Alien (franchise)

science-fiction horror franchise

The Alien film franchise (also known as Aliens) is a science fiction horror film series consisting of four installments, focusing on Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her battles with an extraterrestrial life form, commonly referred to as "the Alien".

In space no one can hear you scream.
Building Better Worlds

FilmsEdit

See alsoEdit

Spin-offsEdit

CrossoversEdit

Alien vs. Predator (franchise)

NovelsEdit

ComicsEdit

Video gamesEdit

About Alien (franchise)Edit

 
"The Alien movies visualize the two things so many men look upon with disgust and horror—getting penetrated themselves, and watching a woman giving birth. In the Alien films, and very much in Alien: Covenant, moments of rape are always moments of impregnation. They provide a dual, intensified horror. ~ José Arroyo
 
Do men really require a science fiction scenario to understand how horrific unwanted violation of the body is? Maybe if our culture treated male-on-male rape like the horror it is, men wouldn't need to turn to science fiction movies to understand the problem. Even if some men require such a prompt for their empathy, the Alien franchise still isn't one that offers much in the way of true access to women's relationship with rape. ~ Mary Ann Johanson
 
This is a series, it seems, all about Old Testament vengeance, and how humanity has failed to live up to its spiritual potential. We refused to be humble in the face of the infinite cosmos, failing to grasp our own humility, hence, divine-ish beings from beyond are looking to settle the score. ~ Witney Setbold
 
