Monthly here at horror bound I do a deep dive on a famous horror franchise and provide analysis and insight, but this month I am going to do things a bit different as I cover the Alien franchise. Now, I’m a horror fan so part of the thrill of writing these articles is rewatching the films so they are fresh in my mind to provide the best quality of article. Typically, as I march through a series I make a ranking and take some general notes so I can get a throughline on the whole series. I started to do that with this series and it was very clear that the original Alien from 1979 is the #1 film in the series and it was also very clear that the only decipherable throughline was there were a bunch of writers and directors taking Ridley Scott’s orignal concept and fucking it up completely.
Honestly, what can be said about the original Alien that hasn't been said already? It's not only a horror classic but cinema legend. Ground breaking and unique, Alien is a film far ahead of its time with a story and special effects that to this day are still amazing. Not much can be said, but I’ll take a hot take on this film. THE ALIEN IS NOT THE VILLAIN.
Sure, the Xenomorph is the thing lurking around the ship fucking people up but the true villain is the robot. The crew wants to kill the damned thing but it’s Ash, that damned evil android, artificial intelligence, who, ordered by the mysterious corporation, prevents the crew from carrying out the task to bring the beast home to be used as a weapon. Without the conflict with Ash the android the 2nd and 3rd act of the film lose a bit of their urgency. If the crew could have just called for help they would have, but they can't because of the robot. This is the true villain of Alien, this is the true message Ridley Scott was trying to convey and this is where every other director missed the mark and pissed Ridley Scott off.
Aliens is the the 1986 sequel (they pluralized it how cool) directed by James Cameron and follows our heroine Ellen Ripley who has awaken from a 57 year cryo sleep and is shipped to a forgein outpost on exomoon LV-426, the site of the original crashed alien ship, to find out why a group of colonists have been radio silent and to prove the Xenomorphs exists to redeem herself to the corporation. Of course when she and the crew of roughneck space marines arrive they find the human population missing, having been overrun by a huge population of Xenomorphs.
Just need to take a moment and mention something about James Cameron. He has the unique ability to express “machismo” in film. When the marines awaken from cryo sleep they immediately start smoking cigars, doing pull ups and saying macho shit. The bar scene in Terminator 2 is the dudeliest dudes of all times, plus John Connor riding around LA on a dirt bike, robbing ATMs is fairly macho. Hell, even Sarah Connor, sitting in her jail cell, doing pull-ups and smoking cigarettes waiting, is machismo supreme. Then there’s Avatar, which uses the same set and props as Aliens by the way, has the macho marine corps sergeant introduced while doing bench presses. Not to mention the casting of Billy Zane in Titanic!
Anywho, Ripley and the red shirts find a little girl and a queen Xenomorph, “Get Away from her you bitch!” then the robot saves the day and they push the alien out of the airlock. Which is apparently the only way to kill a Xenomorph.
Meanwhile, at Ridley Scott’s house:
“Damn it James Cameron, the artificial intelligence is the villain! He’s working for the corporation! Big business, bad. Robots, bad! Why did you fuck up my movie? I mean, you made a ‘robot is the bad guy’ movie before, why not make one again? I’m so pissed, I’m giving up on Sci-Fi and I’m going to make Thelma and Louise.”
You know, I understand fictional Ridley Scott’s anger. The issue in the original was the greedy corporation worried more about profit than the lives of the crew of the Nostromo. You mean to tell me 57 years went by and they changed so much that the prime directive of the android was to save human life and not have the best interest of the company built into his programming? Perhaps the next sequel will sort it all out.
Experts and professionals have a different outlook on things than us, the layman. We the proles who don't know high art when we see it! Certainly the case with Alien 3 directed by David Fincher, who, considering this was his directorial debut, you would be confused as to how he got future directing opportunities. But he did and his films are great, proving that the cinema elites at the Academy are right and we the people are wrong.Nope, Alien 3 is a wreck.
