The Brothers Strause (also known as Greg and Colin), directors of the new Aliens vs. Predator flick, are living the FX geek dream. They bought off-the-shelf visual effects software in their early teens, and by 1995 they had moved to Los Angeles to work on visual effects in the X-Files movie. Eventually they formed their own effects company called Hydraulx, and have worked on films like X-Men: The Last Stand, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and 300. Aliens Vs. Predator 2: Requiem is their feature film directorial debut. io9 caught up with them to get the skinny on designing the Predator homeworld, and why we should care about the humans in this film. Hear what the Brothers Strause told us after the jump.
You guys come from a special effects background, and this is your first feature film. Has that helped prepare you to direct a feature?
Colin: Yes, I mean we've also shot a lot of music videos and commercials, so we're used to directing projects, dealing with talent, and so on. But also because of our visual effects background, we're used to the endurance. We've been on this film for over a year and a half now, whereas on a commercial the shoot is a week or two, and then maybe a month or two for post. So the visual effects work definitely prepared us for how long these projects take.
How tied into the mythology of the original films is this movie? For instance, in the last AVP movie, we saw Lance Henriksen, who also played the android Bishop in Aliens.
Colin: The way we try to see the movies is that the AVP franchise serves as the bridge between the Predator franchise and the Alien franchise. So, we do a lot of things that are specific tie-ins to the Predator movies, and we also try to to specifically lay things into the chronological history of the Alien films.
You said that you want this science fiction horror story told with characters that the audience really cares about. How did you go about that, and is it a bit of a dig at the original AVP film?
Greg: The cast of human characters is a lot more compelling than in the first movie. We really worked hard at making them relatable people that could be your cousins, your sisters, your relatives, your neighbors, and so on.
Colin: Unless your cousin is a billionaire or a mercenary, then you aren't going to have a lot in common with the characters in the first movie.
Greg: These are regular everyday working American people, and having that sense of connection with them is what makes it a little more horrific when we see them getting picked off. We do spend a bit of time in the beginning of the film setting these people up and introducing them in a more classic fashion, so you do care about them when they start getting killed.
Recently an image was released online that was the first view of the Predator homeworld. What went into that design?
Colin: That was a really challenging conceptual thing to work on. You don't want to just do the pyramid design because that's such an easy way to go with these. What we wanted to do was establish that, even though they are great hunters, there's also a level of sophistication to them. If you think about it, they're very primal, but they have cloaking technology, they have spaceships, they've been around for thousands of years. We wanted to somehow give a level of industrialness to their planet, but also stay true to other designs we've seen, like the interior of the ship in Predator 2. We thought that was a really great reference point because it was sort of Aztecian architecture, but with a lot of bizarre round curved shapes. The color palette in there was all orange because of their vision, since they don't see visual light. There were a lot of things we saw in the other movies that helped shape our Predator homeworld sequence.
Greg: It was especially fun to explore the idea of urban sprawl in a Predator city. You'll see that in the film, but it was a cool thing to try and convey.
So which species is more kickass, the Alien or the Predator?
Greg: Colin is already known as a Predator fanboy all over the internet.
Colin: Well the thing I like about the Predator is that you can relate to him more, just because he's got tools, he has weapons, there's culture there. With the Alien I like them just because they scare the living crap out of you.
Greg: In our film the most powerful one is actually the Predalien hybrid.
So what's next for you guys?
Colin: We're in negotiation on a couple of things already, plus we hope to possibly work on the next part of the AVP franchise if they ask us.
Greg: Yeah, we feel like the series has run the cycle of the Earthbound part of the story, and we'd like to get things back out in space where it started.