Alien Franchise Movies: Recap and Breakdown **** Contains Spoilers ****
The Alien Franchise and I have had an ongoing love affair since I saw the first, (I can’t even remember that far back) of the series, released in 1979, six years after my birth. I imagine I was still in my teens, probably viewing it ten years after its release and the feeling that came over me was that I was about to see something different and way ahead of it’s time. The spaceship, Ridley’s voice, Tom Skerritt as Captain, hell even the name of the ship, Nostromo; lended to a sensation of something mysterious and novel. They made you feel like you were on an exploration with the crew into something modern and exciting and maybe a little bit creepy.
Recap & Breakdown:
Alien – Ship – Nostromo – a crew member of 7 are on a return voyage to earth. They are in stasis and are awakened by the ship when they receive what appears to be a distress call from a nearby planet. Charged with investigation of such matters the newly awakened crew sets out on this journey and land on the planet. Their ship sustains damage after the landing so the crew splits, a few repair the ship while the others investigate the distress call. They come upon an abandoned, neglected space ship and discover some large, dead alien creature inside, whose insides seem to have exploded. Eeeeew! Lieutenant Ripley discovers the message was not a distress call but a warning. The crew discovers these huge pod like eggs, one opens, some naked, albino looking huge squid/scorpion thing pops out and attaches itself to the face of the captain. Oh joy. The crew drag him back to the ship despite quarantine rules against this sort of thing and mayhem and foolishness result. In the end, it is only Ripley who cleverly manages to escape the Alien’s clutches after a tough mudda of a fight. She places herself in stasis and sets the ship to return to earth before signing off. Ominous but we love the story, love the struggle, fall in love with our young, exceptionally capable heroine – and Sigourney Weaver single-handedly changes the picture of what we might consider sexy – we trade in curvy and bubbly, for flat as a board, boxy yet intelligent, out goes the blond and in, a rather stringy perm of sorts. Who knew?
Aliens – (My personal favorite) – Ellen Ripley returns to Earth – only 57 years later. Everyone she knows is six feet under including her daughter. The hits keep on coming as the company doesn’t believe a single word of her Alien encounter, and shelves her flight license. She still retains a job at the company but through demotion; essentially utilizing an exosuit cargo loader to move shit from one place to another – similar to an Ikea Warehouse Employee (no offense to Ikea employees but I’m quite sure no one retains a license to fly and is loading that warehouse. The descriptive is to illustrate Ripley’s summit to sea-level plummet. The planet where Ripley encountered the Alien in the first movie, now 57 years later, is home to a human colony, with whom suddenly the company loses contact. Their decision after considering Ripley’s story for a few minutes? - Send in the marines! Ripley decides to join them as she is the only one who has any experience with the creatures and could prove a valuable asset. They go. They land. Chaos ensues. There’s a whole lot of screaming, chasing, blood, and carnage as the marines are getting whacked one by one. This flick gives us the entire Alien family album as we are privy to pods, face suckers, short, stout soldiers, and last but certainly not least, the queen. We see a lot and it’s scary and riveting all at once. The most spellbinding moments of this particular flick are between Ripley and Newt (a young female child of about 9) the only survivor of the colony! Ripley transforms into a mother tigress and Newt is no slouch either. She’s fast, tough, smart and obedient. In the end, Ripley, a synthetic named Bishop, Newt and Hicks are the only survivors to escape alive but not before they blow up the planet. Whew! – We assume all is well.
Alien 3 – Well ya know what they say about assumptions! Ripley, Newt and Hicks are in stasis aboard the Sulaco and the synthetic Bishop is “put away" in a compartment while the ship is heading for Earth presumably. Again. A fire erupts on board, the ship automatically ejects the human contained pods and we can see that one of the humans has a face-hugger attached to, well, their face. They all crash land on a penal colony inhabited by rapists and murderers called Fiorina 161. Hicks and Newt die prior to landing. Only Ripley (predictably) remains alive. She is paranoid that the fire on-board the Sulaco might have been triggered by an Alien presence so she has the doctor on-board the colony run an autopsy on Newt. Nothing is found. Fast forward to screaming, blood, terror, people dying. Yes, you guessed it, an Alien found its way over to this prison on the ass end of space.
More screaming, crying, violence until the creature finds Ripley and oddly doesn’t end her. After running a self scan Ripley understands why. Why? Oh yeah, she’s carrying a queen in her little tummy. The prisoners who’ve come to respect tough as nails Ripley, who by the by, looks simply delectable in her freshly shorned do, decide they’re not gonna wait around and be picked off one by one, but trap the bloody thing and liquefy it with the only weapon they have at their disposal, the facility, which is a foundry. Fast forward past more screaming, death by creature and such and in the end, as the company finds Ripley and lie about the fact that they’d prefer to remove and destroy the alien within her body rather than keep, study and utilize it as a weapon, she allows herself to fall into the molten liquid just as the alien rips through her body. Pure Poetic Savagery.
