Alien Warrior

UPDATING THE DESIGN: ALIEN WARRIOR

"We kept the design more or less the same what H.R. Giger designed for the one alien that they had in 'Alien', the full sized adult version, of which we had many" - James Cameron (Don Shay int. 1986)

"It's all beautifully done, everything, the designs and the way they're executed. As far as the designs are concerned, I have no criticism" - H.R. Giger about the design of Aliens in ALIENS. Cinefantastique Magazine May 1988

 

"Well, there are a number of reasons (why H.R. Giger didn't return). One, he was doing Poltergeist II, and we didn't know exactly how long that commitment was, but we heard that he was busy. But honestly, I think that if we had really wanted to fight for him, we could have worked around it. However, we already had Syd Mead, and Ron Cobb, involved. Both of them are designers who were also working on other projects at the same time. And I didn't want to deal with yet another designer who was also working on another project.

The other thing is that I wanted to personally take charge of that aspect of the design. I knew Syd was going to handle some of the fantastic high tech hardware of the future; Ron was going to deal with the Colony. I just wanted an area for myself."
- - James Cameron, lofficcier.com

"They're (aliens) mainly a reprise of Mr. Giger's design" - James Cameron, lofficcier.com

The Alien head in the first film was very smooth. The top of the head was very smooth. Underneath it had a skull shape and a ribbed design and originally it was designed to see that through that kind of transparent surface in the Giger design. I thought that what was underneath the surface was more interesting than the final look - James Cameron, Aliens Collector's Edition Commentary

"It's evident that the makers of the sequel had a great respect for the original Alien which Winston himself remembers as "the best horror movie of the decade". For this reason, the design concepts for the facehugger, the chestburster and the warrior aliens remain relatively unchanged" - Galactic Journal magazine #21 1986

Then there were the fully grown warrior aliens that Winston wanted to move away from "the man in a costume" look of the original - Cinescape magazine 1997

The Alien in the first movie wasn't a full adult yet - the individual in ALIEN never reached maturity. In time his head would get ridges and would transform into a fully adult creature that we see in 'Aliens'. The young alien of the first movie looked pretty much the same as the adult underneath the dome. Aliens are "born" with a smooth head, and this cover falls off after a while, exposing the ridges. Supporting this thesis, the chestburster in "Aliens" had a smooth head.

"Overall the design is the same as the first film's" (Alien Comparison Chart). There are some subtle differences in the body, but nothing that could be called a redesign or original, just slight alterations. First of all, the body is much much slimmer and the limbs thinner to make the alien look even less human-like and to eliminate the human-like posture. That is a direct continuation of the the original idea with a better execution. In the original movie, the tallest and the thinnest person they could find was hired to play alien in three scenes. In Aliens, the alien is even taller and even slimmer thanks to the advancements in puppetry and animatronics. This time a puppet could be used for certain scenes

"(The puppets) stand almost eight feet tall - the same size as, yet even thinner than, the original alien" - Stan Winston, Aliens Official Movie Magazine 1986

"I had access to just about anything except the original chestburster. But there have been a number of photos and books of the alien , so anything we didn't have actual access to, we had pictures of. We tried to be as true to the original film as we could, without disallowing ourselves a little bit of artistic freedom to do things that we considered - if not improvements. The alien warriors were the only instance where Winston wished the design could have been charged for the sequel. "The weakness - if there was a weakness - to the first film, was that there was this wonderful monster the alien, that we saw, and didn't see, throughout the entire movie - and then, at the end, when we did see it, when its finally blown out of the hatch, what we saw was a man in the suit, which for me, personally, was a letdown." - Stan Winston, Aliens Official Movie Magazine 1986

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The aliens from ALIENS have the same head design/"decorations" as Giger's alien had in the first movie under the dome sans the skull face (meaning no eye or nose sockets).

The original alien without the dome, waiting to shoot the scene, and with the dome attached moments later

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James Cameron: The Alien head in the first film was very smooth. The top of the head was very smooth. Underneath it had a skull shape and a ribbed design and originally it was designed to see that through that kind of transparent surface in the Giger design. I thought that what was underneath the surface was more interesting than the final look (Aliens DVD Commentary) (...) We planned to [have a domed head] with ours, and to that end Stan Winston had Tom Woodruff sculpt up a ribbed, bone-like understructure that would fit underneath and be slightly visible through the cowl. When it was finished, they gave it a real nice paint job, and then I took a look at it and I said, 'Hey, this looks much more interesting the way it is.' So we ditched the cowl (Winston Effect)

