Film Reviews

Horror Franchise: Alien (1979 – )

Alien 1979

By now you must know how much we love a horror franchise, and this time around I thought we’d take a look at Alien, which started in 1979, and has had sequels, spin offs, reboots, games and even restaurants and bars made out of it. OK, so it’s a sci fi, survival horror but it fits the bill for the franchise post treatment. Let’s take a look.

What to expect:

Most Alien films feature one or more of these. Copy these down for your Aliens Franchise Bingo.

  • Strong female lead, usually Sigourney as Ripley, but not always
  • An evil and foolish company man who thinks they can weaponise the alien
  • An android who may or may not be a bad guy, and who you may not know is an android
  • Ripley protecting a weaker figure, like Jones the Cat or Newt, the little girl
  • A facehugger, that is an alien young that bursts from an egg and latches onto a host humans face
  • Tunnels which ooze with … well, it’s better not to think about it, but subterranean tunnels usually figure in this film
  • Someone posturing and talking about how they’re going to take down the alien
  • A convoluted plot to blow the alien out of the airlock and/or explode the infected ship up
  • Ripley in her wandering around in her pants

Alien-1979

Alien (1979)

The one that started them all, with Ridley Scott at the helm. This film is absolutely wonderful, and is a classic film in it’s own right. Watching it again, I’m blown away by the design of this film, the performances, and how measured and masterful this film is. It’s also the film where you can most clearly see HR Giger’s design and influence. Later films focus more on action than this one does, and this feels like the story idea at it’s purest. The crew of a spaceship are awakened from cryo-sleep by a distress signal as they head back home to Earth. On landing, they find a strange ship, and one of the crew disturbs a nest of eggs, from which bursts a facehugging creature. Taking him back to the ship, all hell soon breaks loose. This is Weaver’s first outing as Ripley, the calm, confident and terrified woman who would become an icon.

Aliens-1986

Aliens (1986)

“Get away from her you BITCH!” This time around, Ripley has been rescued (along with Jones the cat) but is asked to go back to help a military group answer a distress call. On arrival, there are no survivors til Ripley comes across Newt, a young girl who’s managed to survive by living in the air vents. But things are worse this time, as they discover that they’re not dealing with one, but a whole nest of aliens intent on their destruction.

Though the first film in this series is incredible, I think perhaps this one is my personal favourite. I love Ripley, I love Newt, I love the idea of more than one alien tormenting the crew. I love Lance Henrikson as an android. And I love the crew, from Bill Paxton getting hysterical to Jenette Goldstein as a brash and brazen tough woman. Watched back to back with the first film, you really feel how different it is. It’s certainly much more of an 80’s action film than a 70’s sci fi, thanks to James Cameron, an intelligent but also crowd pleasing director. Each character feels full and well realised, which is wonderful because you care about them as they get bumped off.

Alien-3

Alien 3 (1992)

Easily the weakest in the franchise, this film was directed by David Fincher, and was plagued with issues from the start. It’s a film that the director had such a bad experience on that he refuses to have anything to do with it, declining to create a director’s commentary. Ripley crash lands on a far away planet where she finds herself to be the only woman in a prison full of monk like prisoners. But she’s not alone, an alien has made it’s way into the colony, and worse still, Ripley finds she’s carrying an alien inside her! It’s a terrible film, all the actors look the same, they’re cartoonish and they almost entirely look and behave the same. It’s also a bit confused and quite long and slow. Though the alien design was quite advanced for the time, sadly the FX really haven’t stood the test of time.

alien resurrection.jpg

Alien: Resurrection (1997)

A weird and much derided addition to the franchise, this film is easily better than the last, but feels very 90’s and therefore much more colourful than previous entries. This time around, Ripley is a clone of herself, created by a mysterious company that wants to weaponise the alien. But during her creation, some of the alien DNA has been fused with Ripley’s. When the aliens on board manage to escape, Ripley teams up with a motley crew of mercenaries who happen to be on board (including Ron Perlman and Winona Ryder) to try to escape the aliens who hunt them and escape the ship, which is set to explode. (Of course)

The director of Amelie and Delicatessen seems like an odd choice to direct an Alien movie, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet makes a colourful film in a franchise that is usually dark. Perhaps for that reason, this film feels out of place, a bit like Fifth Element meets Alien, and it’s strange motherhood scenes between Ripley and the monster feel very uncomfortable, but actually, if you view it as a 90’s space action movie, it has more to offer than you’d think, though it feels nontraditional.

alien-vs-predator.jpg

Alien Vs Predator (2004)

Alien Vs Predator Requiem (2007)

Speaking of nontraditional, these films are much ignored in the Alien canon. Set in the present day, they pit the two most popular creatures of 80’s sci fi horror, the alien versus the predator, that dreadlocked sportsman from outer space who likes to hunt man. They’re rather silly, the first film coming from the Paul WS Anderson, who is known more for his B films like Death Race and Resident Evil franchise entries. You can see what he’s trying to do here, and there’s some fun moments, but coming after the excellent first two films, you wonder why they bothered.

Prometheus

Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott returned to reboot the franchise, in an era of franchises and reboots, with flawed prequel Prometheus. It focuses on the story behind the alien and the huge ship that sent out the distress call that started it all in the first film. It’s beautifully designed and has some great scares, a real return to the feel of the original film in a lot of ways, and yet it also feels like a very modern survival horror. It also posits some interesting questions about the origin of man, and the nature of evil, without entirely answering them, which is perhaps slightly irritating, but all in all, an entertaining film, though a little alien-lite perhaps.

