|By AL J. Vermette
After Ripley saves Newt from a fate worse than death at the claws of the Xenomorph warriors, on their
way back to safety, Ripley with the young girl in tow, discover the source of the Alien birth reproduction
cycle and have stumbled into the Egg Chamber where dead center sits a living nightmare. As Ripley
looks on, she sees the very source of where the monster's eggs come from, a 15 foot black creature sits
atop an egg-laying ovipositor. Repulsed and angered by the very creature before her, Ripley unleashes a
firestorm from her flame thrower destroying all the eggs in the birthing chamber.
As Ripley and Newt make an escape, the immense beast rips herself from her ovipositor and pursues
Ripley and Newt for killing her unborn face-huggers. Ripley who is out of ammo and with nowhere else to
run, readies herself and the child to die by the creature when they are saved by the crew’s android Bishop
before returning to the main ship still in space. But shortly returning and thinking they are safe, it’s
revealed that that the creature attached herself to the ship before the flight and is now on board. In one
climactic battle, Ripley forces the creature out an airlock and into deep space. This creature that Ripley
must fight to the death is none other than The Alien Queen….the mother of all Xenomorphs and one of the
most recognizable movie monsters of all time.
Like her Xenomorph children, The Queen is unlike any movie monster to ever come along in film
history. When the 1979 movie “Alien” was conceived, the film’s director Ridley Scott wanted a monster
unlike anything ever seen before. The film's creature came from the mind of artist H.R. Giger whose Alien
design was truly something the world had never seen before. When the time came for a follow-up film to
the already classic “Alien”, it was just a matter of using the same designs of the monster to use as the
main monsters in Aliens. Only Aliens would take things one step more and create something even wilder.
“Aliens” director James Cameron wanted to show how the alien life cycle began as the first movie
introduced the eggs and the life form (The Face Hugger) that birthed from it. But the question that was
never revealed in the original film was where did the eggs come from? Cameron’s idea of a Mother
Queen Alien was the answer to that question and he and make-up artist Stan Winston and his very
talented team sort to bring life to the new alien creature. Using the same basic design of a standard
Xenomorph as their base, Cameron and Winston crafted a new creature although still Xenomorph but
something much…much more.
This new monster would be not 7 or so feet tall like the average Xenomorph, but a 15 foot beast with
four arms plus a large flat head crest upon her head. As a joke or just to make her more female, this
creature even had what seemed to be high heels on her feet. She was brought to life by two performers
within the body itself with a small army of puppeteers outside operating her legs, larger arms, head, tail,
and facial movements. Her construction was the first of her kind, never before had anyone tried to build a
15-foot realistic life-size monster before. The only thing close to this attempt was the Giant Squid in 1956’
s “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” and the shark from “Jaws” 1975. Since this was still years before
Stan Winston and the team would go on to build the full-size T-Rex in Jurassic Park, they themselves were
not sure on how to build such an enormous monster in the real world.
Tests were made to see if they could even make such a monster that size as Cameron and Winston
tried to figure out how and where to place the performers within the creation. Working off designs and
paintings by James Cameron himself, he wanted his new monster to have two sets of arms with two at her
sides and two smaller protruding from her chest. Like her Xenomorph counterparts, she would have a
long boney tail resembling that of a dinosaur skeleton plus a long tongue with teeth within her mouth. By
keeping her within the general design of Giger’s original Alien design made her seem all the more like she
was of their species. And yet still something much more.
Winston and his team started building her with a layout of foam and black plastic bags and with wire
and poles to get the basic design shape and see what they had to work with. Once the tests were made
and they knew what to do, the main construction took place turning the film director’s idea and designs into
a fleshed-out beast of massive proportions. Rods, wires, and cables along with the two men within her
body made the creature come to life. The result was a monster that had never been attempted before and
her screen time makes the movie. To see her enter the frame and interact with Ripley Sigourney Weaver
live on-screen is nothing less than amazing.
