THE UNIVERSE: The Alien “Verse”
THE MOVIES: Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, Alien, Aliens, Alien3, Alien Resurrection
THE BIG PICTURE: A group of space scientists / colonists / truckers / marines / prisoners/ mercenaries are picked off one by one by an alien called a Xenomorph that has two mouths and acid blood. It is usually destroyed by a woman shoving it out an airlock.
NOTE: I decided to start with Prometheus and Alien Covenant then hit the original ones because this is the “official” timeline now for the Alien movies. With Alien Covenant out the pre-Alien days are filled in a little more and I wanted to see if they enhance or take away from the original Alien films. Do you see the space jockey and go “Ah this is so much better because I know what that is” or do you go “Meh, would have been cooler if I didn’t know”. Also I don’t like scary movies. I don’t know why I chose this.
R | 2h 4min
RECAP – In 2093, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway convince dying uber wealthy businessman Peter Weyland, to fund an expedition to find the Engineers who they, based on cave paintings, believe are the creators of all life on Earth. After being awoken by the android/ TS Lawrence Wanna-be David, the crew arrives at their destination. The crew finds their way into a cave, and find the decapitated body of an “Engineer”, and David finds a black goo he finds intriguing. While Shaw studies the head which eventually explodes, David slips the black goo into Halloway’s drink. Halloway and Shaw have sex. Next day all hell breaks loose. The crew discovers two men they left behind dead in the cave, the goo in Halloway begins to kill him, so he is burned alive, only to come back and kill more of the crew, and Shaw, who is supposed to infertile is pregnant with some gooey alien. AND 90-something Peter Weyland has been secretly on board the whole time and wants to meet the sleeping Engineer David found in the cave. David wakes up the Engineer who swiftly rips David’s head off and kills Weyland and the crew. The Engineer then turns on the cave, which is actually a space ship filled with canisters of goo and it’s on its way to Earth. The Captain of the Prometheus crashes his ship into the Engineer’s ship. The Engineer survives and goes to kill Shaw, who turns her gooey tentacle baby loose on the Engineer. Shaw finds David’s head, and they leave the planet in another Engineer space ship. Just before the credits we see the Engineer dead, and a Xenomorph bursts out of this chest.
REVIEW – Oy… The hardest part I am finding about this project is rewatching movies you didn’t like that much the first time around. I will give Prometheus this, it’s really ambitious. The ideas behind it are far deeper than any of the Alien movies that proceed or follow it. The Alien movies are basically horror movies in space, except the killer is an Alien. But Prometheus, is striving for more. It questions creation, religion, eternal life and all that would be great in a movie where you aren’t basically just waiting for the Alien to kill somebody. And then once deaths start, first the crew members whose names we don’t know, then bigger named stars except a few, only seem to happen by accident. Charleze Theron getting a ship dropped on her is kinda cool. But you never REALLY know why The Engineers want all life on Earth dead, why the only one left starts killing the crew. And at that point all the ambitions Prometheus is striving for are out the window.
So, what do you need to know for the future movies? Elizabeth Shaw took David’s head and left in a ship mostly likely full of that alien goo. We now know what the space jockey was. 2 hours to get that answered.
Alien: Covenant (2017)
R | 2h 2min
RECAP – In 2104 after an accident aboard their ship, a group of colonists decide to abandon their original plan of starting a new civilization on a planet seven years away for one that is closer to them and investigate an old transmission of a woman singing a John Denver song from same location. A small group lands to survey the planet and find a crashed engineer’s ship and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw’s dog tag. Soon after two members of the party get violently ill. One makes it back to the ship, and has “the Alien” burst out of him. In the process of trying to kill it their ship explodes. The other crew member has one jump out on the way, killing a few crew members and then running off. As the Alien comes back that night to finish them, a cloaked figure arrives, scares off the creature and offers them safety. It is revealed to be David (from Prometheus). David explains what happened to Shaw and himself since they crashed while the remaining members of the crew try and contact Tennessee the pilot of the mother ship still in orbit. David befriends Walter, the newer version of himself, and explains the alien creature and his need to create. Soon after the Alien arrives kills a crew member and is killed by the captain to David’s horror. As revenge David tricks the captain into being infected by another alien. This alien, (the classic one) bursts out and starts killing what’s left of the crew. Meanwhile Walter confronts David. Tennessee arrives and saves Daniels, a crew member briefly attacked by a face hugger and Walter as the Alien attacks. Back on the ship Daniels and Tennessee realize there was an Alien was inside the crew member they saved and its now on the loose on the ship. Daniels and Tennessee lure, it into the cargo hold and blow it out the airlock. At the end Daniels and Tennessee go back to their sleep pods, but not before Walter reveals he is really David who then puts two “face huggers” into the group of life forms to be grown at the new colony.
