Read the first part of the movie review!
The origins of both these creatures are extremely mysterious, to the point where almost all we know about them is that they are from another planet and are extremely dangerous. Strangely, despite the more inhuman and shrouded treatment of the Alien over the franchise, in the original film we know more about it than Predator tells us about the Predator.
The basic life cycle of the Alien is laid out in Alien, as we are shown the Alien eggs; the infestation of a human being by the spider-like facehugger; the facehuggers, and by extension the Alien’s, acidic blood making surgical removal impossible until the creature just drops off; the infected individual’s apparent recovery, though with a prodigious appetite; and finally the Alien bursts from the victim’s chest and grows to its full size within an astonishingly small space of time.
The sequel added further stages to the lifecycle, and originally (in a deleted scene) the life cycle was completed by cocooned victims’ bodies becoming more eggs. But beyond simple biological facts, we know nothing of the Aliens’ true origins. Theories include them being just hostile animals, biological weapons, bred to be the ultimate game prey, or simply the twisted brainchild of an insane Swiss genius. The Predator is even more mysterious, as he essentially descends from space to hunt man with little more motivation than that he is looking for a challenge. We don’t know where he comes from, we don’t know if he is an individual or part of a larger race of hunters, and even his motivation in hunting the commandos is clouded, as it is a mere assumption based on his actions. He seems much more like a scary alien that was created for the purposes of killing people in a one-off film, without any backstory on culture or biology, and later developments were likely afterthoughts, where the later films in the Alien franchise were building upon elements established in the original movie.
The Alien was supposed to be a hellish amalgam of human and monster, with a vaguely humanoid shape corrupted its black and vaguely biomechanical features. So it seems appropriate that the filmmakers would eventually settle on a man-in-a-suit format to realise the creature, after several failures with multiple men in one costume. In this case, the man inside was the 7′2″ Bolaji Badejo, who was tall and thin enough to make the creature look human yet unnatural. The most striking feature of the Alien is its bulbous and over-sized head, which was an incredible example of engineering, incorporating approximately nine hundred moving parts to allow the iconic inner jaws of the Alien to function. In a strange piece of coincidence, the actor portraying the Predator was also 7′2″, though his frame was rather different from the slight figure of Badejo. Kevin Peter Hall was chosen to be the man in the Predator suit because he was so enormous as to look physically imposing even when compared with human behemoths like Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura.
Originally Jean-Claude Van Damme was set to be the Predator, lending his martial arts skill to the creature, but his (relatively) small stature made him an incredible threat to the commandos. Hall, on the other hand, is entirely believable when he is throwing Schwarzenegger around, yet still manages to make the stealth aspects convincing as well. This is even more impressive when you realise that the Predator suit itself was (in true film fashion) built very much for form, not function. Hall was unable to see properly through the mask, and the weight of the suit made it cumbersome for filming in the jungle. Between the two, there’s really no superior in terms of realisation.
If pushed I would choose the Predator suit, simply because of the added challenge of making the creature seem real in a jungle, as opposed to the soundstage that Alien was filmed on. But the practical effects still stand up today, despite the Alien looking a little cheesy in some scenes, and both art directors deserve kudos (though not unreserved praise – while Alien art director Roger Christian also won an Oscar for his exemplary work on Star Wars, he was the director of Battlefield Earth).
To be continued…