Having crash landed on a Prison Planet, Ripley finds her android friend and the little girl dead and herself surrounded by some religious loon inmates on a stranded and forgotten prison planet/mining facility. Soon the Xenomorph appears, popping out of space cow and murdering inmates but not Ripley, even when it had the chance. Why? Oh because she is pregnant with a Xenomorph by some sort of twisted immaculate conception.
There is a lot of bizarre stuff going on with this one. It’s pretty iconic because it gives us the image of a buzz cut Sigourney Weaver face to face with the Xenomorph but other than that, it’s meh. Honestly, this thing could have been a stand alone movie with no connection to the Alien franchise at all and it would have been pretty much the same exact movie. Ripley at times feels like product placement as she becomes secondary to the religious prisoner cult and by the time they bring up the pregnancy, the corporation and android come back into the picture it’s very late in the film as it crumbles to an end.
Meanwhile, at Ridley Scott’s house:
“This young fella David Fincher really has an eye for cinema, I see big things in his future, but what in the exact fuck? Why the prison? Why the religious nut bags? Where’s the evil robot? Or the corporation? Or the….Hey wait, I like that shaved head look, I think I’ll make GI Jane, hopefully they don't make a 4th film that further deviates from the source material in the meantime”
Sorry fictional Ridley Scott, they Joss Whedoned it.
If James Cameron has a certain way of portraying machismo through the medium of film, Joss Whedon is the opposite as he has the unique ability to portray strong, powerful women on screen, in fact he does this better than almost anyone except maybe Luc Besson. Speaking of the great and powerful Luc Besson, I wish he was the eccentric french director who made Alien Resurrection instead it was Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who hasn't made a horror movie since.
Starring Sigourney Weaver as a resurrected Ellen Ripley who has a unique aptitude for playing space basketball, we find her many years in the future on a research ship. What exactly is the research ship researching you may ask? Xenomorphs as military weapons! Hooray! We’re back to the main plot of the series! Well, not if Mario Van Peebles and Ron Pearlman have anything to say about it.
So this one has an android, this time played by the amazing Winona Ryder, but this is good android not bad alien. I guess the nice android is good as long as you have the evil corporation and a fantastic Xenomorph, right? Well, the Xenomorphs in Alien Resurrection until the queen alien meets up with resurrected Ripley and they have some pitiful looking half CHUD, half Tarman from Return of the Living Dead bastard son xenomorph of somesort. This thing is truly a wreck, and I get it, they wanted to make it be half human, the final incarnation but the thing just looks dopey. The only redeeming quality of this movie is the side characters. Mario van Peebles, Ron Perlman and Brad Dourif are fantastic in this movie and really lift a subpar entry higher.
Meanwhile, at Ridley Scott’s house:
“Bring me the still beating heart of Joss Whedon…”
Well fictional Ridley Scott, that's a little extreme. Joss Whedon certainly is a polarizing character, either you love his work, or your hate his work. More commonly than not, you love certain aspects of his work and despise others. This is one of those ones that didn't fully hit the mark. Perhaps it was a cash grab on the franchise, perhaps it was just messy like tons of other franchises got muddy in the late 90’s. Entries from other series around this time are equally problematic, Hellraiser 4, Jason X and Curse of the Puppet Master as examples.
The prequel sequel follows a group of scientists exploring the origin of the human species, hence the name Prometheus, who according to mythology was the creator of the human race. Forming mankind from clay and giving us the power of fire and metallurgy. You would think this great deed would win over favor with the God of Thunder but good old Zeus punished Prometheus by tying him to a rock and having an eagle eat his liver everyday. Yeah, every day.