I don't think Alien belongs on Earth popping out of a haystack, which is where I was afraid it was going to go. I feel it should take place in the far reaches of the universe where no one in their right mind would go. ~ Sigourney Weaver
  • "To describe the Alien franchise as a metaphor for male rape is to forget that the women of the Alien franchise are treated equally as invasively. And yet this sci-fi impregnation doesn't compare to the violent brutality frequently dished out to female characters as par of course across the breadth of cinema," says Baughan.
    "It's no bad thing to encourage men to rethink the way in which women are treated on screen. But whether they recognize or appreciate this subtext—let's wait and see."
  • At its core, Alien is about corporate power and the disposability of the working class—and more obviously about the vulnerability or our gross human bodies and their ability to bleed, to expel other nasty fluids, to be invaded, to be ripped apart in different ways. Every Alien movie plays with the latter idea, but Alien: Resurrection is the only film that seems to fully acknowledge and embrace the fact that Alien is completely bland space pulp without the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (named for the first time in James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens).
    Known simply as “the company” in Alien, Weyland-Yutani is responsible for everything that goes wrong. Their desire to study the aliens found on a mysterious planet supersedes any safety protocols. Human life is literally secondary to that imperative. The crew of the ship Nostromo doesn’t know that though. They naïvely cling to the idea that doing their jobs will keep them safe and in the company’s good graces. The few grumblings from the union mechanics who want to stay safe and just do what they’re paid for are met with contractual loopholes that effectively fuck them over. Eventually, we learn that “standard operating procedure is to do whatever the fuck they tell you to do.” That means dying in service to a mandate kept secret in a super computer.
    Aliens doesn’t do much to keep the series fresh, though it offers up a xenomorph queen, bigger and tougher to kill than the first film’s monster. It may be the fan favourite, but Aliens is pretty much a beat-for-beat remake of Alien, replacing the suspenseful tone of the original with gun fights and machismo. If Alien is horror/sci-fi, Aliens is the same movie reframed as action/sci-fi. Then Alien 3 mostly abandons the corporate message of its predecessors altogether in favour of a space prison narrative, in which the xenomorphs wreak havoc on a bunch of criminals.
  • It is the first rule of Hollywood that every good idea must eventually be milked until it dries out. So it was with Alien, which begat (the arguably superior) Aliens and then led on to the diminishing returns of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. "Actually the third film is underrated," McIntee points out. "With those first three movies you have the sense that they are playing, probably unintentionally, with the three classic female archetypes from folklore. Ripley goes from being maiden [in Alien], to mother [Aliens], to crone [Alien 3]. That's where they went wrong with Alien: Resurrection. If there is no fourth archetype, there's nowhere to go."
  • "Alien" uses a tricky device to keep the alien fresh throughout the movie: It evolves the nature and appearance of the creature, so we never know quite what it looks like or what it can do. We assume at first the eggs will produce a humanoid, because that's the form of the petrified pilot on the long-lost alien ship. But of course we don't even know if the pilot is of the same race as his cargo of leathery eggs. Maybe he also considers them as a weapon. The first time we get a good look at the alien, as it bursts from the chest of poor Kane (John Hurt). It is unmistakably phallic in shape, and the critic Tim Dirks mentions its "open, dripping vaginal mouth."
    Yes, but later, as we glimpse it during a series of attacks, it no longer assumes this shape at all, but looks octopod, reptilian or arachnoid. And then it uncorks another secret; the fluid dripping from its body is a "universal solvent," and there is a sequence both frightening and delightful as it eats its way through one deck of the ship after another. As the sequels ("Aliens," "Alien 3," "Alien Resurrection") will make all too abundantly clear, the alien is capable of being just about any monster the story requires. Because it doesn't play by any rules of appearance or behavior, it becomes an amorphous menace, haunting the ship with the specter of shape-shifting evil. Ash (Ian Holm), the science officer, calls it a "perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility," and admits: "I admire its purity, its sense of survival; unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality."
  • The Xenomorphs are memorable for a number of their traits-their raw power, adaptability, their quick development, their hive mind. As Ash put it, they are the "perfect organism," whose "structural perfection is only matched by its hostility." Likewise, we think that the Alien films are the "perfect" science fiction/horror series.
  • The life cycle is mostly sound, experts said, but its behavior actually falls short of what real parasites can do.
    “Parasites go through massive, massive changes,” said Michael J. Smout, a parasitologist at the Australia Institute of Tropical Health and James Cook University. “That part is feasible.” Parasitic flatworms, he said, go from an egg stage to something “almost like a hairy bacteria” to a swimming creature “like a tadpole with two pronged tails” to a worm that infects humans.
    In his nonfiction book “The Science of Monsters,” journalist Matt Kaplan praised the “Alien” life cycle as a frightening and “remarkably well thought out element of the story.” He pointed to a type of botfly that will lay its eggs on a mosquito. When the bloodsucker lands on a person to feed, the botfly eggs detach and start to grow; the larvae later wriggle out of the human's skin.
    The idea that a parasite could become a hybrid of host and original organism, as seen in “Alien” sequels, has some scientific merit, too, said Tommy Leung, a parasite ecologist at the University of New England in Australia. “There are real-life parasites, particularly parasitic plants, which have been known to pick up some genes from their hosts,” he said. “I think the plants are actually better at how they use their stolen genes.”
    Last October, researchers at Pennsylvania State University reported that a broomrape plant had absorbed its host's genes 52 times. “We think this is because of their very intimate connection with their host,” Penn State biologist Claude dePamphilis explained at the time. The stolen genes allowed the broomrape to undermine the host plant's defensive efforts, the scientists said.
    The process of stealing genes is called horizontal gene transfer. Researchers have uncovered examples of this transfer with increasing frequency, Smout said. “It's going literally across species,” he said. “It's amped up for sci-fi, but crossing between species isn't as crazy as it sounds.”
