2021 Movie Draft- Round 1 Pick 10- MSJADELI selects- Series- Alien.
MSJADELI’s blog Tao Talk can be found at –https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/131408541
This concludes Round 1- Round 2 will begin on Monday January 18th.
The Series includes Alien (1979,) Aliens (1986,) Alien 3 (1992,) Alien: Resurrection (1997,) Prometheus (2012,) and Alien: Covenant (2017.)
I’ve watched all of these in the last couple of weeks. I own all of them except A3 & A4 so those came from the library as part of a very good box set of Blu Rays that includes the first 4 movies and 2 discs of mini-docs on their making. With A3 & A4 there was an option of watching the original theater release and 2003 special editions so I went with those. It’s been so long since seeing these 2 that I’m not sure what the new material was in them.
Making notes along the way, I looked for similarities, differences, and other features of note and compiled them. I’ll highlight them first then go into the plots. They will be broken down by director, awards, hero, ship or setting, crew demographics, AI, xenomorphs (X), the makers, methods of death, gadgets, continuity, distress signal, ship computer, captain and leadership style, (human) villains, and quotes.
After that will be concluding statements, followed by a brief plot synopsis and clip from each.
For purposes of the review, I’ll be using the following abbreviations:
Alien = A1
Aliens = A2
Alien 3 = A3
Alien: Resurrection = AR4
Prometheus = AP5
Alien: Covenant = AC6
X is the Xenomorph
Ridley Scott directed the first one and the last two, James Cameron directed A2, David Fincher directed A3 (his first time directing a feature film,) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed AR4. Watching part of one of the docs on A1, none of the A-list directors wanted anything to do with directing a science fiction film. One of the group trying to get it made had seen Ridley direct, “The Duellists” and saw how well it had done at Cannes and so offered it to him. He jumped at the chance.
A1 17 wins and 22 nominations
A2 20 wins and 23 nominations
A3 5 wins and 24 nominations
AR4 7 wins and 21 nominations
AP5 6 wins and 47 nominations
AC6 2 wins and 13 nominations
Hero Ripley is the hero in the first 4; however she shares the hero role with Preacher Dillon in A3 and in AR4 she and a small group trying to survive share hero duties. In A1, it was Sigourney Weaver’s first film role and she was up against seasoned actors. The documentary talks about how Ridley set up the sets and circumstances to build tension between the actors to make the movie better. The plot parallels reality in the first film, where Ridley’s leadership of the crew emerges over time through necessity. In A2 Ripley agrees to go back to “wipe them out.” As the lieutenant in charge is a real greenhorn in both leadership and actual ground experience and Ripley has direct experience with the aliens, she naturally falls into the leadership role. In A3 she finds herself disoriented and on a prison planet with maximum security YY chromosome prisoners. She’s at a disadvantage and looks to Preacher Dillon, the natural leader of the group; together they co-lead against the single X that is terrorizing the facility. In AR4, Ripley isn’t herself, having died then cloned and spliced with the X. She acts more cooperatively with the group trying to get off of the installation. In AP5, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, one of the two archaeologists who inspired the mission, shares hero duties with Captain Janek, who stops the alien ship from leaving and heading towards Earth to release the pathogen. In AC6, things really get turned on their ear with leadership. The talented, charismatic captain (played in flashbacks by James Franco) never makes it out of his stasis pod alive and the captaincy is turned over to Oram, “a man of faith” who is weak, anxious, lacks confidence. When he’s murdered, Daniels, who was the girlfriend of the captain killed in the pod at the beginning, takes over.
Ships or Setting
A The Nostromo, a commercial towing vehicle
A2 A salvage crew happens upon Ripley (and Jones, the cat) in their pod, still sleeping
A3 Ripley and remaining survivors’ ship’s escape pod land in sea on Fiorina “Fury”161, a planet that is a joint “outer-veil mineral refinery and YY chromosome maximum security correctional facility.”
AR4 Auriga, a United Systems Military medical research vessel; pirate ship is, “the Betty.”
AP5 Prometheus, scientific exploration vessel
AC6 Covenant, a colonization vessel, carrying 2000 colonists and 1140 embryos
Crew demographic breakdown
A1 7 total. 2 white women, 1 android (white male,) 3 white men, 1 black man
A2 14 total. 3 white women, 1 Latina woman, 2 black men, 7 white men, 1 android (white male); Sargeant is a black man. One of the pilots is a white woman.
A3 Prison planet has 25 prisoners, 2 overseers, and 1 doctor. To my best estimation of that group I saw 3-4 black men, 1 Asian man, the rest were white men, and add 1 white woman for Ripley.
