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".
- Alien (film) (25 May 1979)
- Aliens (film) (18 July 1986)
- Alien³ (22 May 1992)
- Alien Resurrection (26 November 1997)
About Alien (franchise)
- "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 in “'Alien' Is Sci-Fi Horror's Most Feminist Movie Franchise”, by Tom Seymour, VICE, (May 19 2017)
- "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."
- Nikki Baughan in “'Alien' Is Sci-Fi Horror's Most Feminist Movie Franchise”, by Tom Seymour, VICE, (May 19 2017)
- 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."
- Xan Brooks, “The first action heroine”, The Guardian, (12 Oct 2009)
- "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."
- No animal has devoted so much time towards voluntarily feeling and promoting the experience of fear as humans. We sky-dive, bungee jump and take risks to feel a rush of adrenaline. We stay up late to read H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Thomas Ligotti, and Richard Matheson. We pack into theaters to see Alien, The Thing, Cloverfield, It Follows, and hide behind the couch cushions for Netflix's brilliant Stranger Things. Second, no other species spends their time philosophizing in the ways humans have-what is the meaning of life? What is beauty? How do you define "art"? How should we treat one another? How do we know any of these things? We philosophize, and many of us love a good scare. The Alien series perfectly combines these two unique traits, inspiring deeper thoughts as much as it scares.
- “Alien and Philosophy: I Infest, Therefore I Am”, edited by Jeffrey A. Ewing, Kevin S. Decker, p.2.
- 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.
- “Alien and Philosophy: I Infest, Therefore I Am”, edited by Jeffrey A. Ewing, Kevin S. Decker, p.2.
- 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.
- Ben Guarino, “Disgusting ‘Alien’ movie monster not as horrible as real things in nature”, The Washington Post, (May 19, 2017)
- 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 in “'Alien' Is Sci-Fi Horror's Most Feminist Movie Franchise”, by Tom Seymour, (May 19 2017)
- Anderson shows such a lack of interest in character or mood that the first 45 minutes, pre-Alien and Predator battles, feels unnecessarily lugubrious. His film lacks the obsessive haunted house setting of Ridley Scott’s Alien, the virtuoso gung-ho action of James Cameron’s Aliens or John McTiernan’s Predator, the bleak doom of David Fincher Alien³, and the cartoon splashes of Jien-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection. Those movies were of varying levels of quality, but the filmmakers were committed to a singular vision. Alien vs. Predator is a technically proficient fan-boy’s wet dream, made for people who want to see the Alien bleed acid on the Predator’s body armor, or the Predator using his nifty laser to blow apart alien hoards. It’s not much of a movie, but it’s a geek’s paradise.
- Jeremiah Kipp. "Alien vs. Predator". Slant Magazine. (July 5, 2004).
- 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.
- Michael Ordoña, “‘Alien’ franchise is still evolving” San Francisco Chronicle, (May 10, 2017; updated May 13, 2017)
- 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 pf the infinite cosmos, failing to grasp our own humility, hence, divine-ish beings from beyond are looking to settle the score.
- Witney Setbold, "The Religious Symbolism of the Alien Series", Nerdist.com, (May 5, 2017).
- The Alien franchise is renowned in feminist film circle as the first blockbuster series of the era to deal with gender and sexual politics. Ellen Ripley, as performed by Sigourney Weaver, was the first iconic female action hero. This wasn't the clichéd horror portrayal of girls served up as screaming, helpless victims. Ripley was, as Laura Mulvey termed it, the first "final girl"—a woman still capable of possessing everything we associate with femininity (think of the maternal way she holds her cat in her arms during Alien's finale) while outsmarting a creature that had efficiently worked through every male member of the Nostromo crew.
- Tom Seymour, "'Alien' Is Sci-Fi Horror's Most Feminist Movie Franchise". Broadly.vice.com. (May 19 2017).
- 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.
- Daniel D. Snyder, “The Horrible Philosophy Behind the Star of 'Alien,' H.R. Giger's Xenomorph”, Pacific Standard,(Updated: Jun 14, 2017; Original: May 15, 2014)
- While others looked to the stars for inspiration, the Xenomorph was dredged from the filthy and most basic truths of our existence, a look backwards at our primordial selves. Seeing that on screen was more terrifying than any green-skinned, antennae-sporting alien in a UFO.
- Daniel D. Snyder, “The Horrible Philosophy Behind the Star of 'Alien,' H.R. Giger's Xenomorph”,Pacific Standard, (Updated: Jun 14, 2017; Original: May 15, 2014)
- 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. There are very few filmmakers that I can think of that I would want to entrust this to.
- Sigourney Weaver in Jeff Goldsmith, "Sigourney Weaver Hero Complex Film Fest Q&A. The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith", Herocomplex, (2014).
- 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.
- Sigourney Weaver, "Bald Ambition". Cinescape. November 1997.
- 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.
- Sigourney Weaver, in Ben Beaumont-Thomas, "Sigourney Weaver on Alien sequel: 'There's more story to tell'", The Guardian, (June 3, 2014).
- 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.
- John McTiernan in “THE CREATOR OF ALIEN VS PREDATOR LOOKS BACK ON HIS CLASSIC AND HIS NEW PREDATOR BOOKS”, Ernie Estrella, Syfy Wire, (Jul 27, 2018).
- 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.
- Sigourney Weaver in "Interview: Sigourney Weaver on the Alien Anthology" by Silas Lesnick. Comingsoon.net. (October 16, 2010).
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