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The Tomorrow War Director Dishes On The Movie's Unique Take On Aliens

When it comes to any films involving aliens, the last thing any filmmaker wants is for their extraterrestrial creatures to look like something audiences have seen before. Not surprisingly, that is why "The Tomorrow War" director Chris McKay and his crew of designers and CGI artists went to work on developing an alien race that set itself apart from anything else that's ever elicited a jump or a scream from a viewer. In "The Tomorrow War," all is status quo for Earth in modern day, except for Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), a family man and teacher whose personal and professional life is stuck in neutral. But in an instant, soldiers emerge through a time portal 30 years into the future, where aliens are close to completely decimating the world's population. They need help and are drafting every solider and adult citizen available, and when Dan eventually gets the call, he leaves behind a complicated life for one that's about to get a whole lot messier.

While McKay and company are keeping the look of the aliens in "The Tomorrow War" mostly under wraps, the director discussed a few of the creature's details in a press conference attended by Looper. Two distinct attributes McKay discussed were that the aliens were white in color, and were able to fire off spikes to maim or kill their victims. One of McKay's priorities was to avoid two legendary alien movie designs. "There was a couple of key points in the script, the claws and the fact that they were white, and had spikes on them and things like that. So, it left a lot of room to interpret and a lot of room to kind of play," McKay explained. "Obviously, there are a couple of high-water marks as far as alien designs, whether it's the Xenomorph in 'Alien' or whether it's the Predator. But then there's everything else, right? So, [it was about] trying not to get close to that, but also trying to find something that serves the purpose of the film and was memorable, and on its face kind of horrifying."

McKay wanted his aliens to have a distinctive look — and feel

Describing the root of what he wanted with his aliens, McKay said he wanted a look for the creature that evoked what predators were feeling as they were spotting their victims in "The Tomorrow War." "I wanted something that felt ancient. I wanted something that felt like it was hungry. Those were the words that we used when we first started talking about it, that it needed to feel like it had an insatiable hunger," McKay described. "I wanted the texture to really come through so that you would feel that the surface texture was really hard, that it had lots of chips and chunks, and nicks and cuts; things like that because it had been around forever. I wanted you to feel the flakiness, I wanted the skin to feel like it would flake off. And then there were shoulders that almost felt like armor so it could repel attacks and that sort of thing."

McKay also wanted the film's aliens to have some "offensive weapons." To aid him in his vision, McKay said he was inspired by the work of a legendary horror fiction writer who also fascinated the likes of Stephen King, John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro, and "Alien" designer H.R. Giger. "I came up with the tentacle and the spike and that kind of thing, and I'm also a big H.P. Lovecraft fan, so, that cosmic tentacle horror stuff was something on my mind at the time. Those are the notes that we talked about," McKay said. "And, we had a bunch of great design teams working on stuff that came up with some really wonderful, interesting stuff that I hope if we get a chance to do another 'Tomorrow War' movie that we would use some of these other designs, sort of fill out the other worlds and things like that ... it was really a lot of fun working with the team, and we came up with something that I hope is scary and hope works."

Also starring Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson and Edwin Hodge, "The Tomorrow War" premieres on Amazon Prime Video on July 2.