REVIEW – You might have noticed I only used a few names in the recap. That’s because we only get to know Daniels and Tennessee, and the Captain, a little, which is why you remember their names. The rest of the crew, while pretty to look at, is basically just “Alien” food. Gone are all of the heady theological questions of Prometheus replaced with scenes that are downtime between Alien attacks. In a way that is good, the story is very streamlined: crew finds planet, crew attacked by aliens, save the crew. But it still feels like it could be more and all the pieces are there to do it. The most interesting character is David, who is now a bat shit crazy robot psychopath. The reveal of what he did the original inhabitants of the planet, to Shaw and the various version of the Alien over the years is the most interesting part of the movie. In the end, it feels like the movie gave up its ambitions to make “an Alien movie” and while parts of that movie are thrilling and scary, over all it feels like a letdown.
So, what do you need to know for the future movies? Not sure. This movie for now ends the “Prometheus” story line. If there are ones that come after to fill in between this Alien, I guess that Crazy David put the Alien in with the cows and trees and people of the new colony. If not, I guess you only get the classic Xenomorph Alien, after it chest bursts out of a human.
R | 1h 57min
RECAP – In 2122 members of the commercial starship The Nostromo are woken up by the ships Computer, Mother, to investigate a transmission on a nearby planet. The crew lands and finds one of the Engineer’s ships. While investigating, crew member Kane, is attacked by a facehugger. Dallas, the captain, brings Kane back to the ship but is not allowed inside by his Second in Command, Ripley. Luckily Ash the science officer disobeys her and lets them inside. Ash and Dallas cut Kane out of his suit and try to study the creature attached to Kane’s face, and can only conclude it has acid for blood and it won’t come off. After a few days, the facehugger is gone and not long after that Kane is awake and seemingly okay. That is until the next meal and the Alien burst out of Kane’s chest, killing him before it scurries away. The Alien grows and slowly starts picking off the crew, first Brett the mechanic, then Dallas. Now in charge, Ripley attempts to get the orders from Mother and is attacked by Ash. The two remaining crew members, Parker and Lambert pull him off and reveal that Ash is an android. Ash tells them he has been ordered by “the Company” to bring “the creature” back at any cost, even if that means killing the crew. Ripley, Lambert and Parker decide to blow up the ship and leave in the shuttle. While Ripley sets the self-destruct, the Alien kills Parker and Lambert. After a run in the Alien, Ripley makes it to the shuttle and leaves. She later finds the Alien on board and blows it out the airlock into space. She then puts herself and Jones the cat, in sleep mode and sends the shuttle to Earth.
REVIEW –Often imitated and in some cases blatantly stolen from, even by Ridley Scott himself, this movie is the best of the bunch. Almost 40 years later it is just as scary and holds up better than the ones that follow it. By keeping the bulk of the action on this ship, there is an extra claustrophobic feeling added to the terror of being slowly hunted the Alien. I think going forward I will be able to judge how good an Alien movie is by the number of character names I can remember. (Without looking on IMDB… Ripley, Dallas, Parker, Kane and Ash… not too bad. Missed two) Because the Alien doesn’t show up for the first hour, you get to know this crew. Unlike Covenant and Prometheus, these guys aren’t scientists, they are basically galactic tow truck drivers. They don’t know anything about fighting aliens. They care about going home, getting paid and in Parker’s case getting the bonus that he won’t shut up about. And it’s true you only see the Alien for about 5 minutes total, but it’s about all you need. The tension is all done by the film’s pacing once the Alien is on the loose. My only gripe is the end. The Alien kills the other crew members right away. But on the shuttle, The Alien is there the whole time, but Ripley has time to get undressed, put the cat in the capsule, almost put herself in one, and it does NOTHING to her. It even sits quietly while she slips into the spacesuit and opens the airlock. Was it tired of killing or something?
So, what do you need to know for the future movies? Ellen Ripley and Jones the Cat are in their sleeping tube on their way home after defeating the Alien. End of story. Right… There are how many more movies?
Side Note: Not that I am hoping for an Alien Covenant sequel, but if they do, it’d be nice to somehow show “The Company” becoming aware of the Xenomorph to tie it into Ash’s order to bring one back at all costs in this movie. It also begs the question, did “Mother” send them to that planet because it knew an Engineer’s ship was there? I’m 50/50 on wanting to see that answered.
Side Note Note: This is kinda answered in Aliens. When Ripley tells her story, they have no idea what she’s talking about.
