predalien in the premise of the film: the creature, wrecking chaos in a scout ship, caused it to crash on Earth and unleash a new Alien batch — in the form of several Facehuggers that had been contained inside it — upon the planet. In the first script drafts, the Predalien actually left the scene early in the film, dying in the crash; the producers, directors and special effects artists, however, felt that the creature should have a more prominent role in the film. The script was thus rewritten to feature the Predalien as the main opponent of Wolf, the Predator in the film. “When Fox first sent us the script, there it was in the first couple of pages, wreaking havoc in the Predator ship, but then it died in the crash,” Gillis said. “The next one that we got, the Predalien was essentially the new nemesis, which was a great move.”
Whereas the Chestburster from the previous production could be reused, the adult Predalien had to be designed in its entirety. ADI’s involvement in the design process of the creature began even before the actual pre-production. Early designs were produced, and included both a Queen-like version — conceived by Gillis — with dreadlocks taken from moulds of the tails of the miniature Alien from Alien³, and a more Predator-like version — conceived by Woodruff and Jordu Schell.
The real design process only began when directors Colin Strause and Greg Strause were actually hired. It was decided that the Predalien would take considerable traits from its host, due to the different structure of Predator DNA. “Fox executives Alex Young, producer John Davis, and the Strauses were all in agreement that since this new creature was an Alien that had gestated inside a Predator,” Gillis said, “it may have picked up traits from its host but was fundamentally still an Alien. Our logic on Alien³ was similar for the ‘dog’ Alien, but this time we all felt that the potent DNA [sic] of the host Predator might cause more intermixing of traits. This allowed us to play more with the superficial features like dreadlocks, mandibles, and colouration.” Both ADI founders further elaborated: “in designing this hybrid of the two creatures, we had to keep in mind that the infant Chestburster had gestated inside a Predator, but it was not actually an offspring of a Predator. It was still basically an Alien, but it had taken on some of the characteristics of its host. It also had to look more like an Alien so that the audience would believe its loyalties were with the Alien species and not the Predators. To estimate the proportion of the combo, we went with 80% Alien and 20% Predator.”
In particular, mandibles and dreadlocks were always a key element to distinguish Chet — as it had been nicknamed by the directors, after the eponymous character from Weird Science, to avoid leaks — from the other Aliens. Colin Strause told AvPGalaxy: “we understood that the reason to have the dreadlocks was to make the audience able to understand who was who. If we removed them, [I feared] that no one would know who Chet was.” In general, the directors were concerned that the general audience would not be able to distinguish the Predalien from the other Aliens, also considering the dark setting of the film.
“The biggest issue we had with the design was that because we were going so dark with the movie, and there’s a lot of rain and atmosphere and everything,” Colin Strause said, “would a normal fan, a normal person be able to watch the movie and tell the difference? […] We knew the hardcore fans would get it instantly, but a good design also has to appeal to people who really don’t [care] about the franchise — they just go to see a movie and they actually like it. We had to make sure we included all those people in it as well. That’s why we cheated the pigmentation, [with] a little bit more yellow on her. And just things so that even if you just see flashes of her, at least a general audience member will be able to track it. But at the same time, [we did not want to] water it down with [the] design or anything and make it kind of generic.”
Other Alien traits were kept, such as the metallic teeth; also returning from the original film was the translucent dome, revealing skull features inside it — although the Predalien’s dome only extended to the front portion of the head. Colin Strause told ShockTillYouDrop.com: “we went back with putting the skull underneath the glass dome, so it has a real Predator skull under there. In the original Alien, you could never really see it because the photography was lit so dark. We have a couple shots in the movie where you actually can see the whole skull through feature and everything underneath.”
The Predalien went through several conceptual iterations, with artists Steve Wang, Michael Broom, Farzad Varahramyan, Chris Ayers, and Justin Murray, as well as others, collaborating in the process. After receiving feedback from the directors and the studio executives, ADI proceeded to create a maquette that would synthesize the most favoured elements in the precedent incarnations. The result was a single small scale sculpture of the full body of the Predalien, created by Steve Wang. Upon approval, the same artist, with a team of other sculptors, began to sculpt the full-size Predalien that would serve as the moulding base for the creature suit.