    Aliens could learn a trick or two from these gene-stealing plants. (Despite their fangs and acid blood, the aliens keep losing to the human defenses of ingenuity and flamethrowers.) That the aliens don't undermine or change our behavior is their biggest failing, in Leung's view.
    “The major issue I have is that the movies don’t go far enough” he said. “Oh, burst out of the host’s chest — pfff, is that all they do? They don’t make the host become its surrogate parent and care for it like its own brood? They don’t multiply within the host’s body and turn it into some kind of flesh marionette?”
    “Lame,” he concluded.
  • Alien3 took a while to come to the screen, just as James Cameron’s Aliens had taken its time in development after Ridley Scott’s 1979 original. The key difference is that while the sequel took longer because different executives blew hot and cold on the idea of another film, Cameron’s success made the third film inevitable from the off.
    As well as being a commercial hit, Aliens was praised by critics and audiences alike, and even went on to bag two Oscar wins and several other nominations. That changed Fox’s tune, and Roger Birnbaum, then the studio’s head of worldwide distribution, would reportedly call the series, “The Franchise”, at a point where big viable sci-fi movie franchises didn’t come along nearly as often as they do nowadays.
  • “I was, and am, surprised that the franchise kept going,” admits Hill. “When we did Alien all we wanted to do was to bring a more sophisticated style of filmmaking to what had always been regarded as a B-picture. I always thought that if you did that you would have a commercially rewarding endeavour. But who knew that approach would lead to the Hollywood you have now, where more serious dramatic films have been squeezed out by that B-movie approach. The fact that our monster movie contributed to the loss of a wider approach to filmmaking is, in a way, quite sad.”
  • “Aliens,” the 1986 follow-up to Scott’s landmark, turned out to be one of those rare sequels that, if not better than the original, was great in its own way, thanks largely to a young director from the Roger Corman School of B-Movies named James Cameron (you remember him). Weaver returned as Ripley as she would twice more. 20th Century Fox and the “Alien” producers deserve credit for maintaining high standards for the “Alien” franchise, especially in regard to choosing directors.
    “Alien 3” (1992) may have been a misfire, but it was a fascinating misfire, directed by a young up-and-comer named David Fincher- (“The Social Network,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”).
    The same is true of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Alien Resurrection” (1997), which in spite of its flaws, features one of the most unforgettably nightmarish horror-movie chase sequences ever filmed.
  • The “Alien” franchise has gone through as many changes as its xenomorphs.
    Ridley Scott’s 1979 chamber-horror piece became James Cameron’s terrifying 1986 carnival ride (“Aliens”). Then came further-flung and further-out iterations of the monster and initial protagonist Ripley (Sigourney Weaver); then video-game-and-comic-inspired crossover “Aliens vs. Predator” movies; then Scott’s return with the big-question-asking “Prometheus” (2012) and now his new “Alien: Covenant.”
    “Covenant” writer John Logan, who has been nominated three times for an Oscar, says that the “Alien” franchise is testament to “the muscularity of the central idea; that different filmmakers can go down the hall to the right or to the left. It’s still the same hallway.
  • As fans of the series know, "Alien 3" was the third installment in what would later round out as quartet of films about Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the only crewmember to survive the infestation of the mining vessel Nostromo in Ridley Scott's inaugural 1979 sci-fi thriller "Alien." A key part of this series' fascination lies in its malleability. In contrast to other franchises such as the James Bond films and the "Star Wars" series, the "Alien" films weren't stylistically or thematically uniform. All they had in common were Ripley and the alien, or aliens, and certain images and motifs: eggs, acid, glistening teeth, scuttling tentacles and spindly legs, foggy corridors, desolate planetary landscapes, and battered commercial and military starships that had all the glamour of delivery vans or rusty refinery towers. Beyond that, each film in the series had a distinctive look and pace and rhythm. "Alien" was slow and moody, a true horror film in a nasty seventies vein. The second film in the series, writer-director James Cameron's "Aliens," reconfigured the original's haunted-house-in-space vibe as an adventure film: part war movie, part Western, referencing everything from "Apocalypse Now" and "Zulu" to John Ford and Budd Boetticher. The fourth film, scripted by Joss Whedon and directed by Pierre Jeunet ("Amelie"), is a hybrid of Frankenstein story, pirate adventure and disaster picture, starring a genetically reconstituted Ripley who has alien DNA and, it seems, superpowers.
  • Giger's philosophy was apparent in the Xenomorph's physical being, but it made its way into the creature's life cycle, too. It began with forced entry, with the facehugger pushing its embryo down a host's throat. Its birth—a forced exit—would be even more violent, bursting forth from the host's chest cavity, inextricably linking its life to the death of another creature. As an adult, it kills with another phallus, a set of pharyngeal jaws. This is what made the cold, unthinking Xenomorph so terrifying and made Alien as much a horror film as it was science fiction. It turned our own weapon against us, so to speak, and showed us the terror of what we do to each other and the creatures we torture and exploit every day as a matter of simple survival. It was a penis come to life, running amok in a ship full of dark corners.
  • When Weaver made Alien for director Scott in England (with a script by Dan O'Bannon and extra-terrestrials designed by surrealist H. R. Geiger), she was 30 years old. She has grown with Warrant Officer Ripley - and she has tried to exorcise Ripley from her life as well. By the time Aliens 3 came around (Aliens was directed by Titanic helmer James Cameron), she felt the story was tired. 'That was one of the reasons I died,' she says. 'They wanted to make a dumb Alien vs Predator and I didn't want to be any part of it. So I just set it free.”
  • I felt that Ripley was going to become a burden to the story ... There are only so many aspects to that character you can do.
  • Had we done a fifth one, I don't doubt that her humanity would have prevailed. I do feel like there is more story to tell. I feel a longing from fans for the story to be finished. I could imagine a situation where we finish telling the story.
  • The first 3 Alien films are firmly about Ripley, following her from minor officer to battle-fatigued survivor to sainted madwoman, always following her intuition and watching everyone around her pay for their lack of fear.