R | 2h 17min
RECAP – In 2179, Ripley’s shuttle is found and brought to Earth. When she wakes Burke, a representative of “The Company” Weyland-Yutani, says she will have to face an inquiry about why she blew up the Nostromo. After explaining what happened Ripley is basically told they don’t believe her and if such an Alien existed none of the colonists they sent to that planet ever mentioned them. Soon after, Burke and Lt. Gorman arrive at Ripley’s apartment to say they have lost contact with the colony and need her to serve as a consultant to a team of Marines being sent to investigate. At the planet, Ripley and the Marines find the colony abandoned, except for a small girl named Newt. The marines follow the colonists’ trackers to another facility, only to find them dead or cocooned. Soon after the AlienS attack, killing half the unit. Ripley and the Marines escape and wait to be picked up by their drop ship only to watch it crash in route. Ripley, Newt, Burke and the remaining marines, Hudson, Hicks, Vasquez and Gorman fortify themselves back at the colony. While they are sleeping Newt and Ripley narrowly escape a facehugger attack. Ripley figures out Burke released them in the hopes of taking a sample back to the company and that he told the colonists about the Engineer’s ship in the first place. Before they can kill Burke, the Aliens attack and kill everyone but Ripley, Newt and Hicks, who is injured. When the Aliens take Newt, Ripley goes to save her. There she confronts the Alien Queen, destroys her eggs and narrowly escapes in the drop ship with Newt. Once on board the ship, they find the Queen has stowed away. Ripley fights the Queen with a power loader and blows her into space. She then puts Hicks, Newt, and what’s left of the Android Bishop to sleep for their journey home.
REVIEW – WOW. I haven’t seen this movie in probably 30 years and I am blown away by how good it is. Best of the bunch so far. Where Ridley Scott made a space horror movie, James Cameron made a space action movie and once it starts it doesn’t let up. And how good is it? Well going by my new method… without IMDB: Ripley, Newt, Hicks, Bishop, Burke, Gorman, Vasquez, Apone, Drake, Frost and my new spirit animal, Hudson played by the late great Bill Paxton. Every time he opened his mouth I laughed. I LOVED him so much in this. The whole cast is stellar with Paul Reiser as the second-best character. He is such an asshole. But again it’s because Cameron, like Scott in Alien, lets us get to know these people before he lets them loose to be Alien-Bait. And the Alien Queen, my God. Where the regular Alien is scary because of howstealthy, agile and ferocious it is. The Queen is scary just by sheer size. (And its cunning ability to know how to use an elevator.) Honestly any negative things to say about this movie is really nitpicking, like another alien stowing away only to be killed by being blown it into space. Compared to the whole, not really worth it. I watched the extended cut, so it had some extra scenes, like Newt’s family finding the Engineer’s ship and life on the colony before the Aliens show up. But the one scene I was surprised was omitted in the original is Ripley finding out her daughter died of old age while she was away. It adds so much more to the Newt / Ripley relationship, I’m really surprised it was originally left out. If you don’t do the whole Universe, do yourself a favor and revisit this one.
So, what do you need to know for the future movies? Well that’s the end of story right? Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and Bishop are all safely asleep and on their way back to Earth. There I am sure, Newt and Ripley will continue their new mother / daughter relationship. Maybe that cute Hicks will finally ask Ripley out. What was that scurrying sound?
R | 1h 54min
RECAP – Later in 2179, Ripley wakes up from her sleep tube to find: she has crashed on a men only prison planet and Hicks and Newt died in the crash. Also she has to shave her head because in 2179 there is no other cure for lice. After performing an autopsy on Newt to be sure there was no Alien on board, she strikes up a relationship with the prison’s doctor, Clemons. Also at the same time, an Alien bursts from a recently killed Ox on the planet. After a prisoner is “accidentally” killed Ripley becomes more concerned an Alien has infiltrated the prison. Ripley finds what is left of Bishop and is almost raped by the inmates to be saved by Dillion a make shift religious leader in the prison. Once Bishop is active, he confirms there was an Alien on the ship and that caused it to crash. Ripley warns the prison personnel but no one believes her and she is confirmed to the infirmary. There the Alien attacks and kills Clemons, and almost kills her but stops. After it then kills the Warden, and a few more prisoners Ripley and the prisoners trap it in Toxic Waste containment space. But a crazy inmate lets it out. Meanwhile Ripley is feeling sick so she scans herself and finds out she has a queen growing in her chest. Also “The Company” is on its way to capture the Alien. Ripley and the prisoners try one last ditch attempt to kill the Alien by luring it into a molten lead mold. After killing most of the prisoners, including Dillion, they are successful and then douse it with water causing the Alien to explode. At that point The Company arrives, complete with a man who looks like Bishop. He offers to cut the Queen out of Ripley and kill it but she doesn’t believe him. She then throws herself into furnace as the queen erupts, killing them both.
