The Low Down on the Alien Franchise


Ridley Scott’s return to science fiction, Prometheus, opens in theaters today.  To mark the occasion, I am looking back on one of the most beloved science fictions franchises in movie history.

The original Alien started from humble beginnings.  Dan O’Bannon co-wrote the John Carpenter sci-fi comedy Dark Star.  Dark Star is a really intelligent sci-fi comedy made on a shoestring budget.  It included an alien that was basically a spray painted beach ball.

O’Bannon thought it would be interesting to do a serious take on the subplot of astronauts trapped in space with a real alien.  He set about writing a screenplay borrowing from several influences.  “I didn’t steal Alien from anybody. I stole it from everybody!” said O’Bannon.

O’Bannon and his co-writer, Ronald Shusett pitched Alien to studios as Jaws in space.  They were close to a deal with low-budget mogul Roger Corman, when a friend hooked them up with Brandywine Productions which had ties to 20th Century Fox.  After the success of Star Wars, Fox was interested in science fiction again but lacked a lot of sci fi scripts.  On this basis, Alien was greenlit.

The studio approached a lot of directors before finally settling on a promising new-comer, Ridley Scott.  Scott was interested in playing up the horror elements of Alien.  When O’Bannon showed Scott some paintings by H.R. Giger, Scott knew he had found the look of the film.

Alien was released in 1979 with the now-classic tag line, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”  Reviews were somewhat mixed.  A lot of critics didn’t know what to make of the sci-fi/horror hybrid.  But audiences got it and Alien was a commercial hit.

Alien gave us so many indelible images that have seeped into pop culture.  Just about every alien depicted on film since 1979 has been inflienced by Giger.  There are face huggers and chest bursters.  Even a relative throw-away like the “space jockey” still lives in our collective imagination decades later.

Alien (along with Scott’s Blade Runner) created a new set of visuals that would inform every science fiction movie made in the last several decades.  Its cultural impact can’t be under-estimated.

This is going to sound crazy, but despite the success of the first film, 20th Century Fox wasn’t interested in an Alien sequel.  The movie was a hit.  But the studio didn’t feel like it was a big enough hit to merit a sequel.  It was a different time and studios were actually wary of making sequels which generally cost more and returned less.

While he was working on the original Terminator, a young James Cameron approached Fox with an idea for an Alien sequel.  Filming of Terminator was delayed for a few months so Arnold Schwarzenegger could fulfill his contractual obligation to make a Conan sequel.  During the delay, Cameron punched up his Alien script.  Fox was impressed.  They told Cameron that if The Terminator was a hit, they would be interested in his Alien sequel.

Given the fact that they are still making Alien movies decades later, it seems silly.  But the notion of an Alien sequel was a tough sell at the time.  The original Alien was a self-contained horror movie.  Scott used up every trick in the sci-fi/horror bag.  There didn’t seem to be any reason to go back to that well.

The genius of Cameron’s take on Alien was that he changed up the formula.  Where Scott’s film had been a psychological thriller which Scott described as a “fun house”, Cameron’s sequel was a take-no-prisoners action movie more along the lines of a roller coaster.

However, Cameron also knew enough to retain enough elements of the original film to make it feel like an Alien movie.  The face huggers and chest bursters were still present.  Cameron just raised the stakes.  Instead of a small crew being slowly hunted by a single alien, Cameron set up space marines vs a planet of aliens.

Seven years after the first film, Aliens took the franchise in a completely new direction, made Cameron an A-list director and Sigourney Weaver an action heroine.

Books could be written about the troubled misfire that was Alien 3.  Following the success of Aliens, Brandywine planned to shoot the next two Alien films back-to-back.  The plan was to focus on Michael Biehn’s character from Aliens with Sigourney Weaver making a cameo appearance.  Obviously, things didn’t work out that way.

The original script went through several re-writes.  Eventually, 20th Century Fox president Joe Roth balked at the idea of an Alien movie that didn’t center on Weaver’s Ripley character.  He famously declared that Weaver was the franchise.  With all due respect to Sigourney Weaver and the iconic Ripley character, I wholeheartedly disagree.

The film went through so many revisions that at one point Fox released a teaser that implied that Alien 3 would take place on earth.

Eventually, they settled on a script that was a hodge podge of bits from previous scripts.  It took place on a prison planet and centered on a religious order.

For practical reasons, the popular characters of Newt and Hicks from Aliens were killed off off-screen in the opening scenes of Alien 3.  This decision immediately alienated (no pun intended) fans of the franchise who felt it invalidated Ripley’s struggles in Aliens.

Alien and Aliens were both overseen by visionary directors early in their career.  The same can be said of Alien 3 which was directed by David Fincher.  Fincher is undoubtedly a talented director and I would love to see his take on Alien.  However, the studio meddled with the film to an alarming degree.  Fincher has disavowed the final film.  When given an opportunity to participate in a director’s cut for the DVD release, Fincher was the only Alien director to decline.

Alien 3 was a downer of a movie.  It took place on a drab planet populated by bald English actors wearing robes.  Most of the cast was indistinguishable from one another.  The entire movie leads to the death of the series’ lead character (after opening with the death of a child).  Oh, and Ripley shaves her head.

Even so, I think Alien 3 could have been a worthy entry in the franchise had Fox not hacked it up so badly.  The lack of Alien action worried the studio, so they cut together a bunch of scenes of the alien hunting the robed prisoners.  The result was an extended sequence of darkly lit bald men running through corridor after corridor.  The action scenes committed the crime of being boring.

Not surprisingly, Alien 3 was a box office bomb in 1992.  The reviews were mostly negative.

Despite the failure of Alien 3, Fox was still interested in the Alien franchise.  They approached screenwriter (and future Avengers director) Joss Whedon to write a treatment.  The original script centered on the idea of a clone of Newt since Ripley had been killed off in the previous film.

Once again, Fox decided to double down on Ripley who they stubbornly believed was the heart and soul of the Alien series.  Whedon had to completely rework his script to accommodate the change in lead characters.  Weaver found Whedon’s script (which included a final act on earth) to be interesting enough to agree to reprise the Ripley role one more time.

The first three films in the series all benefitted from the involvement of truly talented directors.  The series’ luck ran out with Alien: Resurrection.  The fourth Alien film was helmed by a French director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet.  This was after Danny Boyle, Peter Jackson and Bryan Singer all declined.  Sigh.

What went wrong with Alien Resurrection?  Joss Whedon summed it up thusly:

“It wasn’t a question of doing everything differently…it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong…They did everything wrong that they could possibly do…it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable.”

I think that just about sums up Alien 4.  Alien Resurrection was the least successful film in the franchise to date.

In the late 80’s, comic book publisher Dark Horse Comics published a story pitting two of its most popular licenced properties against each other.  The Alien vs Predator comic book led to several more comics and video games.  Rumors circulated for years that an Aliens vs. Predator movie would be made.

In the early 2000’s there was a brief fad of pairing off popular franchises.  2003’s Freddy vs. Jason was a modest hit.  A Batman vs. Superman film was in development but thankfully never produced.  Aliens vs. Predator seemed like a no-brainer.  And boy, was it!

Director (and Milla Jovovich’s husband and chief employer)  Paul W.S. Anderson pitched 20th Century Fox on the mash-up.  Anderson (who uses not one but two initials in his professional name) built his career on movie adaptations of video games like Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil.

In spite of his two initials, I have found Anderson’s films to be dumb, simple fun.  I can turn my brain off just long enough to enjoy Milla Jovovich killing zombies in a torrential downpour and a tank top (preferably in 3-D) for the 90 minute running time of a Resident Evil movie.  But that didn’t carry over to the dumb, joyless (and also Jovovichless) Aliens vs. Predator (or AVP its friends like to call it.)

Inspite of terrible reviews, AVP was a pretty big hit at the box office.  In fact, it outgrossed all previous Alien and Predator movies.  Further proof of my theory that Paul W.S. Anderson has made a pact with Satan.