Alien Resurrection – Now here’s where it gets dicey. I guess the powers that be recognize the fact that our girl Ripley is the big draw but she’s been liquefied with her nemesis in the previous flick. So what’s a company to do? Flash forward 200 years and they figure out a way to clone her using blood samples prior to her demise. We can swallow that – I mean she worked and lived in a very high tech all encompassing, seemingly militarized installation. By George, there’s still life in the old girl yet! My sailor was in the Navy for four years and they’ve got all of his specs down to his draw size. They throw a queen bug’s DNA into the mix and after a few bad eggs they come up with a preggars Ripley. The company, not known for their foresight, clone a few of the bigger, upright standing buggers who apparently are much smarter than the scientists that control their prison environment and conspire through sacrificial means, a rather clever escape. So you’ve got a ship, loose Aliens, a clone part Ripley, part Alien and a bunch of mercs, scientists and military personnel on-board. Cue the screaming, running and slaughter. End game, a few survivors including the clone are set to land on Earth, Paris specifically which appears to be in a ruined state of affairs. This could be after the virus gave the apes power and wiped out most of the humans but I only hazard at a guess. Oh lamentation!
Prometheus – Translation of that very word is Greek mythology in origin, the God who stole fire from Mount Olympus and bestowed the gift to humankind and coincidentally is the name of the spaceship. This flick is the prequel to the entire Alien franchise and since quite frankly it’s been boring us to death to go into the future after the first three films, we’ve learned more recently from Bond and Star Wars that two steps back can create a fresh appeal and draw in an entirely new audience! The year is 2089, archeologists discover a star map in the wee hills o’ Scotland that’s a match to other cultures around the world and come to a conclusion that before humans there existed “engineers” who generously left us a path in which to contact them through these strange hieroglyphics. A crew of sorts travel in stasis on a star-ship voyage in search of the engineers. It’s Star Lord man. Well not precisely! The crew lands four years later and is reminded by a very stern faced Theron that their mission is to find the engineers only. Contact is foreboden until Vickers/Theron asses and determines contact should be made. A wee bit power drunk aren’t we lassie? Quite. The crew dons their impressive suits and sets out to explore. They find large, domain like structures, statues and a dead engineer concluding that the species they sought are indeed extinct. Oh bugger.
The android, played adeptly by Michael Fassbender takes a sample of some dark, inky liquid and passes it to an unsuspecting and very handsome archeologist who looks uncannily similar to Tom Hardy. Cheeky bastard. And then things take a tragic U-turn. The crew that once seemed so professional and competent suddenly become overwhelmed by their insatiable curiosity, so much so that they seem to abandon all notions of common sense, let alone what one might assume would be extensive training. Again, I feel like the underestimated audience, watching a commercial where the barely legal, trim model who had two sushi bites for dinner is trying to convince me I too can achieve her flawless figure. Ya don’t say? However I’m still basking in the afterglow of a new environment, new characters and a new story line and thus, hang on. Shortly thereafter, predictable tragedy ensues, cue the music, horror, screaming and running. Oh joy, we’re back to the same old formula again. Do change my diapers mummy! The end however gave me some hope to a better tomorrow as my favorite dragon tattoo survives with a little help from the IA and journeys beyond tomorrow in the hopes of finding the only answer that I forgot to care about, the why. I still liked the flick because it lended another dimension into the Alien saga but all too quickly it became old hat and fell short of my (not expectations, bet you thought I was gonna say that – but no, my hopes.) Even after this film I remained eternally optimistic.
Alien: Covenant – And then I saw this flick. All hopes were dashed at the onset of this onscreen tragedy, though I doubt this is what the Greeks had in mind. 11 years after Prometheus (which was the name of the exploratory ship), Covenant (this particular colonist ship) sets off to a remote planet to begin colonization. The ship runs into malfunctions, deaths occur, and while the crew is pondering options they receive a radio transmission for a nearby habitable planet. They set off to investigate the transmission in a smaller ship while the larger ship remains circling in space above. This is where all rationality, training and intelligent logic cease. They land on a strange planet and then proceed to behave as if they’re on earth with no precautionary behavior whatsoever. Beyond this, a few murders ensue by the Aliens through incubation and such (you know the drill) and then the subplot begins. We discover that the surviving Prometheus crew of two, crashed on this very planet; somehow the synthetic manages to survive. The planet was indeed home to the engineers, who are all extinct now because 11 years ago when David and Elizabeth Shaw managed to land, with the black liquid, they unleashed it upon the “engineers” essentially annihilating them.
David, unbeknown to the Covenant crew, has long been experimenting with the black liquid and creating his own Alien life, (the beings that we’ve seen in each film aside from this one.) The conversations between the new A.I. (Walter) that traveled with the Covenant crew, and the previous model A.I., David that was with Dr. Shaw on Prometheus are the crux and heart of this film and have merit. They define, compare, contrast and examine the creator and created theories in polar opposition. This is the crown jewel of this flick. The rest is too much of the same; a crew that seems to be largely made up of hodgepodge, ill trained, ill suited, illogical human beings that we’re supposed to believe have some tactical and scientific knowledge. Oh heavens, will somebody please bring back Drake and Vasquez!!!! What I wanted was hopefully what I will receive in the next one. I want to understand how the company was involved in this whole “aliens as a weapon” conspiracy from the onset of the colonization that begins with the ship Covenant.
Wrapping this up: as disappointed as I have been about a product whose genesis was brilliant, uncharted sci-fi and through the years, mutated into slaughterhouse horror, there's no question that I will keep watching whatever Ridley decides to gift us. There's ultimately more bite size brilliance in the morsels of his movies than others in their entirety. The fans of his concept are ride or die so keep em' coming, but beware of the consequences, as I perused this one from my couch!