- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

Two science fiction horror legends finally meet on the theatrical screen after almost 15 years of Hollywood development stasis with the release of “Alien vs. Predator” from 20th Century Fox.

The film, set in the Antarctic, depicts a battle pitting a species of spindly-looking though powerful insectoids first seen in the 1979 movie “Alien” against a gadget-loaded warrior species from the 1987 hit “Predator.” Caught in the middle is a team of unfortunate scientists.

For the well-read comic book fan, however, the pair of interstellar adversaries have already been duking it out since 1990 in a variety of popular sequential art series from Oregon’s Dark Horse Comics.

The comic book sequels to “Aliens” and “Predator” led to a fateful story meeting at Dark Horse Comics in which senior editor Chris Warner first suggested pairing up the two monsters.

Dark Horse president Mike Richardson then took the notion to 20th Century Fox, owner of the movie rights to both characters. “They loved it,” says Mr. Richardson, credited as an executive producer on “Alien vs. Predator.” “We sat down and created the script.”

That script, structured by Mr. Warner and developed by another senior editor at Dark Horse, Randy Stradley, was published as part of the monthly comic book Dark Horse Presents and then continued as a four-issue, stand-alone miniseries titled Aliens vs. Predator. The series became one of the best selling in the history of the medium, and subsequent series followed over a 10-year period.

Turning that first comic book story into a movie proved to be a more elusive proposition.

Joel Silver (“Predator” and “Predator 2” producer), “Alien” director Ridley Scott and others all “had different ideas of what should be done,” says Mr. Richardson. “The studio did not want to hurt either franchise, even though this [combined] franchise might be stronger than either by themselves.”

As other Alien film projects made it to the screen, and the Predator lay dormant, it appeared that too many cooks needed approval and too much time had passed for a movie, any movie, despite the pair of combatants’ cult popularity.

It fell to John Davis, another producer on the Predator films, to keep the torch burning.

In 2002 he found the young director of “Mortal Kombat” and “Resident Evil,” Paul W.S. Anderson, who eagerly accepted the task of turning the pop culture phenomenon into a movie.

“John Davis approached me about a year and a half ago and asked whether I had any thoughts about Alien versus Predator,” says Mr. Anderson. “I pitched him quite an in-depth outline, and after pitching it to Fox, we went into immediate production.”

The director had grown up reading comic books, and had begun thinking about Alien versus Predator possibilities 14 years ago.

“I started thinking about it when I saw ‘Predator 2’…and the scene where Danny Glover went into the spaceship, and there was a Predator trophy case, and in it was an Alien skull,” he recalls.

“Of course, all my friends and I immediately went home and talked about what that would be like, an Alien and Predator meeting, what the fight would be like — would the Predator weapons be affected by Alien acid blood?”

The director used Mr. Stradley’s initial story as the rough framework for the new movie.

“There were certain narrative pieces that remained intact,” he says, noting that he kept “the idea that Predators are keeping an Alien queen captive, forcing her to lay eggs that would then be used to breed Aliens that would then be used in a hunt that would have some ritual significance to the Predators.”

This hunt, Mr. Anderson observes, “was not just a hunt for sport. It was a hunt that would allow you, if successful, to progress to another level of society.”

Whether the film finds a mainstream audience remains to be seen, but Mr. Anderson guarantees that he will not let down the hard-core fans of the comic books and the creatures.

“These are important franchises for people and important characters, so you have to build a movie that does not contradict that mythology,” he says. “We did not pull any punches. Basically, people will see the film, and they will see blood spilled, and justice will be done. We have plenty to please the hard-core purists.”

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