AR4 14 total (main actors) 5 white men, 6 white women, 1 black man, 2 Latino men. Captain of installation a Latino man. Captain of the pirate crew a white man. One man is paraplegic.
AP5 17 total. 10 white men, 1 black man, 3 white women, 1 Asian man, 1 Latino man, 1 android (white male). Black man is the captain, but white female tries to overrule.
AC6 14 total (not counting white male captain killed right in the beginning.) 4 white women, 1 Latina woman, 1 Latino man, 3 black men, 4 white men, 1 android (white male); 1 black man pilot and 1 white woman pilot, 2 LGBTQI+
The AI changes in the series are one of the more fascinating aspects for me. In A1 Ash, a white android, is the science officer and becomes fixated on studying the X. Only later is it learned that he’s been given his directive from the company to bring one back, even if it means killing the human crew. In A2 Bishop, a white android, is an upgrade from Ash as 57 years have passed; he is curious, obedient, helpful, and saves human lives. Ripley is justifiably leery of Bishop at first. In A3, only the tattered remains of Bishop appear; his role is limited to pulling data from the escape pod they landed on the prison planet in to see what happened to the other crew members. Interestingly there is a small scene where Ripley says he can probably be repaired if they get back to civilization but Bishop says too much has been lost so let him “die.” In AR4, the AI is Call, a white female android who is passing as a human until later in the movie. She’s described as an “Auton model, a 2nd generation robot designed by robots that was supposed to revitalize the synthetic industry but instead they buried it. They didn’t like being told what to do and were recalled” [and most were destroyed.] Call seems more human than human, and someone says to her, “ I should have known. No human being is that humane.” In AP6 the AI is David, a white android. Described as “idiosyncratic and makes humans uncomfortable,” he serves the interests of his creator, Mr. Weyland, but he also has a hidden agenda of his own. In AC6, there are two AI’s, white androids; both look identical but their programming is different. Walter, upgraded from the David model, is designed to be more attentive and efficient but has a “creativity inhibitor.” Walter is loyal to humans and gets pitted against David, the rogue AI. David made us more than a little nervous in AP5. In AC6, Walter is the tweaked model that is supposed to reassure us. We see that ten years have turned David into a soulless psychopath with a God complex. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Xenomorphs (X) (as distinguished from the humanoid “makers” who designed them)
In A1 and A2, the reproductive mechanism of the X is outlined. The X queen lays oval egg-pods that house the baby X; the egg opens up then baby jumps out and attaches to the face of the (human) host. The Queen has a detachable egg laying section. The eggs rest in a warm, moist place; the blood of the monsters is molecular acid. Like a beehive, the drones build the hive and protect the queen, (and kill like the monsters they are!) In A3 there is only one X drone running around and wreaking havoc. In AR4 Ripley is cloned from her blood, spliced with X DNA, and gives birth to an X queen with a womb. In AP5, the focus is on thousands of canisters of pathogens, alive and waiting to be unleashed on Earth; some seeps out and becomes snake-like parasites; others mutate into giant versions of the mini-aliens seen in A1 and A2. In AC6, some are small humanoid X runners that attack humans in packs; others are larger humanoid X with hideous mouths; other adult X are like all previous movies.
We see the strange horseshoe-shaped craft in A1 and wonder who created and piloted it. We see the X’s and understand they aren’t the ones who did. We don’t think much about the makers again until AP5, when we see their craft hovering above earth and one of them on the ground drinks a canister of moving liquid and disintegrates into a body of water. Later, when the ship reaches what they think is the maker home planet, inside one of the maker ships are thousands of such containers, along with the remains of hundreds of the makers. As AP5 ends, one human and one AI survive and head to what they believe is the home planet of the makers. In AC6, the home of the makers is reached, with a shocking reality about them.
Methods of death
Method of death is fairly consistent in the first 4, where the X larvae implants in its host and bursts out of the victim’s chest; adult aliens spear victims with their tail and rip them apart. It changes in AP5, where snake-like ones go down the throat; the ingested one creates a humanoid X; there’s a giant X that “merges” with one of Makers (very creepy!) In AC6, nano-byte looking spores “designed to infect non-botanical life forms” get breathed in and grow to small humanoid runner size X; some burst out of the host’s back. In every instance of implanting, infestation, etc., the human host dies fairly quickly except for one. With Ripley, she is implanted with a queen X larvae, which keeps her alive for longer. She dies before we can see the “burst.” Thank goodness!
