Whoever wins... we lose

Aliens Vs Predator is director Paul W.S. Anderson's (Resident Evil, Event Horizon) latest project. The big question is whether Anderson will be able to meet the expectations of today's more demanding audience. According to Louis Savy, who recently visited the set in Prague, the movie looks extremely promising...

The news that Paul W.S. Anderson was to hold the reins on this project has received a mixed reaction on Internet chatrooms. He made Mortal Kombat and Soldier and I am yet to find one person who could say how good they were. Mind you he was also responsible for Resident Evil, a great game-to-movie adaptation, and the enjoyable Event Horizon.

The movie is set in the 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 frozen wasteland. The team discover a way under the ice from an abandoned whaling station, where they find a huge pyramid decorated with hieroglyphics unlike anything they have ever seen. They go deeper into the pyramid, finding more and more strange artefacts, until they find a sarcophagus which contains a bizarre clock type of mechanism. It seems that the pyramid is in fact a training camp for young Predators - who are on their way to Earth for a weekend. Part of their training involves hunting Aliens.

The movie stars Henriksen (Millennium, Near Dark, Aliens) as Charles Bishop Weyland. Colin Salmon (The World is Not Enough, Resident Evil, Die Another Day) plays Max Stafford - tough, practical security guy. Also starring are Sanaa Lathan (Blade, Out of Time), Raoul Bova (Avenging Angelo, Under The Tuscan Sun), and Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Snatch, Black Hawk Down).

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 Leader.

Anderson and the production designer Richard Bridgland, who worked on Resident Evil and was art director on Richard III, both agree that the original Alien and Predator movies were scary because the audience 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. And, while Predator was set in a jungle, 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 London's Jubilee Line Underground line extension "you get influences for everywhere" said Bridgland. One thing is for sure it will look great.

Anderson has always made a lot of his sets. Resident Evil looked incredibly slick and critics who rubbished Event Horizon generally acknowledge that the movie 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 stuff.

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 too 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 ship... and they all look great!

The creative talents of Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, who worked on Tremors, two of the Alien movies, Starship Troopers and many other movies under their mentor Stan Winston, are leading the creature effects crew. Their company is called ADI, Amalgamated Dynamic Industries.

What was great was walking around a room full of Alien and Predator heads, rubber suits, Alien Eggs and a collection of 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.

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 and natural looking. They then hit "go" and play it back - the model then enacts the movements exactly. Apparently this is the most complex unit ever built.

John Bruno (Abyss, T2, True Lies) is in charge of all the visual effects in the movie and he is not a great fan of CG. Apparently he actually used a crane to lift a jet plane on top of a tall building because it looked better than a composite shot in the computer.

The whole team have really stamped their own look and feel onto the movie but they've also ensured that they keep the fans of the movies, games and comics happy as well.

Louis Savy is Sci-Fi London's Festival Director

Alien Vs Predator is released in the USA on the 06 August 2004, with a UK release set for 22 October 2004.

Read our review of AVP: Alien Vs. Predator: The Creature Effects of ADI by clicking here

For more information on Sci-Fi London visit the official site...

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