Given the success of AVP, it’s no surprise that Fox rushed production of a sequel.  Feeling emboldened by their ill-gotten gains, the studio decided to go even lower on the director chain by hiring the special effects team of the Brothers Strause to direct.

The sequel was aptly subtitled Requiem as it signaled the death of the mash-up series.  Without the Satan-pact of W.S. Anderson, AVP 2 was a major box office disaster.

But Fox wasn’t done with the lucrative Alien franchise.  Instead, they lured back original director Ridley Scott for a prequel/reboot.  The prequel gradually morphed into Prometheus which has been rather coy about its connection to the original film.

Reviews have been strong.  Clips have that signature Ridley Scott look.  Hopefully I can get out this weekend and post a full review soon.

Review: Prometheus

More Lowdown

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Posted on June 8, 2012, in Movies, sequels, The Lowdown and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. I’m definitely excited to see Prometheus tonight! After my boyfriend showed me a few trailers, I was hooked. It’s going to be amazing!!!!


  2. Sanaa Lathan made AVP worth the price of admission all by herself! It’s true that it plus Requiem are mostly forgettable, but still watchable none the less just for the sheer spectacle of watching the two alien races go at each others throats. It’s been a long time since I watched either of the first two, but I seem to remember getting into the second one a little more than the first. With the exception of the chest-bursting scene I don’t remember much about part 1. I’m not sure I ever watched 3 or 4 all the way through. I have a hazy recollection of Winona Ryder as one of the baldies, and some kind of weird hybrid-alien that was somehow Ripley’s offspring or something like that. Those two were definitely worse than the AVP entries though.

    I’m looking forward to Prometheus. I’m holding off for the theaters to empty out a bit and then I’ll catch a matinee when all the kiddies have moved on to the next big summer flick. I am looking forward to it if for nothing else than the visuals. Also I’ve read enough reviews to know it’s a decent enough movie worth paying to see in the theaters.

    The other day I caught Battleship and thought that was a pretty decent summer popcorn flick. Good effects, passable acting, plenty of action and lots of naval battle scenes which I love being an old Navy man myself. Peter Berg usually entertains with his movies and this one is no exception. Worth the price of a matinee for sure.


  3. I am an Idiot

    They should call it Prosuckeus, the movie was boring, slow and not worth the price of admission or the wait.


  4. I started a reply to this, got a little too enthusiastic, and, after it got quite long, I just turned it into a full-blown blog of my own (again). So a little cross-pollination, perhaps:


    • Always a pleasure to hear from you. Even more so when I can inspire a little back-and-forth. I am having some computer issues that are preventing me from responding on for the moment, but I thoroughly enjoyed your article. Anyone who wants to see Alien given its proper due should head on over to The Dig and read it. Great stuff as always.

      Aliens certainly isn’t in the same league. As you say, it’s a big noisy movie. It’s Cameron. I mean really, I think that sums it up. It hasn’t aged nearly as well as the original Alien. It isn’t as ambitious as Prometheus. But it accomplishes what it set out to do.

      I think the other entries in the series demonstrate that making an entertaining Alien picture is something to celebrate. Few directors could have duplicated what Scott did in the first Alien. The real shame of it is that Fincher might have if the studio had left him alone. And Whedon could have made a heck of an entertaining popcorn movie if he had been given the chance to direct (and maybe hadn’t been forced to resurrect Ripley).

      Anyway, great article. Thanks for dropping by. I’ll drop by The Dig when I’m on a more reliable terminal.


      • I would have really loved to see an Alien flick done by Fincher at that moment in his career if he’d been involved in the creative process from the beginning, but at the point at which he became a part of the project, it wouldn’t have mattered if the studio had backed off (and it wouldn’t have mattered who was directing, either). By the time he was hired, they’d settled on the awful slapped-together storyline, and were already building sets. Something like 9 writers had worked on the script, and it still wasn’t finished; the final script wasn’t until the last few days they shot, on their SECOND round of re-shoots.

        Whedon would have been great for RESURRECTION, as well.

        (Most of the comments I’ve gotten about my own article in various venues have been from Cameron fanboys looking to pick a fight over my dismissal of his unimpressive film.)


  5. I’ve always thought that Alien 3, like The Godfather Part III, may be more beloved had it been the first in its series. In both cases, though, it is a film which followed 2 bonafide classics and, as a result, seems anticlimatic.


    • Nah. If Cubed had been the first ALIEN flick, we would have never had another.


    • I have to make a deep, dark confession. When Godfather 3 came out, I had not yet seen Godfather or its sequel! A friend of mine was a huge Godfather fan. He had seen all three films, but wanted to go see GF3 again. I told him I knew nothing about the Godfather series, but I would go if GF3 stood on its own. He told me it did, so I saw it with no preconceptions from the previous 2 films. And it was not good.

      Years later, I watched the Godfather movies in order several times over. GF3 makes so many callbacks to the first two vastly superior movies. I do think there was the kernel of what could have been a good original mob movie in there. But it was harmed by having to keep going back to the events of the first two films. For GF3 to stand on its own, it would have to be a very different movie.

      Similarly, I think Alien 3 suffered by being an Alien movie. If it had been an original story, you wouldn’t have had to deal with Hick and Newt. They would have been freed from the Alien formula and expectations. It’s possible that Alien 3 minus the alien trappings could have been a minor cult hit. Maybe even gotten a direct-to-video sequel. At worst, it would have been forgotten for all times instead of being remembered as when a beloved sci series went off the rails.


      • Alien 3 | Freakin’ Awesome Network Forums:

        6 hours ago

        It had the unfortunate legacy of following up one of the greatest horror movies of all time, and one of the greatest action movies of all time, so the standards were extremely lofty to begin with. Killing off Newt and Hicks before the movie started really rendered much of the previous movie moot, Ripley’s character development and protectiveness of Newt was just thrown out the window.

        Now, on it’s own, it’s not a bad movie at all. I actually think history has been kinder to it than people were initially, especially given the movies that have followed it. But if you were a fan of the first, you saw a sequel that tried to do what the first did, but not as well, and if you were a fan of the second, you saw a slower movie that took away all of what made the second movie better. Three had a good atmosphere, it was interesting, and I didn’t mind the ending, it just couldn’t beat what came before.


  6. Pitof, didn’t direct Alien 4, you’re thinking of Catwoman. Pitof did the effects, but Alien 4 was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

    The Alien series is one of the most overrated in the whole action/sci-fi genre. Sure, as horror movies go, the first two measure up, but horror is the genre with the lowest bar for quality. The main problem is that the Alien is a terrible villain. Just compare to the superior Predator or Terminator characters, who have intelligence (artificial or otherwise) and weaponry at their disposal. The Alien is just a mindless, faceless creature who has been unable to meaningfully evolve as a character throughout the course of the series because it had no character to begin with. As quality movie villains go, the Alien is about one notch above “The Fog.”

    Cameron made the best attempt at the franchise by trying to make up for the villain’s lack of quality with quantity. But every film he’s made since then has been better. Ultimately what the Alien series has offered us is dark, moody atmosphere and dreadfully dull, empty stories. They’re partly responsible for the long-term trend of Hollywood emphasizing visuals at the expense of storytelling and thereby giving us worse, more shallow, less resonant movies. Ridley Scott’s cold, emotionally detached approach to Alien and Blade Runner led directly to Tim Burton’s Batman movie, which ushered in a decade filled with Hollywood’s most shallow blockbusters ever. James Cameron was virtually alone in advancing the quality of genre filmmaking during the ’90s. We’ve seen some improvement this century once filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer went back to using Richard Donner’s Superman as the template for superhero movies instead of Burton’s warped schtick and other directors like Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro looked to classic Hollywood or the heydays of Lucas and Spielberg for inspiration. We luckily seemed to get to a point where it got so cheap and easy for a film to have a “look” that audiences decided that wasn’t enough to interest them anymore and many started demanding good stories again.


    • “Sure, as horror movies go, the first two measure up, but horror is the genre with the lowest bar for quality.”