A1 on-screen computer
A2 videophones, power lifters; hydraulic lifters, Personal Data Transmitters (PDT) implants; fusion reactor; auto sentries (machine guns)
A3 no gadgets as this is a broken down facility with a skeleton population; the refinery is about as close to a gadget as is seen
AR4 breath ID panels for doors; block drink activated by laser; blood samples used to clone
AP5 3D helmet that can read dreams; video cube that plays movable holograms; the Med Pod; drone mapping “pups;” power braces for legs
AC6 none of note
The phenomena that weave through the films includes water drips, mist, steam, and slime indicating the presence of X; secreted resin for walls of the hive; the X blood made of molecular acid, which causes so much agony, damage, etc. through the films, and once even in a good way; drinking duck toys are in A1, A3, and AP5 (I think?), and AC6. Terraforming runs through most of the films. A flute is used to control the X ship in AP5 and is used as a symbol of AI being human because they can play music in AC6. Weyland Corporation is in most of them, but as a possible gag in AR4, it was stated that Weyland-Yutani Corporation was bought out by Wal-Mart.
What pulls the humans into interacting with the Xenomorphs is probably one of the more irritating aspects of the series. In A1 their commercial towing vehicle gets a distress signal on its way back to Earth, which wakes the crew up early; they are required by protocol to investigate. In A2 the terraforming colony of 60-70 families on A1 planet suddenly goes incommunicado so the military is sent to investigate. In A3, Ripley’s escape pod lands on a random planet; once Weyland Corporation finds out it’s Ripley, they send a rescue crew there. In AR4 the medical research vessel enlists pirates to bring human hosts for X larvae implanting.
In AP5, an archaeological find in a cave showing a constellation with an “invitation” motivates Mr. Weyland to fund a flight in hopes his maker will give him immortality. The worst one is AC6, when vague, though human-sounding transmission from a habitable planet only a couple of weeks away from where they are is heard and they choose to explore it for terraforming over traveling 7+ more years to reach the vetted planet they planned on going to.
“Mother” communicates through an Ascii 2-tone screen in A1. In A2, A3, and AC6, “Mother” is a female voice. In AR4 and AP5, “Father” a male voice.
Leadership style of captain
In A1, Dallas, a white man, is laid back, egalitarian, and a working supervisor. In A2 Lieutenant Gorman, a white man, is an inexperienced lieutenant who is clueless and ineffectual. In A3, there is no captain. Instead prison warden Andrews, a white man, is a figurehead, and the real leader is Preacher Dillon, a black man who is a prisoner and the religious leader of the group who leads by example and is respected by all. In AR4 General Perez, a Latino man, is looking to design a weapon using the X and chooses to use human hosts for X to do it. In AP5 Captain Janek, a black man, is congenial, has the loyalty of his crew, and is a man of integrity. In AC6 Captain Branson, a white man, is killed almost immediately. He is replaced by Oram, a white man, “a man of faith” who is weak, anxious, and lacks confidence.
The X are the villains in every movie in the series. We have a tossup between AI and human villains as well, where the AI is the villain in A1, AP5, and AC6; the humans are villains in A2, A3, AR4.
A1 Ripley says, “You bitch!” to “Mother” when she refuses an order.
A2 Ripley says, “Get away from her, you bitch!” to The Queen X
A3 Golic, one of the prisoners, says, “In an insane world, a sane man must appear insane.”
AR4 Ripley says, “You can’t teach it tricks.”
AP5 Dr. Shaw says, “It’s what I choose to believe.”
AC6 Tennessee says, “We didn’t leave Earth to be safe.”
Plot Synopses and Trailers
Alien begins when a commercial towing vessel headed back to earth receives a distress signal, which wakes up the crew by protocol to investigate. They go to the planet (LV426) and find an alien spaceship. Investigation leads to them finding a nest of strange eggs. One of the crew gets implanted with the critter that jumps out of the egg. Since the implanted crew member has been carried back onto the ship, when the X emerges it gets loose on the ship and systematically kills most of the crew. Only one crew survives that was smart enough to outwit the X.
Alien trailer: https://youtu.be/DGAHtWV7Ua8
In Aliens, 57 years have passed since Ripley outsmarted the X. Her pod is picked up randomly by a salvage crew. In the years she’s been asleep, 60-70 families have been sent by Weyland Corporation to LV426 to terraform it. Once Ripley tells Weyland reps about the X’s there, it doesn’t take long for one of the villains to communicate with the colony to send some poor saps out there to investigate the maker ship they had no idea was there. Communication is lost with the colony so they send a military crew to investigate. Ripley agrees to go along, but only to make sure the X’s are exterminated. Once they arrive they realize the X’s have been unleashed on the colony and have wiped all colonists out except for one smart little girl named Newt. It’s an ongoing battle for the humans to survive but it’s a losing battle. Not many are left at the end.