Alien-Covenant.jpg

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Releasing later this year, this film again has Scott as it’s director, but seemingly will return to more traditional form, with a crew landing on a planet that seems to be paradise, but contains a threat that could wipe out the whole crew. Ripley does not appear in this film, because it’s really a Prometheus 2, but Michael Fassbender, who played an android in Prometheus, does, so it seems like a sequel to the prequel maybe? Teaser trailers and posters have been released, so look out for those.

alien-neill-blomkamp-ellen-ripley-hicks

Untitled Alien Film

Finally there is this, which feels like little more than an imdb, Hollywood whisper in the wind, but there is an untitled alien project in the works, with Neill Blomkamp set to direct, he of District 9 fame. It stars Sigourney Weaver, returning as Ripley, and rumoured to have Michael Biehn as Cpl Dwayne Hicks from Aliens. Fingers crossed that this is greenlit and in pre-production, because I love Ripley and Hicks.

alienisolation4.0.jpg

Alien Games

If you can’t get enough of your aliens franchise, there are several aliens games, of varying quality, and different gaming platforms, but special mention from me goes to Alien: Isolation (2014), which is beautifully realised and genuinely terrifying. On a space station, you play Ripley’s daughter, who has come to search to find her missing mother. Boy has she ever bitten off more than she can chew… A seriously brilliant game.

The alien franchise feels quite sprawling, with many films that might be included or purists reject. Have I missed any films here? What is your favourite aliens film or moment? Comment below or continue the conversation on Twitter @hermioneflavia or on Instagram @hermioneflavia

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32 thoughts on “Horror Franchise: Alien (1979 – )”

  1. Great run through, the Alien series is one of my favourites, for me the ratings for the films are

    Alien 5*
    Aliens 5*
    Alien3 3.5*
    Alien Resurrection 4* until the hybrid baby shows up, then it’s a 3*

    Prometheus 3.5*

    AVP 3.5*
    AVP Requiem 2.5*

    I could watch Alien and Aliens again and again, and I do really enjoy AVP

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed this write-up. Aliens is also my favourite film in this classic, genre-defining (and defying) franchise.

    For me, Resurrection really suffers from Josh Whedon’s script. His trademark banter is out of place and the whole tone of the film feels a bit off. It’s not helped by a cringy performance from Winona Ryder. Not even the combined awesomeness of Sigourney Weaver and Ron Perlman can save that one!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am one of the few who enjoyed the third film. It has issues but they do not make it unwatchable for me. The fourth film is, in my opinion, the weakest and most superfluous of the franchise, although any Alien film is still better than so many other films out there. Being a big Prometheus fan (despite its flaws), I’m really looking forward to seeing Alien:Covenant. It will probably be the only big Hollywood film I bother to see this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As for Ripley and Hicks back together again. I’ll admit I always wanted a third Alien film where they went back to Earth with Hicks and Newt and the Aliens showed up. That would have been awesome but delayed sequels rarely work. Although we got 3 great ones in 2015 with Mad Max: Fury Road, Creed and The Force Awakens. Maybe we can have one more before the decade is out with Sigourney Weaver.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah Alien and Aliens are all that really matters. The most frustrating thing about Alien Convenant is that Prometheus left all these open questions which was annoying and Scott doesn’t seem intent on answering them in this year’s sequel but planning to draw them out even further. Well if that’s the case he better not having idiot scientists taking helmets off and cooing at space snakes!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You do realise that you have now adressed one of my favorite alltime movie franchises? I could talk about this one for hours (no worries I won’t do that lol). Like you I like Aliens the best. It was a truly terrific movie, and one that has a place in my personal top 3 movies of all time. It is utterly briljant. To my knowledge you haven’t missed any movies, but maybe it would interest you to know that in Predator 2, there is a scene in which we see the Predator’s trophy case and you see a skull from an alien there (which is ofcourse a hint to the Aliens vs Predator spinoff, that were finally realised many years later. (But knowing you, you probably already know this lol😂). I really loved reading this post. It was an absolutely great overview of the franchise, and ofcourse very well written 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! Yes, it’s all down hill from here… just kidding. It is such a great franchise and I’m really excited that there’s more coming. Ha Ha! Yes, that little hint. I’m considering doing a Predator round up? I’m really glad you enjoyed it, it was fun watching/ rewatching them all. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a brilliant franchise overall, and a wonderful job compiling these films! 🙂 Aliens has to be my favourite as well. I actually quite liked Prometheus too for its concept on life’s origins. Pretty cool. As for AVP, it sounds like such a good idea on paper! Sadly, neither the first nor the second lived up to expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post! As you say the first two Alien films are just amazing sci-fi, horror and action films par excellence. Alien 3 has, for me, a great set-up with the prison-in-space location but, as you allude to, had too many creative issues to really take off. I still love the virtually all-British ensemble cast though and you can see if Fincher had been left to make the film he wanted too it may have worked out better.

    Was there a more internet-debated film than Prometheus? It genuinely didn’t make any sense as a story but visually and cast-wise there was much to like. Plus, the self-caesarean scene was a classic Alien set-piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this series and you’ve done an amazing job rounding them up so well and comparing how they’ve fared over the years. My favourite has to be Aliens. That’s scene when some of the crew and Ripley are stuck in an enclosure and their movement detector thingy (don’t know the word for it) tells them that the aliens are right above them….. 😱😱😱😱😱 scarier than The Ring! Oh, and I too hope that Ripley and Hicks get together for real if the new movie comes out. Great post again!

    Liked by 1 person

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