      Actually, it’s arguably the genre with the second-highest bar for quality (the top one being comedy). Most movies of ANY genre suck, but there’s more worthless dreck produced within the horror genre than within any other (save comedy), because it’s one of the hardest to get right.

      “The main problem is that the Alien is a terrible villain. Just compare to the superior Predator or Terminator characters, who have intelligence (artificial or otherwise) and weaponry at their disposal.”

      Those are an entirely different kind of villain, and to insist there should only be one kind and hold anything that deviates from that to be inferior is utterly absurd. The creature in ALIEN is a parasitic bug, the sort of thing that provokes arachnid reaction in people, a Lovecraftian monster put on a plausible scientific basis; it can hide anywhere; virtually nothing is known about it; it has an agenda to do REALLY terrible things to humans; and its VERY difficult to stop. And beneath all the rest is a subtext of existential evolutionary threat. All of these things make it quite frightening, which is precisely the purpose of a horror movie monster (or threat of any kind).

      “As quality movie villains go, the Alien is about one notch above ‘The Fog.'”

      THE FOG was a great horror flick with a great atmosphere of menace, and a gruesome threat. To be honest, that you would pick it as your example, here, strongly suggests you’ve either never seen it, or simply don’t like great, old-school atmospheric horrors. Some of the rest of what you say supports the latter conclusion.

      “Ultimately what the Alien series has offered us is dark, moody atmosphere and dreadfully dull, empty stories. They’re partly responsible for the long-term trend of Hollywood emphasizing visuals at the expense of storytelling and thereby giving us worse, more shallow, less resonant movies. Ridley Scott’s cold, emotionally detached approach to Alien and Blade Runner”

      Those are some of the most intelligent genre films of that period, the complete opposite of both what you suggest and of much of the CGI-laden trash we’ve gotten in more recent decades. Scott was very influenced by silent films, which, because they lacked sound, developed an astonishing grammar of visual storytelling. We’d be fortunate, indeed, if more filmmakers learned it. The brainless, thimble-deep blockbuster spectacle films you’re decrying were born with STAR WARS, and that franchise offers a good map for how things have degraded as a consequence (every film of the prequel trilogy bordered on completely unwatchable). Movies like ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER tried to take things in a very different, much more sophisticated direction.

      The idea that audiences have turned against films that merely have a “look” (and a scorn for a film having a look is a scorn for film itself) isn’t based on anything in the real world, either. In this one, every TRANSFORMERS movie–worthless, brainless, merit-free garbage of the absolute worst sort–makes a killing at the box-office (the last one did over a billion dollars, and was the second-biggest moneymaker of last year).


    • Ack! Thanks for the catch. I have updated the article.

      I am agreeing with about every other point you make. I can agree that the Alien series is over-rated. It’s really one great movie, one good movie, a couple of blown opportunities and then 2 quickie cash-ins. Although I think Prometheus, while flawed, rights the ship.

      I think you’re wrong about the alien creature though. For one, it was shown in the first film to be intelligent. It toyed with the crew. It was not just a mindless killing machine. But even if it were, a mindless killing machine can be a very effective villain when handled by the right film-maker. See also Jaws.

      I have never understood the appeal of the Predator franchise at all. Maybe there is something there I am missing. Predator was an okay movie for an 80’s action flick. But the creature looked silly. And although it is more sophisticated in terms of weaponry, I don’t think the Predators have ever been given any greater depth than the original Alien creature.

      I saw Aliens as a double edged sword. Going from one alien to a planet of aliens upped the stakes. But it also devalued the creature. In the first film, one creature spelled certain and terrifying doom for anyone unfortunate enough to cross its path. For some, it was a fate worse than death. In Aliens, a single alien is no longer such a great threat. They became an insect like zombie swarm.

      I can’t blame Ridley Scott for Batman. Or anything else that followed. Alien and Blade Runner were not style over substance. They represented style and substance. But substance is hard and ripping off style is easy. So, that’s what other film-makers took from Scott.

      I can’t realy agree with you that we’re in an age where story is on the rise. The majority of big tentpole movies have less going on then Alien or Aliens in terms of story. I love Avengers and it’s definitely one of the better “Things Go Boom” movies out there. But the plot is so thin! Ironically, Prometheus has more substance than an entire summer full of these kinds of movies.


      • “I can’t blame Ridley Scott for Batman.”

        Of course not–that’s absurd. Burton’s first BATMAN isn’t something for which someone should be “blamed,” anyway; it’s still the definitive live-action screen adaptation of the Batman. Burton went off the rails (and badly) with RETURNS, but the only films that really copied that were the subsequent live-action Batman films.

        “Alien and Blade Runner were not style over substance. They represented style and substance.”

        And style AS substance. Those films aren’t about offering up spectacle; they invite and, in fact, demand that the viewer think about what’s happening, another way in which, as I said earlier, they’re the polar opposite of most of the brainless blockbusters that followed.


  7. i saw prometheus and it was stupid. why make a prequel? worst movie from ridley scott i’ve seen.


    • I definitely didn’t think it was stupid. I have criticisms of Prometheus, but being stupid isn’t one of them. As big budget science fiction films go, I thought it was unusually smart.


  8. well it got to be boring from the beginning, gruesome in the middle, and stupid in the end. i never should have watched it. i knew it was gonna suck. that is why i got to see better action movies, i already saw men in black 3 and avengers. besides the dark knight rises and gi joe 2 the only thing i can’t wait for expendables 2 in august.


    • The middle was definitely gruesome! It’s the ending that I think I am the most conflicted about. I won’t say it was stupid. But I think it might have been better off of they hadn’t tried to tie it into the Alien series.

      I thought the movie was thought-provoking which I enjoyed. It was absolutely gorgeous to look at in a way few movies are. I was very glad I saw it on the big screen. At no point was I ever bored. But the shift in tone from the talky beginning to the horrorific middle to the kind of bizarre ending were abrupt. I’m not sure they worked as well as they could have.


  9. I pretty much agree with you. I absolutely love the first 2 Alien movies and thought Alien Resurrection was an insulting, series-killing movie akin to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. However, I’m one of the few people who likes Alien 3. It’s inferior to the first two, but I think Fincher was able to do some good things despite the studio’s interference.

    I had no idea they wanted Corman to do the original movie. Sooo glad that didn’t happen.


  10. Alien 3 invalidated Aliens in the same way that Exorcist II: The Heretic invalidated The Exorcist, and the same way Star Trek: The Next Generation was invalidated by all 4 of the movies it spawned (I could write an entire essay about that).


    • I would be interested to read that essay.

      I don’t think I have ever really given Exorcist II a “fair” viewing. Not that it deserves one. It’s just so stupid! It’s one of those sequels I pretend doesn’t exist.


  11. I haven’t written such an essay yet, (time for one thing) but I’ll definitely share my views once you get to the TNG films.


  12. The CineFiles – The Alien Saga:

    Uploaded on Dec 23, 2009
    We go from ALIEN to ALIEN Vs Predator. And discourse the ramifications of eating spaghetti in a freighter in outer-space.


  13. 10 Terrible Films That The Wrong Person Got Blamed For:

    Jean-Pierre Jeunet – Alien: Resurrection

    Who Else Was To Blame: Joss Whedon.

    This Alien film managed to pull the amazing double trick of both ripping off (oh shock, a character we thought was human is actually an android) and ruining the logic of (wait, that’s a… human alien?) the original. It was so dumb it retroactively made everyone warm a little to Alien 3 (a film director David Fincher has always distanced himself from to avoid inclusion on this list).

    Much of the blame falls on the film’s director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose clearly held a lot of influence on the film – Brad Dourif playing chicken with a Xenomorph is right up Jeunet’s street – but the real fault is shared between the screenwriter, who envisioned a lot of the goofier scenes, and 20th Century Fox, who enforced bringing back Ripley as a clone.

    That Fox had a hand in it is no surprise – it was the studio’s involvement that neutered the initially promising Alien 3. What is somewhat shocking is that it was Joss Whedon who wrote the script.