"Why we are haunted by the world of “Alien”" (June 5, 2012)Edit

Tirdad Derakhshani, Why we are haunted by the world of “Alien”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, (June 5, 2012)

 
The ultimate irony of the Alien quartet is betrayed by the subplot that unites them. Each film features characters who are determined to capture, tame, and harness the alien as a biological weapon on behalf of a government or private corporation. In Alien, the android Ash (Holm) is programmed to bring back the creature regardless of the cost in human life; Aliens, about a group of marines sent to battle an alien outbreak, features a corporate stooge (Paul Reiser) who has the same orders. But Ripley thwarts his plans. We may be horrified by the alien, but we also envy it. What Wall Street firm wouldn't love to have brokers with the alien's survival instinct? What corporate head doesn't dream of dispatching his or her duties with such cold efficiency?
  • Alien was marketed in 1979 with a clever tagline, "In space, no one can hear you scream."
    It's an apt phrase. In this film quartet, the world is a pitiless place where no one would be moved by your screams.
  • What makes the Alien pictures and the alien critter so compelling?
    Scott's creation shocked audiences more than any other films, save for 1973's Exorcist, first because it upended genre conventions, chewing up and spitting out the sacred cows established by earlier sci-fi pictures.
    A haunted-house story of a kind, Alien is set in the confined space of a battered, stained spaceship that has been invaded by a single alien.
    The ship looks more like an 18-wheeler than the magnificent, white spaceships the public was used to from Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The comparison is apt: The Nostromo is an industrial hauler transporting a mineral refinery.
    Unlike the bright, shiny college grads running the Starship Enterprise who are attired in shiny, color-coded uniforms, the crew of the Nostromo (the name comes from Joseph Conrad's 1904 novel set in South America) is a ragtag collection of misery-warts, misanthropes, and misers who eke out a living hauling rocks. The ship's engineers aren't charming ladies' men like Scottie, but discontented working-class stiffs (Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton) dressed in dirty overalls. The captain (Skerritt) isn't a gung-ho world-savior but a nonchalant slacker more inclined to listen to music than lead.
  • Giger has said he tried to envisage a world where the ultimate horror would befall humankind: our extinction at the hands of a superior creature.
    Alien and its sequels are evolutionary parables that drive home some ugly truths we've been hearing for a century from the likes of Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
    The world Scott and his heirs created is a cold, pitiless, meaningless place where the only purpose of life — including human life — is survival and self-perpetuation. The xenomorph is the ultimate predator and the ultimate survivor. It represents the rapacious movement of life itself without sentiment, morality, love.
    The horror we feel when faced with this monster is the horrible realization that life itself, the "river of DNA," as Dawkins calls evolution, continues without concern for human values. It has no other purpose than to move forward, and it'll consume anything in its way.
  • The ultimate irony of the Alien quartet is betrayed by the subplot that unites them. Each film features characters who are determined to capture, tame, and harness the alien as a biological weapon on behalf of a government or private corporation. In Alien, the android Ash (Holm) is programmed to bring back the creature regardless of the cost in human life; Aliens, about a group of marines sent to battle an alien outbreak, features a corporate stooge (Paul Reiser) who has the same orders. But Ripley thwarts his plans. We may be horrified by the alien, but we also envy it. What Wall Street firm wouldn't love to have brokers with the alien's survival instinct? What corporate head doesn't dream of dispatching his or her duties with such cold efficiency?

“‘Alien’ franchise shouldn't be resurrected” (February 22, 2013)Edit

Steve Tilley, “‘Alien’ franchise shouldn't be resurrected”, Toronto Sun, (February 22, 2013)

