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Category Archives: Movie Monsters

Darwinian Nightmare

Preliminary drafts of Evolution by Don Jakoby elaborated the premise of the story with a much more serious tone compared to the final film. Upon being hired for the project, director Ivan Reitman requested screenwriters David Diamond and David Weissman to shift the script into a comedic adventure sci-fi story, in the same vein as Reitman’s Ghostbusters films. With only a full year before the film’s intended release and a whole alien ecology to bring to life for it, Reitman immediately began seeking the right effects craftsmen for the project. “This wasn’t about one dinosaur,” Reitman said, “or even a bunch of dinosaurs. It was about creating a whole new world.”

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The Zorgons

Director Jon Favreau wanted to maintain a generally physical vibe for Zathura‘s special effects — aesthetically, they would also have to homage pulp science fiction from the 1950s and 1960s. The Zorgons — the reptilian creatures that invade the children’s house — were no exception. As with other character effects for the film, they brought to the screen by Stan Winston Studio. Based on vague references in the script of “green scaly space pirates”, concept artists at Winston Studio — including lead artist Joey Orosco — extrapolated an organic creature design that combined humanoid characteristics with anatomical traits and textures from various species of reptiles.

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Calvin of Mars

“When we encounter Calvin in the beginning, he’s not maleficent,” said Daniel Espinosa, director of Life. “I think that in the other sci-fi movies, the unknown is always a threat. In my movie, the unknown is created somewhat by us. It’s not a question of what unknown does to us, but what do we do to the unknown.”

The central pitch for Calvin is, thus, that of an animal isolated from its original context. This creature finds itself in a new, alien environment where it simply tries to survive. “I loved that how we relate to it, is how it relates to us,” said Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays the main character in the film. “I mean, imagine what it would feel like to be taken from your home, put into a strange space station in a box, and then poked, prodded, and electrocuted, like how would you try to survive?”

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Quetzalcoatl

“The Empire State building had their monster,” Larry Cohen, director of Q: The Winged Serpent, recalled, “but I thought the Chrysler Building was a better-looking building, so I thought, ‘well, they should have their own monster!’ And if you’re going to have a monster that’s a bird, what better place to have it nest than up at the top of the Chrysler Building? It’s kind of designed with a bird-like motif: It’s got gargoyles that look like giant bird-like creatures around the sides of it, and the whole top of it is kind of centered. If I was a giant bird and I was going to pick a nesting place, that’s where I’d go.”

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Monster Gallery: Godzilla (1954)

Gojira

The idea of Godzilla was first conceived by producer of the film Tomoyuki Tanaka in early 1954, one year after the release of The Beast from 20.000 Fathoms. The film had not yet opened in Japan, but Tanaka was at the very least familiar with its story — and the concept of a giant monster linked with nuclear weaponry resonated with him. The core idea of the project was thus that of a creature that represented a physical manifestation of the atomic bomb — a ghost of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Tanaka recalled in retrospect: “the theme of the film, from the beginning, was the terror of the bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind.”

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Scum of the Universe — Men in Black, the Bug

“And what, we don’t like bugs?”
“Bugs thrive on carnage, tiger. They consume, infest, destroy, live off the death and destruction of other species.”
“You were stung as a child, weren’t you?”
“Imagine a giant cockroach, with unlimited strength, a massive inferiority complex, and a real short temper, is tear-assing around Manhattan Island in a brand-new Edgar suit. That sound like fun?”

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Scum of the Universe – Men in Black, Part 3

Rosenberg is revealed to be a mechanical human disguise that houses a small, green humanoid alien — dubbed ‘Chucky’ or ‘Mr. Gentle’ by the crew — designed directly after classic depictions of grey aliens with large eyes and craniums.

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Scum of the Universe – Men in Black, Part 2

It was during production that both Sonnenfeld and the producers realized that the MIB headquarters looked empty — as in they lacked a consistent alien presence. As originally envisioned, the headquarters had to represent a 60s airport or way station, and yet the footage shot up to that point only displayed few alien characters. The producers thus decided to introduce more exotic creatures into the scene — in the style of the iconic Star Wars cantina sequence — and commissioned additional creature effects.

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Scum of the Universe – Men In Black, Part 1

Bringing to life the fair of the bizarre that would have to be at display in Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black was a long process that involved a wide diversity of artists. Before Rick Baker’s Cinovation Studio became attached to the project, various concept artists and illustrators had begun devising creature designs based on Ed Solomon’s script — which also changed its plot and story beats as production progressed. Artists involved in this early phase included Yasushi Nirasawa and Ricardo Delgado, as well as Carlos Huante — who would eventually have the most influence on the design and aesthetic of the aliens. The Men in Black creatures would go on to become characterized by their whimsical, bizarre aesthetic combined with organic, life-like texture.

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