    That’s right, Avengers mastermind and geek God Whedon was behind Alien: Resurrection. It’s a sickening moment whenever his name pops up when we’re watching the film. Which isn’t that often.


  14. It’s interesting to think that Alien, indeed the whole Alien franchise, owes its existence to Star Wars. Literally, if George Lucas had never made Star Wars, then 20th Century Fox never would have made Alien, that’s what it comes down to. Writer Dan O’Bannon explained in an interview that the screenplay was offered to 20th Century Fox and just sitting in their vault for a stretch of time as they weren’t showing much interest, because they (along with all the other film studios at the time) had no interest in making sci-fi movies. But then, Star Wars is released in early summer of ’77 and surprisingly becomes an instant pop cultural phenomenon, and within weeks of SW’s release and smash success they decide they want to do more sci-fi films immediately, and funny enough the only sci-fi script that Fox had in its vault is…… Alien. Luckily, the screenplay was solid so they quickly moved ahead with it. Ridley Scott said that 5 weeks after Star Wars had opened, he got the call to direct the movie. That’s how quick Alien got the greenlight after Star Wars happened. Now it’s worth noting, prior to all this Roger Corman did want to do it as a super-low-budget cheapie film, so if Star Wars had never happened then Alien still could have been made as a Corman cheapie B level sci-fi flick, but of course there’s no way it would’ve become the masterpiece it became as a Fox release. But it’s interesting to think that the Alien series really owes its existence to Star Wars.


    • You could say that of most sci fi in the late 70s early 80s. Star Wars opened the floodgate. It permanently changed movies. Along with Jaws, it invented the concept of the summer blockbuster.


      • Another interesting thing about Star Wars, is it actually got Star Trek on the big screen. Just before Star Wars opened in ’77, development was under way to bring Star Trek back to televsion. From my understanding, most (but not all) of the original cast was signed to come back and sets were already being built, scripts were written, models were made. It was meant to be syndicated, so it was going to remain low-budget. Then, Star Wars happens, and Paramount rethinks this whole Star Trek thing. Trek had built up a big cult following throughout the 70’s, and since Paramount also wanted to jump on the science fiction craze like every other studio, they said why not just make a Star Trek movie? But to make it compete with Star Wars, we’ll ditch the low-budget and give it a big budget. And that’s how Star Trek: The Motion Picture came to be, along with its long history of sequels and reboots. So there you go, it’s directly because of Star Wars that the Star Trek franchise escaped the low-budget syndication tv ghetto and became a big screen series. I just thought that was an interesting bit of trivia.


  15. What Exactly is the Alien/Predator Universe?

    An Editorial by Avery Hinks.


    Over the years, there have been many connections between the Alien and Predator movies through feature films, comic books, novels, and even video games. It is a vastly expanding universe with a lot of great lore behind it, and today I am going to take some time to look at the feature films that make up the Alien/Predator Universe.

    I will break down each individual film that takes place in this universe, as well as point out the connections and crossovers between each individual film, and show where each film is placed in the continuity. There will be some films in here that I’m sure some of you had no idea were even remotely part of this universe. But don’t worry, I will explain myself.

    The films (and one TV series) I will be breaking down are:
    ◾Alien (1979)
    ◾Blade Runner (1982)
    ◾Aliens (1986)
    ◾Predator (1987)
    ◾Predator 2 (1990)
    ◾Alien 3 (1992)
    ◾Alien: Resurrection (1997)
    ◾Soldier (1998)
    ◾Firefly (2002)
    ◾AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)
    ◾Serenity (2005)
    ◾Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
    ◾Predators (2010)
    ◾Prometheus (2012)

    I will be talking about the movies mostly in order of release date. So, without any further preparation, let’s dive into the Alien/Predator Universe, and start where it all began:


    Alien (1979)

    Alien was directed by Ridley Scott and was a very influential Sci-Fi/Horror film for the time it came out. This movie saw a group of space explorers travel to the planet LV-426. What they find is nothing they would have ever expected.


    This movie introduces us to lots of things that will be important to this universe later on.

    It introduces us to Weyland-Yutani Corp. The technological industry that is ultimately involved in everything in this universe, including the space exploration team in Alien. Weyland-Yutani Corp. was founded by a technological mastermind named Weyland many years before the events in Alien.


    We also see what is referred to as the “Space Jockey”. A large extraterrestrial being sitting in a chair, appearing to be wearing some sort of breathing apparatus.


    The origin of the Space Jockey and the ship that it’s in were not explained at the time. However, we do learn a lot more about it in later films, that I’ll get to eventually.

    The Space Jokey’s ship
    —The Space Jokey’s ship

    From this movie we can also see that Androids, machines made to look like humans, are not all properly programmed and can take a very dark, evil turn. This is seen when the android, Ash, tries to kill the whole crew. The Androids are also product of Weyland’s creation, and that will be important later as well.


    And of course, the most important thing we’re introduced to is the Xenomorph. The deadly alien of which the title refers to. This alien is an almost unstoppable force, and there is much in store for them as this universe expands.


    From this movie we learn that a “Face-Hugger” hatches from an egg, latches onto a human’s mouth, then a baby Xenomorph breaks through its stomach and grows up extremely fast.


    This movie takes place in the year 2123, so needless to say, it’s set pretty far down the timeline. So before I go forward, I’ll go back a few years, and give you a look at earth in this universe.


    Blade Runner (1982)

    Blade Runner sees Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who is a special cop known as a “Blade Runner” tracking down and killing the last remaining Replicants on earth. It takes place in the year 2019.


    A Replicant is a type of machine created by a man named Eldon Tyrell. It is a machine that looks, walks, talks, and even has emotions just like humans. Making them more advanced than the Androids seen in Alien. The Replicants, like Androids, do have a dark side, and at some point had an evil outbreak and therefore were hunted by Blade Runners.


    Eldon Tyrell is also a technological mastermind. However, after creating something that could have destroyed humanity, it was clear that he met his downfall.


    And here is the Tyrell Corp logo:


    And since Ridley Scott directed both this and Alien, he decided to throw in a few Easter eggs, loosely connecting the two films together.

    The most notable is the exact same Purge screen seen in both a Spinner vehicle from Blade Runner, and the ship from Alien.


    But the big connection that Blade Runner has in this universe, lies within Prometheus.


    Prometheus (2012)

    Prometheus takes place in the year 2093 and sees a Weyland space exploration group on a different mission, before the events of Alien.

    In this movie, we see Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the supposed founder of Weyland Corp.


    He is really old for the majority of the film, but there were also viral videos released before the movie that showed a young Peter Weyland speaking in front of a crowd at a TED Talks event.


    Weyland talks about the creation of Androids, and just technological advancements in general. This viral video takes place in the year 2023, placing it 4 years after the events in Blade Runner. So it’s strange that Weyland would try to do the exact same thing Tyrell did only a few years ago.

    But there is one more thing that ties it all together, something Peter Weyland wrote, talking about his mentor for developing his ideas. This piece of writing can be seen in the Prometheus Blu-ray.


    Weyland speaks of “A mentor and long-departed competitor,” meaning the mentor died, which Eldon Tyrell did in Blade Runner. He speaks of their corporation being “like a God on top of a pyramid overlooking a city of angels.”

    Eldon Tyrell’s head quarters was a large pyramid-shaped building elevated high up in the sky, looking over Los Angeles, also known as the City of Angels, just as Weyland describes it.


    And lastly, Weyland says, “he chose to replicate the power of creation in an unoriginal way.” Remember what Tyrell’s creations were called: REPLICANTS. Boom! There it is. Eldon Tyrell was the mentor of Peter Weyland. They worked together, shared ideas, and when Tyrell died, all those ideas were left in the hands of Peter Weyland, to create Androids, and try to improve on Tyrell’s Replicants. Even though some would still turn out evil, as seen in Alien.

    Weyland goes on to further describe the Replicants, and it perfectly matches how the Replicants are in Blade Runner.

    There are also some theories that Vickers, Charlize Theron’s character in Prometheus, is a Replicant.