I remember seeing this movie in theaters upon release and was blown away by how amazing this
monster looked. The fact that she is really there in-camera with Sigourney and that big makes it so much
more impressive. That she was not added later with a stop motion puppet, CGI as like today, or some
other special effect, that she indeed was truly on set 15 feet tall and acting made her truly a cast member
and not just another prop.
For other shots of her fighting Ripley in the Power Loader, there was a smaller version of the creature
designed along with the loader Ripley uses to combat the monster before giving off one of her best lines
ever. “Get away from her you bitch!” The inserts of Ripley operating the Power Loader and The Queen
both in miniature and life-size are so well crafted, that you can’t really tell what was full size in the battle and
what was done with the miniatures.
The miniatures were used mainly for movements in the fight that either the full-size Queen or Loader
could not perform such as the moment the two fall into the opening of the airlock from where Ripley blows
the creature out into space. The Miniature Alien Queen like her larger life-size counterpart held true to the
character as an actor as with her screams of fear, pain, and anger as she floats into deep space.
Even after the movie shoot was over and the director moved onto new projects, the creature he
envisioned would herself move on as well and onto all new films. In 1997 with “Alien Resurrection” the
Queen returns, not as the same creature as in “Aliens” but a new Queen cloned along with Ripley after she
herself died at the end of Alien 3 and this new Queen is created to breed new Xenomorphs for research
aboard a spacecraft. Here The Queen is as impressive as in “Aliens” even though sadly has less screen
time. Alien Resurrection’s new monster is The New Born, a more defined human / alien hybrid that is born
of both Ripley’s clone and the Queen. In a very sad scene, The New Born kills The Queen seeing only
Ripley as her true mother.
This time the creature designs were handled by former Stan Winston team members Alec Gillis and
Tom Woodruff who opened their own effects company Amalgamated Dynamics. Since working with Stan
on “Aliens” and Woodruff himself even playing the lead Xenomorph knew how and what made these
creatures tick. They had already cut their teeth away from Stan with “Alien 3” and so they were the team to
head the next Alien film for effects work and creature design.
Although she was part of the movie again, The Queen didn’t have a great deal of screen time but that
would change in 2004 for the crossover event “Alien vs Predator’ where The Queen would play a bigger
role. The release of ‘Alien vs Predator’ put the Alien Queens and her minions together to battle The
Predators from their franchise. The long-awaited crossover was the 3rd Predator movie and 5th Alien film
giving all of us the early Christmas present we wanted. It was for me as a gift from the gods to see these
to great movie monsters clash for the first time in live-action.
For The Queen herself, she would have a larger role as early in the film, she is shown just waking up
from her century-old cryo state sleep. Once awoken she gets to work breeding eggs for which will be used
to create the army of Alien warriors that the Predators are to fight. For the movie, this Queen is even
bigger than before at an immense 20 feet tall and was brought to life by threes means. The first two like in
her first appearance in “Aliens” is a full-scale life-size animatronic practical effect with 12 puppeteers to
operate her movements plus a smaller puppet used for wider shots. There was also her first CGI
rendering where she could run and chase the lead human hero and her newly found Predator ally.
Like before, The Queen is defeated by the film’s human hero by sending her to the lower depths of the
Arctic Ocean unlike being blasted out into empty space but not before having one last battle with the
remaining Predator. With the use of CGI, we got to see a fast running Queen that could not be done with
the full-size creature animatronic, but the filmmakers and effects team knew that all her glorious close-ups
needed to have that life-size equivalent that made her debut in “Aliens” so memorable.
Over the years, The Alien Queen would again return in both comic book form and video games
keeping her always in the mindset of the fans. There have been toys and models cast from her likeness
along with artwork depicting The Queen in all her glory. With such a commanding presence as a horror
icon, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before The Alien Queens makes a new movie appearance.
|The Alien Queen