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Input From Steven Spielberg Completely Changed Cowboys & Aliens’ Main Antagonist – SlashFilm

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At one point in the film, a chunk of Lonergan’s memories return, and he realizes that the strange metal bracelet around his wrist is the key to tracking the invaders’ mothership. We also glimpse a more aggressive alien in this flashback, who Lonergan had managed to scar deeply after his abduction by the alien group and their attempts to vivisect him. According to Rosenberg, this distinct antagonist was pitched by Spielberg himself, and the creature’s design was revised several times to make it appear more menacing among its own kind:

“Just one example of Steven’s creative input was his suggestion that the main antagonist alien be more anthropomorphic with distinctive translucent patches on its body. This “über-alien” would be distinct, having a translucent skin with a texture more akin to a soft-shell crab. Steven frequently demonstrated that he had his finger on the pulse of what audiences wanted.”

As the aliens had a visceral reaction to being wounded on another planet, the scars of most alien creatures were textured like moldy yellow fungus, while the über-alien’s wounds were a deep red. The translucence of its skin was an indicator of its authoritative status — it was unlike the alien infantry leading the charges against humans outside, as it stayed on the mothership to supervise the attacks. There’s an almost uncanny, human-like quality to the über-alien, where some parts look fleshy while others appear decidedly otherworldly, “like glass or ice or gelatin-y surface that blends into a dryer area (via FX Guide).

Rosenberg also thanked Howard and Spielberg for their expert advice throughout the process, stating that “they consistently provided lots of input,” and “were involved in shaping the direction of the story” since day one, molding “Cowboys & Aliens” into the thrilling action-adventure it is. 

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