    Seeing how she is clearly not a human, but she can still show emotion, unlike the Android in the film: David (Michael Fassbender).


    So perhaps Tyrell’s masterwork isn’t totally extinct.

    Side note: The movie Soldier (1998), starring Kurt Russel is said to be a spiritual sequel to Blade Runner. There are many references to this, but the biggest one is that the Spinner vehicle from Blade Runner can be seen among the wreckage on the planet in this movie. Also, this movie is about yet another space exploration, which places it in this universe quite nicely.


    But now, back to Prometheus:

    Prometheus also shares a lot of connections to Alien. We see the origin of a Space Jockey.


    As well as its ship.

    Space Jockey ship crash

    We also see a Space Jockey-altered facehugger, and a Space Jockey-altered Xenomorph.


    But also an ancient carving of a Xenomorph Queen on the inside of the Space Jockey’s ship.


    Since I haven’t talked about the Xenomorph Queen yet, I guess the next movie to go to is:


    Aliens (1986)

    Aliens takes place in the year 2179. This movie sees Ellen Ripley, after being woken up from Chryogenic sleep after the events of Alien, go on another space exploration, and once again find Xenomorphs. Except this time, there are a lot more of them.


    And we once again learn that the Xenomorphs are extremely deadly.

    We are also introduced to an Android named Bishop (Lance Henriksen). The name of this character will be important later on, so don’t forget about him.


    And of course, as I mentioned earlier, the Xenomorph Queen is in this movie. She hatches all the eggs that become facehuggers, which become Xenomorphs. The Queen is even more deadly than the regular Xenomrophs, and she also appears in another movie later on.


    But for now, let’s take a look at the other type of alien in this franchise. This will take us to the earliest point in this timeline:


    Predator (1987)

    Predator takes place in 1987 and sees a commando of soldiers on a rescue mission in a Central American jungle.


    However, while they are there, they find themselves hunted by an Extraterrestrial warrior, referred to as the Predator.


    Predator is loaded with armor, weapons, thermal vision, and an invisibility cloaking mechanism.


    He hunts humans for sport and wants to challenge himself. Which is why he resists from killing any human who is unarmed.

    The Predator may even be deadlier than a Xenomorph, which is why what we see in the sequel may surprise you.


    Predator (1990)

    This one takes place in 1997, 10 years after the first Predator movie. This time the Predator is in New York, and is pretty much picking off any human he can.


    The big thing this movie shows us though, is the inside of the Predator’s ship. We see more Predators, therefore telling us that there are lots of these things and they are going all over the galaxy.tumblr_m713dnNHF31rwbiado10_1280

    But by far the most interesting thing in the Predator’s ship, is the trophy case.


    Let’s get a closer look at that.

    The Trophy Case

    Recognize anything? Yep, that’s a Xenomorph skull. A Predator has successfully hunted and killed a Xenomorph. This is the first time a link between these movies was ever shown on screen, and right after this movie came out, the big crossover movie was immediately put in development. And rightfully so.


    AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)

    This movie takes place in the year 2004, and sees a Weyland exploration group go investigate something in the depths of the Arctic.


    This team is lead by a man named Charles Bishop Weyland, played by Lance Henriksen. Remember the Android named Bishop? It was based on the look of Charles Bishop Weyland.


    So this would mean that Peter Weyland wasn’t actually the founder of Weyland Corp, but it was actually Charles Bishop Weyland. I guess this would mean Peter Weyland is probably his Grandson, considering how old Charles Weyland is in this movie.

    Anyways, the exploration team finds themselves in an underground pyramid, where a Xenomorph Queen has been sleeping for centuries. They awaken the Queen, facehuggers attack, and Xenomorphs are on the loose.

    AvP aliens

    Meanwhile, a Predator ship is also on its way to the pyramid, and an epic brawl begins between Xenomorphs, Predators, and helpless humans.


    And Charles Bishop Weyland is killed by a Predator. Just thought I’d throw that in there.


    We also learn about some ancient history that had gone on between the Predators and Xenomorphs. In Ancient Egypt, Predators would use humans as hosts for facehuggers, so they could create Xenomorphs, and hunt them for sport, as Predators do.


    It seems Predators have ruled the galaxy for a very long time.

    In the very last shot of the movie, back on the Predator’s ship, we see a Xenomorph burst out of a Predators chest, that had been attacked by a facehugger earlier in the movie. It appears to be some sort of Predator-Alien hybrid. Later known as the Predalien.


    Which brings us to the next movie, that takes place directly after AVP.


    Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

    In this movie, the Predator’s ship crash lands in a small town, and the Predalien escapes and wreaks havoc on the people of the town. Then, it is up to the Predator to kill it.


    More chaos ensues, and by the end, the Predator is successful, but lots of people died along the way.


    So at this point, we’ve seen a facehugger combine with a human, a Space Jockey, and a Predator.

    And there’s still another Predator story to go through.


    Predators (2010)

    This movie sees humans, randomly chosen, dropped on the Predator planet, for the Predators’ hunting season. As they go through lots of deadly situations, we get a lot of insight of what the Predator’s planet is like. We see all different types of Predators and the habitat they live in. It is very interesting to finally get a look at this part of the Alien/Predator universe.


    This movie, although not specified, probably takes place in the year 2010, 9 years before Blade Runner.

    Well, now that we’ve gotten through the Predator sequels, there are still two more Alien sequels to get through.


    Alien 3 (1992)

    This movie takes place in the year 2185. It sees Ellen Ripley finally return to Earth, after once again being frozen at the end of Aliens.


    This takes place roughly 90 years after Prometheus, which is the last we saw of Earth until now. Since then, Earth has become a very different place. There are large groups of monks living in dark buildings, and Earth has basically just become a dark place to live.

    This would explain why in Aliens, lots of people were living in a large spaceship, and trying to find a new planet to inhabit.

    Aliens (1986)
    —Aliens (1986)

    And considering how dark the world already looked in Blade Runner, its completely understandable that Earth would end up this way.

    Blade Runner (1982)
    —Blade Runner (1982)

    Anyway, a facehugger managed to make it to earth as well, and now there is a Xenomorph terrorizing humans on Earth for the first time since Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, that we know of.


    Side note: the character Morse (Danny Webb) is apparently rumored to be appearing in Prometheus 2. That would be interesting.


    At the end, Ellen Ripley dies, the Xenomorph is defeated, and it seems the Alien story is over.

    …But it’s not over yet!

    4 alien resurrection_

    Alien: Resurrection (1997)

    This one takes place roughly 200 years after Alien 3, in the year 2371. Ellen Ripley is revived as a powerful human/Alien hybrid clone who must continue her war against the Aliens.


    It’s a weird and confusing concept, and it doesn’t really bring anything new and/or insightful into this expansive universe, so there’s no need to say any more about it.

    But what about the future of Earth? What happens after the dark age shown in Alien 3?


    Firefly (2002) and Serenity (2005)

    Firefly and Serenity take place 500 years in the future. Which means they take place in the early 2500s, probably around 2506. This TV series and movie show an earth that has become a baron wasteland, but is also technologically advanced beyond belief. There is lots of space travel, lots of aliens, and it is an all out epic sci-fi adventure.


    This is the future of the Earth that we were first introduced to in Predator, and began its downfall in Blade Runner.

    But I know there’s one thing you’re still waiting for: evidence. Evidence that proves Firefly and Serenity are part of the Alien/Predator universe. Well, that’s easy. The evidence lies in the very first episode of Firefly.


    Inside one of the vehicles in the pilot episode, on the screen in the vehicle, a very recognizable logo can be seen.


    Yep, right at the top of the screen is the Weyland-Yutani Corp logo. After all these dark years on earth, Weyland’s company has continued to live on in the technology industry. This very clear logo is what links Firefly and Serenity to the Alien/Predator universe.

