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
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.
“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 (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 (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 (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.
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 (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.
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.
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.