Aliens trailer: https://youtu.be/krTOAmS2eAo
In Alien 3 (2003 special edition,) the escape pod carrying Ripley and the others who survived crash lands in the sea of a planet that serves as both a mineral refinery and a maximum security prison. Even though Ripley thought the Xs had been blasted out of the pod, at least one got on board, killing all of the others and implanting an X queen into Ripley, which she only learns later. The drone X lays waste to the few prisoners that are still living at the decrepit facility. Ripley and The Preacher, the religious leader of the prisoners who chose to stay behind when the rest of the prisoners left, devise a plan for trapping the X and killing it – then Ripley, who can’t let the queen leave the planet before the “company men” arrive and rescue it and bring it back to earth for military weapon research.
Alien 3 trailer: https://youtu.be/ei7IvP8Qzqo
In Alien: Resurrection (2003 special edition,) the story begins with Ripley laying on a surgical table where a Caesarian section is performed and an infant queen X is delivered. The military installation is committed to reproducing the Xs but they need human hosts. The leader of the ship pays pirates to bring the scientists humans. Ripley and the X have had their genes spliced so when the new queens are born, instead of laying eggs, they have wombs that can give birth directly. While trying to stay alive and get back to their ship in time, Ripley struggles with the reality that she is now part X and has mixed loyalties.
Alien: Resurrection trailer https://youtu.be/7Ct-eZrfIkE In Prometheus (AP5) two archaeologists recognize the same constellation is being found drawn in finds on Earth and interpret it as an invitation. At the same time the founder of Weyland Corporation is near death and chooses to fund a scientific exploration to the planet identified in the constellation. On board are separate groups: 1) the two archaeologists, a biologist, a geologist, along with the flight crew; 2) Vickers, Weyland’s only biological child, who has her
own living pod with life-support and flying capability; 3) secretly, Mr. Weyland, his medical support team, and armed guards are also on board. Everyone except Vickers is hoping to meet the makers, the ones who supposedly created humans. It doesn’t take them long to realize that the makers did not have good intentions towards humankind and was planning on destroying them. The canisters of living death sit on the alien spaceship, waiting to be launched. Again it is humans against non-humans and not many humans are left by the end of it.
Prometheus trailer: https://youtu.be/SfiUCrfbLgY
In Alien: Covenant (AC6), the last in the series (for now at least) the story begins with the colonization ship en route to a planet that has been vetted as habitable. Walter, the new and improved AI that is more human friendly, is helming the ship when a meteor shower hits it and the crew is awakened over 7 years early. They get a murky human transmission (a John Denver song) from a planet just a few weeks away. As the captain is weak and caves in to be liked, they choose to change the planet to terraform from the one 7 years away to the one the signal is coming from. It doesn’t take them long to figure out that not only is the planet lethally toxic to humans, but that roaming packs of small ever-more-humanoid X’s want to tear them apart. The crew are saved by none other than David, the AI who, with Dr. Shaw, successfully traveled to the home planet of makers. Strangely, all of the makers are piled dead en mass and David lives like a lonely ruler in their palace. The depth of David’s madness becomes quickly apparent; it’s a battle to stay alive long enough for the crew left on the main ship to launch a rescue mission to the surface before they are extinguished in one horrific way or another.
Alien: Covenant trailer https://youtu.be/RkyshN0NTlI
Why did I choose this series to review out of all of the possibilities? Alien immediately grabbed my attention 40+ years ago and it has held it ever since. Space travel, humans encountering creatures from other worlds and trying to survive when trapped in a confined space with them is a great recipe for excitement. Seeing how humans work together against a common menace pulls me in. Being horrified at humans betraying others for personal gain and threatening the human species in the process never fails to leave me awestruck. Seeing Giger’s horrific dark visions come to life in the worst nightmares of all time compels me. Watching the androids’ development and not always in a good way is fascinating. The scientists, both human and maker, playing god with the stuff of life is a topic that won’t soon be exhausted. I love Ripley being a female bad ass when all of the heroes were men in 1979.
Probably the main thing I didn’t like about the series is how radically they changed the presentation of the story in the last two movies. Although I adored Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, it made no sense to me that Sigourney Weaver as Ripley wouldn’t continue in them in some capacity. And then they didn’t keep Rapace for the next one!
What did I learn from the series? If we can survive long enough to reach the stars, we need to be very careful to keep any contamination out of the ships! Another is not to allow AI’s too much power or control. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under the age of 18 as there are some extremely disturbing images throughout. Anyone who enjoys science fiction and space monsters will like it. Some readers will be pleased to learn that Ridley Scott has a new movie in the series in the works.
Even though the last two were considered prequels to the rest, I don’t think they stand up to the chronological scrutiny of that. Scott said he’s moving back towards the story line of the first 4, which is OK by me.
Rating for each (on a scale of 1-10)
For those of you who have stuck with me to the end of this review, thank you!