    Well, that’s the end of it. Here is a full continuity timeline of the films on this list:
    ◾Predator – 1987
    ◾Predator 2 – 1997
    ◾AVP: Alien vs. Predator – 2004
    ◾Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem – 2004
    ◾Predators – 2010
    ◾Blade Runner – 2019
    ◾Soldier – Some time after 2019
    ◾Prometheus – 2093
    ◾Alien – 2122
    ◾Aliens – 2179
    ◾Alien 3 – 2185
    ◾Alien: Resurrection – 2371
    ◾Firefly – 2506
    ◾Serenity – Some time after 2506

    There are of course, other movies of this universe currently in development. There’s a new Predator movie directed by Shane Black, Prometheus 2, currently titled “Paradise”, and a Blade Runner sequel.

    I encourage you to go watch all these movies in order of continuity. It’s a lot of fun. And if you haven’t seen any of the movies on here, then go watch them!


  16. Lebeau,

    I can remember as a child skipping class and going to see 2001 A Space Odessy. I had read the book and hoped the film would explain the meaning of life to me. I was mesmerized by the film. I didn’t understand a single thing that was going on but I knew from the quality of the production that it was an important film.

    Later, I ditched work and went to see Alien with my foreman one afternoon. We sat there transfixed feeling the terror of facing an unknown enemy with the certainty that everyone was gonna die. I knew it was an important film.

    I took my wife to see Aliens. She spent most of the time with her face buried in her hands peeking out between her fingers. She was exhausted by the end of the movie. Again it was clear it was an important movie.

    I took my nephew to see Alien 3, my wife wouldn’t go. It was dark, miserable and contrived. Prison planet with religious felons….Really? The little girl and the soilder killed off in the Space Battleship. What happened to my friends? It didn’t match the last fight scene in the Aliens movie. It was too much of a suspension of disbelief. Ripley wakes up to a planet full of MALE felons. She is the only woman on the planet, and there is no riot? Ripley is infected with Queen alien without her knowledge? Somehow evil corporation is able to continue evil plots to bring an alien home..Really. I walked out of the movie knowing it was “average”. It was so obviously contrived as to be made for the money, not for the fans. But it could have been great if they had stuck to a good, believable story. They just couldn’t get that truck started.

    Sometimes I think studio executives take stupid pills….

    Alien 4 I saw with my father just days before he died. My opinion will be forever biased in rememberance because it was the last quality time I spent with him. His comment was stupid silly movie, but I liked it. It was far better than alien 3, but nowhere near 1 or 2. A little better than average I guess.

    The two alien v predator movies I can’t tell apart and remind me of movies made for the SyFi channel.

    And then I took my son to see Prometheus. The great Ridley Scott masterpiece of, of, offfffff, disappointment. I mean utter devastation. I mean driving two hours to see it on the special super duper wide screen, and wanting to slash my wrists and die right there on the theater floor in complete betrayal. The movie operates on two levels: one being a beautiful production that is wonderful and fun to watch. It is superficial, like eating gummy bears. They start off sweet and tasty, next it’s eat them faster and faster, and finally when the last one is gone my hands are sticky and I have a belly ache. And I wonder, why did I eat those things?

    But on a professional level….oh boy….from the first scenes. Fly through space because of cave drawings? Spaceman drinks poison and disintegrates in a river? Did you look at the crew? One trillion dollars to get a rag tag bunch of fuck ups to fly through space to find God? Apparently the crew never trained together and only met on the ship? Fly one billion miles through space to find God, and they can’t even take 1/2 a day to survey the situation before the whole crew runs to the pyramids. Can’t wast daylight I guess. Oh, and let’s smoke pot inside the space suit….FIRED….And fire all the people who selected this guy to go on my mission to meet..God…Stoned…. Oh, oh, and let’s take off our helmets to breath the fresh alien air. Our super duper air detectors are the best money can buy, it’s safe, no problem except, they missed the giant fucking space worm, and the organic goo that is all over the place. Another employee fired, and now suing the detector manufacturer. Oh, oh oh. Let’s play with the alien snake coming out of the black gooooooo………ahhhh. It’s ok little buddy, I just want to be your friend?? I’m gonna take you back to the ship and we can be friends. Stoned friends should let stupid friends play with ALIENS….One trillion dollars for this? I guess inflation has devalued One Trillion Dollars to a buck fifty, and minimum wages…kinda like the bald headed Mike Myers blackmailing the world for ONE MILLION DOLLARS!!! Oh, oh oh, noooo, the guy in charge is drinking on the fucking job. Drinking on the job,,,,and boning the other person in charge???? FIRED FIRED, AND FIRED. the human resources people are fired toooo for like missing this on their psycometric evaluations?? And and the robot putting worms in the guy’s booze.. Asimov’s law of robots prohibits a robot from harming a human…I guess the nasty old man changed those laws designed to protect human kind from being enslaved by self aware robots…..T2 people. Oh, oh the Engineer kills the humans. After waking up after 10,000 years in hyper sleep, he is so refreshed that he kills strangers for no apparent reason…Really. Oh,oh oh, the lady with the Alien baby……..has to reprogram medical bay to treat a woman??? This was set up only for a man??? I guess this miserable old screw looking for God only wanted it for him and would not share with a girl…but it’s out there for everyone to see…Human Resources Fail, again.. Really? Oh oh, the Captain sleeps with the boss’s daughter? FIRED, FIRED, AND FIRED. “10 minutes, my quarters….”

    By now my blood is metaphorically pooling on the floor under my chair. My eyes are transfixed to the screen..consciousness slipping away. A war between the beautiful screen play and the disregard for my professional training. The cognitive dissonance was threatening my mental health.

    Oh, oh and oh,,,,,the whole freakin planet is an ammo dump with thousands of space ships there and and where is everybody?? That stuff doesn’t sit there very long without someone,,like stealing it for their fight for freedom on LV who the fuck knows…? Ohh, before the last of my blood drainssss….The big fucking spaceship is knocked down by the little space ship and hits the ground. I guess alien technology is so strong the ship doesn’t crush on impact, but, but, butttt, the ground would act like mud and give way under the weight and force of the impact. Rolling, really? And the little girl is saved by the rock? Compared to the ship it is a pebble…but best…..the ships are flying away from their launch point…but the huge ship somehow turns around and comes back to the launch point just in time to crush Charlie. I guess momentum doesn’t apply to alien worlds.

    And through all this the Engineer finds the lady to exact revenge…Super advanced civilization acting kinda like us….maybe not so advanced…WTH Lebeau, why not use a ray gun to take out the lady, but he likes it up close and personal. Maybe he was the mentally challenged Space Engineer?

    I gotta stop, too much blood loss

    Apologists will refer to the director’s cut for explanations, or the extended scene DVDs. Or some interview with the director for explanations, much the same as a peer reviewed paper will cite sources. But where the sources are part of the page on a paper, they are missing on the screen. The movie must be self supporting, supplying all the back information to the viewer. How the hell do we know what’s going on?? When this information is absent from the screen, then the movie suffers. It is a cop out. It is lazy. It is unprofessional unbecoming to a talented man like Sir Scott.

    In my opinion, this movie is shit. Very smooth and creamy shit, but shit all the same. I didn’t need Cliff Notes in Alien 1,2,3 or 4 to understand the movie, and Stanly Kubrick’s 2001 was above my pay grade. But Prometius is a cheat, a swindle, a betrayal of trust to the loyal fans of 30 years or more. But it is a beautiful movie.

    I hear the sirens, the ambulance is here. I feel the psycotropic drugs flowing through my veins. Life is once again good, the bad things are far away, like two hours away on that super duper big screen!

    Ah Lebeau, I got this weird pain in my chest….

    Brad Deal

    Liked by 1 person

  17. When Good Films Go Bad: The Alien Franchise:

    Horror from the Stars continues with probably the most obvious entry of the list. While there are of course the classic questions like Star Wars or Star Trek; Kirk or Picard; and Tolkein or Martin (for the record my answer is all of the above), Alien or Aliens is another pretty good one as it can help gauge pretty well what kind of films a person will go for (subtle versus action, though don’t think I’m not giving Aliens its due). Either way the franchise got one thing right: phallic monsters are freaky!