During this sculpting stage, however, particularly unusual feedback was received. “That 80/20 proportion changed a bit when a 14-year old happened to be walking through the halls of Fox, saw the maquette and said ‘wow! Cool Alien!’ This observation led to much discussion about how to make it look more like a Predator, and some last minute adding of dreadlocks to increase the Predator feel.” Following instruction from the studio executives, the Predalien’s appearance was altered further — increasing the number of dreadlocks and adding more muscular components to its exoskeleton, such as the chest area. The Predalien was ultimately sculpted by Steve Wang, Hiroshi Katagiri, Casey Love, and Corey Schubert, and painted by Mike Larrabee.
The Predalien was built as a series of complete creature suits; Tom Woodruff wore the suit for every scene that featured the creature. A total of six suits was made: four stunt suits and two hero suits; the latter featured mechanized finger extensions. The suits could be fitted with self-contained, radio-controlled creature heads (puppeteered by three crewmembers), or stunt heads. The animatronic heads were mechanized by David Penikas and Hiroshi Ikeuchi. Sculptural detail in the neck concealed two holes that allowed Woodruff to see the surrounding environment. Depending on the scene, two different types of tails could be attached to the suit through a harness: a floppy tail, maneuvered with wires, and a self-supporting tail with an internal nylon sheet armature.
In filming the suits, the filmmakers had to be careful about how to properly portray the Predalien’s size in the film. “He’s supposed to be about the same or slightly larger than a Predator,” Gillis said in a featurette, “so we lengthened the head more, gave him bigger hands, we kind of cheated the upper body proportions. So when you see Tom in the suit as the Predalien, it’s kinda goofy from head to toe, because his legs look very squat. We were always concerned that the still photographer’s gonna take a picture, somebody who doesn’t really know that this thing is mostly meant to be shot from the waist up, releases a shot to the magazine where it looks like it’s a weird dwarf Alien.” For the more complex actions, a digital Predalien was provided by the visual effects artists of Hydraulx.
One of the hero heads of the Predalien suits featured mechanisms that allowed the mandibles to extend and latch onto victims’ faces, emulating a Facehugger. “With the mandibles,” Colin Strause said, “basically with the egg laying scenes, we wanted to match the mandibles on [the faces] so she could actually wrap around almost like a Facehugger in a way, and grab people’s faces as she’s doing the impregnation. That was kind of an important design thing.” As a new component of the Alien lifecycle, in fact, the Predalien would be able to literally replace the Facehugger and inject multiple embryos in a single host. Other iterations of the new lifecycle were considered but ultimately discarded.
Multiple — often contradicting — explanations were given by the filmmakers regarding the exact origin of this new trait. “There is a complexity to Alien reproduction that isn’t limited to such a simple and rigid structure,” Colin Strause claimed.”Nature finds a way, and we’ve never seen the phase of an Alien pre-queen before. We’ve seen what born Queens do in Alien: Resurrection, but what does a lone alpha Alien do to reproduce? What’s that next phase look like? These were the questions that got us excited when we did our pitch.” Other times, the filmmakers instead claimed that the new lifecycle component was “perhaps a random side effect of the Predator’s DNA.” Originally, the Predalien was to select only pregnant hosts, identifying them through ultrasounds. Point-of-view shots were filmed and digitally enhanced, but cut from the final film. Ultimately, Colin Strause said that “we never explain what happens so it’s all really up to what the audience wants to take away from the movie. Just like with the Egg-morphing in Alien, we kind of know what is happening, but it could be interpreted a dozen different ways. And at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because keeping the mystery is what makes these creatures so amazing and scary. ”
Tom Woodruff said of the experience: “It was great. Every time we get to work on one of these movies it’s great to have the same kind of enthusiasm and energy you had three or four years previously. You pull everything out of the box again, and you reinvent some things and try to show something fresh. But the truth is that they are still very effective Movie Monsters.”
For more pictures of the Predalien, visit the Monster Gallery.