 
Several years ago I talked to James Cameron about whether he'd ever revisit the Alien franchise and undo the damage done by Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. He said he'd do it, but only if Twentieth Century Fox scrapped their plans for an Alien Vs. Predator movie.
"Look, that's Wolfman meets Frankenstein. It's like when you're cleaning out the closet, and you find these poor old relic films down at the bottom and you put two of them together," Cameron told me at the time. "So whenever you're ready to pronounce (the Alien franchise) dead, you go and make that film."
  • Once upon a time - 1979, to be exact - aliens were terrifying. Maybe not the kind that hung out in the Star Wars cantina, but the kind that we were introduced to in Ridley Scott's horror classic Alien. The tension, the claustrophobia, that barely glimpsed, H. R. Giger-designed xenomorph stalking the unsuspecting crew of the Nostromo... I'm not going to lie, pants were pooped. Not MY pants. But certainly some pants.
    In one of the rare instances of Hollywood getting a sequel right, James Cameron's 1986 follow-up, Aliens, kept the creepy, lethal, less-is-more aliens, but infused the horror with tons of action. It was very different, and very entertaining.
    What the hell has happened since?
    David Fincher's Alien 3 wasn't bad, per se - the all-male prison planet setting was certainly interesting - but it didn't feel much like an Alien movie. And the plot was bookended by the offhanded killing of Aliens' Hicks and Newt at the start, and Ripley's sacrificial dive into the fiery furnace at the end. No pants were pooped, but teeth were gnashed and eyes were rolled.
    The less said about 1997's Alien: Resurrection, the better. I suspect even Joss Whedon, who wrote the thing, would rather forget it.
  • Several years ago I talked to James Cameron about whether he'd ever revisit the Alien franchise and undo the damage done by Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. He said he'd do it, but only if Twentieth Century Fox scrapped their plans for an Alien Vs. Predator movie.
    "Look, that's Wolfman meets Frankenstein. It's like when you're cleaning out the closet, and you find these poor old relic films down at the bottom and you put two of them together," Cameron told me at the time. "So whenever you're ready to pronounce (the Alien franchise) dead, you go and make that film."
    They did make it. And the franchise, more or less, is dead.
  • Maybe Alien was a thing of its time, and now we're too savvy to be scared by big, slobbery, rubber suit xenomorphs. Back then, a lack of sophisticated effects meant the aliens remained hidden by necessity as much as design. Now, they're all CGI'd up, sprinting around in full light, and no longer mysterious. Or scary.

DialogueEdit

 
Ridley transformed the idea of space from this sterile, cerebral place to a place where people actually got up and had breakfast and swore and griped and carried on like regular people. Then Jim [Cameron] took it to a whole other scale of story and emotional resonance. Each director has put his own emotional stamp on it and I think they’re all legit. It was kind of dizzying to go from one to another, even though there were some years between. ~ Sigourney Weaver
 
What I love about each of these directors is that they’re really unsentimental. I think it got harder for Jean-Pierre because the story is much more about the science and the corporations. It’s difficult for us to watch the fourth one because it seems like yesterday or tomorrow. It’s not happening far away. It seems like something we read about in the papers. Cloning and BP and all this stuff. I think it makes people more uncomfortable. But I think they all really stand up. I’ve heard people arguing over their favorites, though, and three and four have a lot of fans. ~ Sigourney Weaver
  • Q: What was the toughest thing in coming up with stories involving both alien races? What was the most fertile ground?
John McTiernan: I think that the fact that the first films in the franchises, which are literally all we had to go on initially, were so good, that following them up was pretty intimidating. Those aren’t just good films, they’re classics. They hold up. But since both Predator and the Aliens films are “movies in a can,” situations in which the protagonists are basically trapped with these lethal creatures, you have to create story elements that move beyond that scenario without losing what that kind of context creates: the tension, the isolation, the claustrophobia.
Again, I bring it back to the characters. If your characters have some dimension and you care about them, you’re halfway home. I also try to focus on finding an interesting environment in which to set the stories. In Hunters, I chose an isolated chain of tropical islands. In Hunters II, the mountains of Afghanistan.
  • Q: What’s your personal favorite of the four films?
Weaver: That would be really hard for me. Because each one had, at the helm, such an original visionary. Ridley transformed the idea of space from this sterile, cerebral place to a place where people actually got up and had breakfast and swore and griped and carried on like regular people. Then Jim [Cameron] took it to a whole other scale of story and emotional resonance. Each director has put his own emotional stamp on it and I think they’re all legit. It was kind of dizzying to go from one to another, even though there were some years between. But I think it was fun for me to come back every few years knowing a little more about what I do and having more confidence and more experience in life. So I felt that that was an extraordinary opportunity for me.
Q: We do tend to focus on the first two, though. What are your thoughts on that stamp of David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet?
Weaver: I think that, with “The Social Network,” everyone now is going to be able to recognize Fincher for being one of the great directors of our day. Certainly that was true after “Fight Club” as well. What I love about each of these directors is that they’re really unsentimental. I think it got harder for Jean-Pierre because the story is much more about the science and the corporations. It’s difficult for us to watch the fourth one because it seems like yesterday or tomorrow. It’s not happening far away. It seems like something we read about in the papers. Cloning and BP and all this stuff. I think it makes people more uncomfortable. But I think they all really stand up. I’ve heard people arguing over their favorites, though, and three and four have a lot of fans.
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