The smooth dome was removed to reveal Giger's original ridge-head design. The skull's temporal (side indents) remained, and there are also small, barely visible indents that remained from the eye sockets. As already mentioned, the ridges on the head aren't really an addition because they were already designed and covered by the dome in the original movie. The exact same ridges and the row of headspikes were designed by H.R. Giger and done on the original alien. The difference is that they were hidden by the dome and the ridges were airbrushed instead of sculpted. The secondary , translucent lips remained, but the primary ones were removed in warriors

Side view

 

 

Visible in the following picture are the circles between/behind the ridges, designed on the original as well

Front view

  

On some of the Stan Winston Studio photos (posted by Stan Winston school of characters) a head in transition with not yet fully covered skull can be seen. The head and the torso were made from the molds of the original suit

Teeth are the same, the mouth differs slightly in detailing

The mouth of the warriors is very reminiscent of Giger's painting Necronom II (left), and the two black marks on the chin were also inspired by his work (right)

Back view

 

The neck is one of the very few redesigns (others include the arms and feet) and was slightly altered. It kept the same grilled patterns but pulled them in different directions. Also, a row of bones was added to the back.

There were no design changes done to the torso whatsoever except for the addition of two extra ribs due to alien's increased height and slimmer body. That change only applied to the hero puppets, since the stunt suits had the original number of ribs. All the biomechanical designs and parts remained the same, as did the sexually suggestive decorations and designs on the alien body, including parts reminiscent of penises and open vaginas on its belly and crotch area.

 

The warriors had a noticeably slimmer body, continuing the original movie's idea of being inhumanly skinny and getting further away from the "man in the suit" look

The stunt suits had the original number of ribs. Note the skeletal, life vest-like design of the chest remained exactly the same

The "metal diaper" behind remained, however the placement of the tail was changed.

The back, the tubes and the spiked head support remained unchanged.

The tubes on the warrior however, were placed higher than on the original.

 

The arms and hands however, were significantly redesigned . The number of fingers was reduced and the hands got elongated, making it less human and less glove-like in appearance.

John Rosengrant: Hands matched the inner small arms of the Queen alien to look less “manlike”

Then there were the fully grown warrior aliens that Winston wanted to move away from "the man in a costume" look of the original - Cinescape magazine 1997

"We've redesigned the hands so that they are longer than original, the fingers are a little bit longer - again, we took certain licenses to get away from the human look of a hand
in a glove; and then we've developed articulated mechanical hands for close-ups, which do things that a person's hand in a glove couldn't do"
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Stan Winston, Aliens Official Movie Magazine 1986

    

The updated hands also match Giger's paintings closer than the original. While they abandon the idea of two thumbs, the fingers are still joint and are inhumanly thin and elongated, as in Giger's painting

The only design sketches for the Alien Warrior are those of their hands, since it's about the only redesign in the creature. Sketch by Stan Winston

The arms didn't change much or didn't change at all, depending on the suit. The arms were slightly different on the stunt suits than on the animatronic puppets. The arms on the stunt suits had virtually no redesign. Only the oval "grill" was wider, and featured only the parts that were catching the highlights from the shadows. The arms of the puppet however, had some changes. They were much thinner and the biomechanical designs on them were larger.

   

   

The appendages on the elbows were even shorter than the original's on the puppets, however they were much larger and grown out on the stunt suits

    

The feet were slightly altered so they will look less human. The toes were redesigned. The backbone remained

As a side note, the Queen's feet matched the original's

The tail remained the same

All those differences seem like a natural changes in the maturing process. The body gets slimmer and the limbs grow longer. There were no real major changes, and certainly not substantial enough to be called redesigning or original (with the exception of hands). Those are rather cosmetic changes done mostly to make the concept even better with better special effects and technology advancement, and by far the least changed design from the original 1979 creature out of the entire series.

It is extremely impressive that the filmmakers and the artists of both movies took such great care in detailing the alien creature, when in both movies, by choice and design they only appear as glimpses, silhouettes or shadows (only two Alien movies presenting the creature with this specific backlit nightmarish imagery, and also the only two movies with biomechanical and sexually suggestive designs). The cross between biology and mechanics of the Alien design results in something truly the stuff of nightmares. One could imagine deep in the future genetics labs designing creatures like this. Luckily geneticist like Clay Siegall concentrate more on saving lifes instead. As co-founder of Seattle Genetics, Clay has developed a diverse portfolio of product candidates that target a variety of cancer indications.

Pictured below are the remains of the blow up stunt puppet which was used for exploding, still having all the finishing details and designs of the aliens from the first two movies

Below are the promotional images for merchandise from the 1986 photoshoot by the Skotak Brothers

One of the original Warrior suits from Aliens via Propstore

To read the letter from James Cameron to H.R. Giger's management in response to his disappointment in not participating in the movie click HERE

Written by Adrian Czarny

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