  18. Alien franchise: ranking the movies in order of quality:

    Alien and Aliens are classics. But how do the other sequels, prequel and spin-offs compare? We try to rank them in descending order…


  19. Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection: given a raw deal?

    Is the recent hint that the events of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection are to be overlooked a little too drastic?

    This article contains spoilers for Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection.

    If there’s one thing that is, for me, an unqualified triumph in Alien 3, it’s Elliot Goldenthal’s score. With its cacophonous drums and heart-rending strings, it soared where the film itself faltered.

    But as I’ve argued many, many times on these pages, Alien 3 is itself a flawed masterpiece. Sure, it stepped roughly all over the story established in Aliens, but there were plans to kill off Newt and Hicks before first-time director David Fincher even came aboard.

    Saddled with a film without an adequately finished script, an interfering studio and a looming release date, Fincher remained true to the gloomy vision laid out for him: Sigourney Weaver wanted the sequel to be her last, and so her character Ellen Ripley’s story would end here, in a final confrontation with her nemesis, the alien.

    The result is one of the most unusual sequels ever to emerge from Hollywood: a gothic horror-drama about lost loved ones, alienation and death. The action sequences were muddled, but some of the performances were magnificent: Charles Dance lends a wonderful air of regret to his digraced physician, Clemens, and Charles S Dutton is robust and charismatic as the prison planet’s religious leader. Towering above them all was Weaver herself: this beaten-down, weary yet defiant incarnation of Ripley is perhaps the most rounded and empathetic of them all.

    Ripley’s sacrificial dive into a burning furnace, infant alien queen clutched to her chest, seemed like a downbeat yet heroic end to her story – the alien may have chased her half-way across the universe, but she fought it to the bitter end.

    Except it wasn’t the end, of course. Ripley was raised from the dead 200 years later, now a human-alien hybrid, and the resulting film, 1997’s Alien: Resurrection, was an awkward, ungainly beast. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Resurrection appeared to suffer precisely none of the calamitous problems of Alien 3’s production – but then again, it also lacked that film’s mercilessly dark bite. Perhaps it was the production’s shift in location – Resurrection was the first film in the Alien franchise to be shot outside the UK – or maybe it was because of Jeunet’s quirky sensibility, but the dank, chilly atmosphere of the previous three films was conspicuously absent.

    After a splashy, violent rematch with escaped aliens aboard the USM Auriga, Ripley found herself orbiting Earth with Winona Ryder’s android by Resurrection’s end. The longsuffering heroine had almost made it home, yet the franchise itself seemed to be further adrift than ever.

    The 18 years since have seen the release of two Alien Vs Predator spin-offs, and the much-anticipated prequel, Prometheus. But for years, there was no discussion at all about continuing the resurrected Ripley’s story.

    We now know that Neill Blomkamp’s set to make a fifth Alien film, with Sigourney Weaver reprising her role as Ripley. But Blomkamp’s movie won’t, it seems, take place after Resurrection, but 1986’s Aliens; Blomkamp has hinted in interviews with Sky and The Guardian that his sequel will overlook the events of the two subsequent films (although he has added a clarification to that, too).

    This certainly makes sense of the crowd-pleasing concept art which appeared earlier this year, which showed Ripley reunited with Hicks, his face still scarred from the conclusion of Aliens. It was the first hint of what Blomkamp was up to: Hicks was, after all, killed at the start of Alien 3.

    If all this proves to be true, it’s a move welcomed by many Alien fans on the web, since it rights the course of a franchise which many felt went on the wrong trajectory with Alien 3. But at the same time, I can’t help wondering whether the decision to ignore two films’ worth of story is a little too drastic; for those of us with a box set sitting on our shelves, it means that a large percentage of the franchise is about to be rendered non-canon.

    While ignoring the two sequels doesn’t erase them from cinematic history forever, it does seem a bit of a shame to give them such short shrift, too. For all its flaws, Alien 3 has lots to recommend it, as outlined above. Even Alien: Resurrection, full of ill-advised comedy though it was, had some great special effects. Do we really need to turn our backs on all that collective effort just so the Alien franchise can continue?

    And yet, having written all this, I can’t help but see the promise in the idea. As a matter of fact, I began writing this as a lament for the impending loss of Alien 3 and Resurrection from the Alien universe, but the more I think about it, the more I can see the wisdom in picking up from where Aliens left off.

    I can imagine Alien 5 picking up several years after the events of Aliens. Ripley, Hicks and Newt have been awoken from cryosleep, perhaps due to a malfunction, but the Sulacco has drifted in unknown space for decades. Perhaps picked up by a passing vessel, the trio are drawn into a new fight with the aliens – and, of course, the Weyland Yutani Corporation.

    This scenario would certainly solve the problem of recasting Newt actress Carrie Henn: they can simply replace her with an older actress. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a 20-something Newt fighting aliens alongside her now much older adoptive parents? If this happened, future Alien sequels could even carry on with Newt as the new protagonist. (Where’s Bishop in all this? If Lance Henriksen doesn’t want to return, I guess he can just stay in cryosleep.)

    Whatever Alien 5 brings, it doesn’t necessarily even matter whether it renders two of its predecessors non-canon or not. For those who’ve long despised Alien 3 – even more so than I dislike Alien: Resurrection, for the most part – the revision will be a new chance to conclude Ripley’s story.

    For those of us who liked Alien 3 (and Resurrection) we’ll always have them on our shelves, and we can continue to watch and enjoy them, flaws and all.


  20. Should Alien 5 be the “true sequel” to Aliens?

    It’s official: 20th Century Fox is making yet another sequel to Alien, 18 long years after the last one (not counting, of course, various prequels and crossovers). Reportedly, attached writer-director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) tried unsuccessfully to get the project off the ground for a while, until he posted some of the concept artwork to Instagram. The designs provoked a huge reaction on social media, one thing led to another, and now the studio is moving forward with the film.

    Obviously, what got everyone so excited was a couple of illustrations depicting Sigourney Weaver as an older Ellen Ripley, taking up arms next to Michael Biehn as an older Corporal Dwayne Hicks (his face scarred from being hit with alien acid blood in Aliens). Weaver has all but confirmed she’s coming back to play Ripley for a fifth time, and Biehn has allegedly been contacted about reprising his role of Hicks (but this scoop comes from a random Redittor, so take with the requisite dose of salt).

    But mixed in with the excitement is a huge amount of disconnect, because those who saw Alien 3 will recall it opened with—spoilers for a 23-year-old film!—the death of Hicks (clumsily wedged in between opening titles, no less) and ended with the death of Ripley, as she threw herself into a giant furnace to kill the Alien Queen gestating inside her.

    Alien 3 was (and still is) considered a major disappointment, coming as it did after two Alien films that became near-instant classics. The film was saddled with an unfinished script, an unprecedented amount of studio interference, and a director named David Fincher (who’s since said of the film that “no one hates it more than me”) with nothing under his belt but Madonna videos. Ultimately, the third entry in the saga was little more than a dull and downbeat retread of the first film, and the casual way in which it offed characters who had done so much to survive the previous movie (not only Hicks, but also Newt and Bishop) was an added poke in the eye for Aliens fans.

    So when these new concept images hit the internet, it inspired hope that Blomkamp’s sequel would be the Alien 3 everyone wanted back in the ‘90s. With Ripley and Hicks alive and well and ready to kick Xenomorph ass despite looking a decade or two older, the immediate assumption was that Blomkamp would wipe the slate clean: His film would surely have to ignore Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection and be the “true sequel” to Aliens. This seemed to be confirmed when Blomkamp spoke about it in an interview during the press tour for his latest film Chappie.
    Blomkamp: I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Aliens. So it’s: Alien, Aliens, this movie.

    Understandably, everyone figured he’d be pulling a Superman Returns on the Alien franchise by pretending the series’ derided third and fourth installments never existed.

