Face Off – Alien Apocalypse
The final cut for the Face Off finale tasks the remaining four contestants with the creation of a hybrid alien based on species from SyFy’s upcoming space opera/western Defiance.
Before we jump into tonight’s recap, congrats to Face Off on the announcement of their fifth season, which SyFy announced this week. I’ll discuss the prospects of another season a bit more later. But first we have some aliens to dissect.
Wayne, Anthony, Fox and Kris head to the studio for a no-nonsense reveal of this week’s challenge. Defiance features scores of alien races (I’ve heard it described as a series that takes place entirely within the Mos Eisley cantina), so every has to pick two aliens and create a blend, as if the two had hooked up at the SyFy office Christmas party.
Before they get to work on their designs, everyone flies out to Toronto (sans Fox for family reasons, which I’m guessing involve him somehow not being able to cross the border) to visit the set of Defiance. As far as product placement goes, this was pretty cool. At no time did it just feel like a commercial for Defiance (there were plenty of those during the actual commercials). They met with make up artist Allan Cooke (Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, Pacific Rim), who’s doing prosthetic make up effects for Defiance. It’s always fun to watch these people talk shop.
The only problem with this challenge is that the aliens were pretty bland. A bunch of them were just “huge dude,” and one was just “generic zombie,” as the Defiance producer mentioned later. And of course almost everyone ended up taking those basic designs to blend. This would have been a lot more interesting if there’d been an alien with eye-stalks or a lamprey mouth or something.
Michael Westmore’s advice segment was brilliant as usual. I learn so much just from the little suggestions he makes, like giving a design bulk by throwing on some foam pads and big pants, or allowing the model some movement by breaking a bulky neck piece into three pieces.
Wayne built a hybrid out of two aliens that were basically big ugly dudes. The detail and range of movement in his face was exceptional. The paint was a Wayne Special, thrown on at the last minute. Wayne does great work, but at the same time I think the judges have been incredibly easy on him all season. This week, he put some football pads and pants on the legs and called it a day, and it looked seriously out of place. Enough that it kind of ruined the whole look for me.
Anthony blended a big ugly dude with the mutant/zombie thing. He was way ahead of everyone just in terms of time this week, and he had more time to spend on appliaction and paint. It definitely showed, and he took home the win. The best part of the design was the amount of expression and personality in the face. The win came with a chance to shadow the FX team for Defiance, which is pretty cool.
Kris also made a hybrid big dude/zombie. It looked kind of like a video game character, which is appropriate since Defiance is also a video game. It reminded me of the super mutants from Fallout. I loved the green eyes and teeth, though maybe they couldn’ve been toned down a little bit.
Fox had a hard time this week because he didn’t get the zombie mutants he wanted. Stuck with a sasquatch and a robot, he eventually melded them together. I really liked his design and execution. The guest judge kept complaining that it wasn’t a true hybrid, just patched together parts, but how else do you blend a robot with an organic creature? Interesting ape face with flat black metal parts. The judges didn’t think it was good enough though, so Eric Fix will not make the season finale. While I disagree with this, it’s not as drastic as last week. All four did amazing work this week. None of them deserved to be eliminated.
Let’s talk about season five for a second. As much as I love Face Off, it’s starting to feel a little stale. I hope the producers can revamp things a bit for next season. I don’t mean dramatically change the nature of the show, but they could shift gears and freshen things up. Tightening up the editing, for one thing (again and again and again we watch thrilling shots of McKenzie introducing all the judges and the judges and contestants saying “Hi” to each other). But I’ve got a few more ideas that could breath some life into Face Off.
-Raise the stakes for the weekly competition. Anthony winning a chance to shadow the Defiance crew is a pretty awesome prize. What if winning certain big challenges would land you an actual gig working make-up on something in production? I know this would take some scheduling wizardry, as they’d have to line it up for a production months in the future, and some of them might fall through, but I think it could work.
-Give the contestants more time each week. I’m honestly getting tired of watching everyone scramble and slap together half-finished designs every week. I’d love to see at least a few challenges where they get double the time. Let’s see what they can do with the opportunity to polish things.
-Find more interesting guest judges. They’ve had some great ones lately, like Kevin Smith and John Rhys-Davies, but all too often it’s a producer or behind-the-scenes big shot who doesn’t have anything terribly interesting to contribute.
-Non-humanoid challenges. One of the reasons Face Off episodes blur together is that, no matter how weird the design, it’s still fundamentally mounted on a human frame. Not every make up effect is worn by an actor. Whatif the teams got identical metal armatures, say in the rough shape of a Ridley Scott alien? Or design a monster built on an inanimate object like a typewriter? Or demonic cars?
-Shoot scenes with the completed designs. Mission Control Media (Face Off’s production company) did a very cool show called Hot Set, focused on set design. The highlight of each episode was when they lit and shot a sequence on the completed sets, then edited them together. It would be amazing to see the creatures on Face Off creeping through some eerily lit sound stage chasing some screaming victims.