The ship's crew also face a similar fate as although they find the ancient planet and the keys to the beginning of human existence, they also found Xenomorphs, new and exciting Xenomorphs which we’ve never seen before. There’s a snake Xenomorph, a giant face-hugger and my favorite, a dust particulate Xenomorph that creeps into your eye balls and then when you have sex with your girlfriend, it immediately impregnates her with a 3-month old Xenomorph baby. She promptly gives herself a bloody C-Section, extracting the squid baby in one of the most graphic scenes in the entire series before stumbling upon Old Man Weylan. Gasp! The old coot has been aboard the ship the whole time! Seeking the xenomorphs as a way to prolong his life. Accompanied by his handsome android son, they look to awaken an ancient giant alien who is having none of it and just rips the handsome android’s handsome head off of his handsome body and kills old man Weyland before boarding the ship to take it to earth to spread the Xenomorph slime and destroy the human race. With the help of Idris Elba, the handsome android and the lady scientist save the day and go searching for who created the creators.
Meanwhile, at Ridley Scott’s house:
“Well Ridley old boy ya did it! We fixed the Alien franchise! We introduced Weylan’s CEO and put him in the role of the big bad, explaining why the corporation has knowledge of the Xenomorphs and their interest. We put the ship from the original in the movie and we even had an evil android!....Fuck! He was good and just helping his daddy out! Sonofabitch, we’ll make another one. But this time, we’re not fucking it up!”
Yes fictional Ridley Scott, yes! Prometheus is one of the best of the series and for good reason. The new Xenomorphs were fantastic, the story made sense and wasn't looney-toons and even though the android was quite handsome, we got closer to the actions of Ash from the original.
Ah yes, perfection at last! In this writer's opinion the superior of all Alien sequels is Alien Covenant, which is interesting because perfection and superiority is the theme of the film. The film opens with a younger Weylan educating the handsome android David and then we flash forward to the colonization ship Covenant where the crew is in stasis and the ship is being monitored by an equally handsome android, Walter, who much like Ripley has awesome space basketball skills. Something goes wrong on the ship and everyone needs to be pulled out of stasis but the ship's captain, James Franco dies. While repairing the ship there is a transmission from a strange planet which sounds alot like Country Roads, Take me Home by John Denver. The crew decided to investigate the planet, bad idea.
When the party kicks off in the movie, it’s with a bang! The other movies in the series are fairly slow in terms of kills. The Xenomorph creeps around and picks folks off one by one but in Alien Covenant all hell breaks loose. The dust particulate latches on two guys, one has an alien pop out of his back in a disgusting fashion and then rips a woman to shreds. Another woman begins shooting wildly and blows up the transport ship that brought them to the planets surface. Just as this happens, the second infected man shows up and the alien bursts out of his mouth and starts wrecking shit. Later that night, the crew is picked off one by one by the aliens in the dark until the handsome android, David, appears and saves the day.
Remember, this is Ridley Scott course correcting. We soon find out that David has been experimenting with the Xenomorphs looking for perfection. He tricks a crew member into getting attacked by a facehugger, leading to a chest burst and the birth of the original, OG, classic version of the Xenomorph. Now to me, all of the Xenomorphs look alike, except the ugly baby from #4, but I am told through research that this Xenomorph is the original article. We get an epic Xenomorph vs human battle which is one of the most action packed scenes in all the franchise (sorry Ron Pearlman), an epic handsome android vs handsome android battle and finally, the human colonists are saved by the handsome android and go about their way to their new home planet. But wait! The handsome robot isn't Walter, the good handsome robot, it’s David, the evil handsome robot who has brought two alien babies aboard the ship and killed the remaining crew.
Meanwhile, at Ridley Scott’s house, an old man is seen sipping tea, happy with his completed work.
Prometheus (Good droid)
Alien Covenant (Bad droid)
Alien (Bad Droid)
Aliens (Good Droid)
Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection are not critical to this story arc in the above watch order as to me, the main focus of the series is the relationship with man to the technology and the android element is lacking in these two films. If you are a completist, I would suggest watching the 4 above and then Resurrection watching Alien 3 by itself, on a different day. As much as I joke about it in this article, Alien 3 is truly a fantastic cinematic masterpiece. The imagery is strong and beautiful, the story is odd but meaningful. It just doesn't fit in with the tone of the other.
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