    His comments sparked a lot of controversy, and Blomkamp has since walked them back, insisting he’s not planning to “undo” any previous film. I’m going to guess the Alien 3 fans got to him; they may not be great in number, but they can be extremely… vocal about their love for the film, and Fincher’s eventual status as an A-list director has only inspired them to defend it that much more loudly. (But then again, I’m pretty sure every sci-fi film that was a commercial or critical failure in its original release gets declared a “misunderstood masterpiece” sooner or later.)

    But assuming Blomkamp wasn’t simply trying to stanch the flow of angry tweets, how can his film possibly coexist with Alien 3 and Resurrection? How can Ripley be alive years after she clearly and unequivocally died on camera? And not only did we see her die in Alien 3, but the whole premise of Resurrection was built around cloning Ripley with the Alien Queen still growing inside of her. How can the Alien series possibly remain internally consistent if Blomkamp’s sequel gets made?

    I strongly suspect that at this stage of development, Blomkamp himself has no idea. So in the interests of helping him make up his mind, I now present a few compelling arguments both for keeping Alien 3 and Resurrection in the official Alien continuity, and for ignoring them completely.

    The case for ignoring Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection

    For the vast majority of fans, this argument begins and ends with “they sucked”. Why should all creative decisions in the Alien franchise from now until the end of time be straightjacketed by two lackluster movies, both of which have been largely disowned by their creators? Why should a new writer stifle his creative freedom to preserve the sanctity and validity of two (at best) mediocre movies? If the choice is between bringing back Ripley and Hicks and tossing out a couple of movies few people liked, I think the vast majority of fans would gladly throw Alien 3 in the trash.

    And let’s face it, any attempt to try to reconcile an older Ripley and Hicks with their apparent “deaths” in Alien 3 is most likely going to be really stupid. The Aliens: Colonial Marines video game (declared “canon” at the time of release by Fox, presumably not so much anymore) suggests Hicks was never aboard the escape pod that crash landed on the prison planet in Alien 3. According to the game, the dead guy we thought was Hicks was really an LV-426 colonist who awakened Hicks from hypersleep, and then somehow fell into his cryo chamber just before the Sulaco’s escape pod ejected. This bit of retconning was greeted with about as much enthusiasm as you’d expect. Now just imagine a scene like this actually happening in the movie.

    Other lame possibilities floated by fans include Ripley and Hicks being androids built by Weyland-Yutani, or Ripley and Hicks being clones, both concepts which would be massive copouts (hell, Resurrection itself already came off as a copout for the same reason). And we can’t forget the dodgiest fanon explanation currently bouncing around the net: the latter two films are merely Ripley’s lengthy, detailed bad dream while in hypersleep. Yes, people are seriously suggesting this. Are we trying to bring back Corporal Hicks or Bobby Ewing?

    What’s really scary is I know exactly how they could do it. If the filmmakers decide that Alien 3 and Resurrection actually “happened”, all they have to do is adopt the same method of restarting franchises that’s very much in vogue these days, thanks to the Star Trek reboot, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the upcoming Terminator film: Have a character travel into the past, going from the timeframe of Resurrection to just after Aliens to stop whatever disaster befell the Sulaco, causing the creation of an alternate parallel timeline that splits off in a totally different direction from Alien 3.

    I’m about 80% positive that’s what they’ll do, but believe me, I really and truly do not want to be right about this. When I think about time travel hijinks and headache-inducing paradoxes and reset buttons being introduced into the Alien universe, the “it was all a dream” explanation suddenly starts looking pretty reasonable.

    In that case, they’d be much better off simply disregarding the latter two films, especially since there’s already precedent in the Alien series for disregarding movies. The Aliens vs. Predator films are technically part of this franchise, but they were basically ignored by the Alien prequel Prometheus, which offers up a different origin for the Xenomorphs, and introduces a totally different founder of Weyland Industries: Prometheus has Peter Weyland, while AvP has Charles Bishop Weyland, who stupidly looks exactly like his distant descendant from Alien 3, Michael Weyland (though, I’m sure with a heavy dose of fan-wankery, someone can make it all fit together).

    Not only that, there are plenty of Alien tie-in novels and Alien video games and Alien comic books that everyone is perfectly comfortable in ignoring. I know that with most franchises, the rule of “if it happens onscreen, it’s canon” is taken as gospel, but when you think about it, isn’t that sort of an arbitrary line? Aren’t the video games “onscreen”, after all? If people can forget Colonial Marines existed—and it would seem most of the people who played it already have—then why not a movie or two?

    The case for keeping Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection

    If you liked either of these movies, it makes sense to not want to see them de-canonized and viewed as lesser entries (even though that’s not what “canon” means—canon is really just whatever the current owner of the property says is canon). But even if you’re like me and you found these movies pointless, to simply say they never happened just feels lazy on a fundamental level. With the amount of time and money being invested in the new sequel, you’d think the very least they could do is hire a screenwriter who can come up with a decent story that works within the confines of what came before.

    I know what you’re thinking: Hey, you just said any attempt to bring back Ripley and Hicks after their onscreen deaths would be really stupid! Well… that’s exactly right. That’s why any decent story that continues the Alien series should probably not include Ripley or Hicks. Frankly, it’s probably for the best to finally let Ripley go.

    Remember, they already had two chances to give Ripley’s story a proper ending, and they failed on both counts. And it’s unclear what’s inspiring all this confidence that they’ll get it right this time. Is it the presence of Blomkamp? Because while District 9 was a great film, Elysium was a preachy bore, and Chappie doesn’t look much more promising with its current 31% Rotten Tomatoes score.

    And is a Ripley-centric film really all this franchise has to offer? If they were making a straightforward reboot or remake of the original Alien, everyone would be freaking out, bemoaning the death of originality in cinema, and complaining that Hollywood is out of ideas. And yet, for some reason, “Ripley fights aliens for the fifth time” is treated as a brilliant concept that absolutely needs to happen.

    And while there may be a great deal of bitterness over Newt and Hicks being killed off in Alien 3, their deaths don’t literally make Aliens a worse film in retrospect. Trust me, the movie still holds up just fine. Yes, Hicks and Newt do die senselessly, but come on, it’s an Alien movie; the first film is nothing but people dying senselessly.

    So overall, I don’t think we need another “true sequel” to Aliens. It would be far more interesting if Blomkamp made a film focusing on other characters within the Alien universe. Sort of like Prometheus, only without all the dumb stuff. But of course we’re getting another movie with Ripley, because Fox knows that whatever Prometheus grossed at the box office, a “true sequel” to Aliens starring Weaver and Biehn will put those numbers to shame.

    At this point, I feel the same way about the Alien franchise that I feel about the Terminator franchise: the first film was an unexpected classic, the second film beat the odds and became just as highly regarded as the original, and now the owners of the property are on a hopeless, embarrassing quest to get lightning to strike for a third, fourth, and now a fifth time. If there were never another Alien (or Terminator) film, I’d be totally okay with that.

    So ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. Keep Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection in continuity, or ignore them completely. Whichever approach wins, we lose.


  21. 10 Franchises That Killed Off The Wrong Person

    Newt And Hicks In Alien 3

    Why they shouldn’t have died: This one is fiercely debated throughout movie fandom even now. David Fincher’s directorial debut was not met with the same fervent anticipation as his later work was, with studio interference sullying the experience for the filmmaker himself and many fans turned off by the altogether more dark, gritty and depressing tone he took for Alien 3.

    Which was there right from the off, as Newt and Hicks – two of the survivors of the last film, along with Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley – were killed off in the first ten minutes, revealed to have passed away whilst in hypersleep. Controversial and, quite possibly, about to be retconned.

    Who should’ve died: Is it any more controversial to suggest that Ripley should’ve been the one to be killed off? The character is one of the best and most influential in cinema, an early example of a strong female lead. But she got killed off at the end of Alien 3 anyway, and Alien Resurrection sucked. So imagine if this film was about Newt becoming the “new” Ripley, kick starting a whole new generation.


  22. Retrospective / Review: ALIENS (1986)

    To gain access to reviews and commentaries early you can donate through Patreon!


  23. James Cameron looks back on making Aliens, 30 years on


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