REVIEW – Man what a letdown after the last movie. It starts with the bummer of killing Newt and Hicks, and then is a bummer the rest of the way, including finally killing Ripley. I will give the Alien series, this it knows how to pick its young directors, in that this is David Fincher’s first movie. So it looks like a cool and the Alien POV of it chasing its victims is also great. But everything else… Going by the character name game, I got Ripley, Clemons (played by a handsome young Tywin Lannister) and Dillion who I don’t count because I kept calling him, “Roc” the whole time. The rest of cast is just Alien-bait made interchangeable bald British actors and Pete Postlethwaite (Keyser Soze’s Lawyer), who I only recognized about half way thru. Whereas Alien is scary and Aliens is exciting, this movie is… depressing. It just sucks for everybody. There are no characters to root for or any characters you just enjoy seeing. Not that you can tell any of them apart anyway. They didn’t even blow an Alien out of the airlock.
And can I just say one this: How did an Alien get on the ship in the first place? Are you trying to tell me in Aliens, The Queen and ANOTHER Alien had time to stowaway in the landing gear and only the Queen jumped out? Did the Queen have time to lay an egg inside the drop ship between the time they left the planet and the moment she ripped apart Bishop? It makes no sense how an ANOTHER Alien got on board, yet some screen writer put one there. This should have been the end of the Alien movies… But it’s not.
So, what do you need to know for the future movies? The Company is really hot on getting an Alien and making it a weapon. They’re probably going to keep trying to do that. At least poor Ripley can finally rest in peace… Right?
Alien Resurrection (1997)
R | 1h 49min
RECAP – In 2379, on a Military ship, scientists are finally successful in cloning Ripley so that they can extract the Alien Queen embryo she had in her chest from Alien3. They decide after not to dispose of “Ripley 8”, and become amazed at how quickly she learns. Meanwhile a group of smugglers drop off some secret cargo to the military ship. By now the Queen has matured and the “cargo” is actually people the scientist will use to create new Aliens. Not long after the Aliens escape and start killing the scientists and military people on the ship. “Ripley 8” joins up with the smugglers to get back to their ship and get off this one which is now on a collision course with Earth. On the way Ripley 8 reveals she shares some characteristics with the Aliens now, like she can feel their presence and her blood is acidic. She also discovers the seven prior Ripleys and destroys them. On the way to the ship the Aliens pick them off and leave only a few left including Call, an android sent to kill Ripley and the Aliens before all this could happen. Ripley is taken by Aliens to the Queen. The Queen also shares some of Ripley’s DNA and has a human reproductive system, and gives birth to a human/alien hybrid. The Hybrid kills the Queen but thinks Ripley is its mother. Ripley escapes and gets to the ship with the remaining smugglers. After they leave the military ship, Call discovers the Hybrid on board (Those sneaky Aliens, always sneaking onboard at the last minute). Ripley and Call confront it, and Ripley throws her acid blood on a window which sucks the Hybrid into space (they apparently had no airlock). The smugglers ship reaches Earth and Call asks Ripley what she will do now. Ripley replies “I don’t know. I’m a stranger here myself.”
REVIEW – I remember watching this originally on VHS and thinking it was awful. On the rewatch I can at least say it’s now “awful” but its neck and neck with Covenant for weakest of the series. Again the Alien movies tapped future great talent. This one was written by Joss “Buffy/ The Avengers” Whedon. It’s funny once you know this you can see hear how the dialog SHOULD sound if this was a typical episode of Buffy/Firefly/Angel or an Avengers film. But instead everyone takes this very seriously. (Oh and Firefly fans, at one point Ripley asks “Who do I have to fuck to get off this boat.”) There are a lot of good ideas in this like the discarded Ripley clones and Ripley having Alien traits, even the Hybrid is an interesting idea, but its all so badly done. The Hybrid, and its human eyes is just gross to look at. Not scary just gross. And the rest of the movie is the same as the others, small group of human and Ripley picked off one by one by the Alien. In my IMDB game, I remember Ripley and Call and Call only because she’s played by Winona Ryder. Ron Perlman is in it, but gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you his character’s name. This one kind of killed the series for 15 years. On the one hand, it’s a shame because again the idea of a Ripley with Alien traits is interesting. But on the other, unless the quality was upped, I don’t think many people could sit thru another movie like this.
So, what do you need to know for the future movies? Nothing, as far the Ripley era is concerned, for now. I guess it’s possible for Ripley to come back and a big rumor around Covenant was Daniels was supposed to be Ripley’s mother, but that ended up not being true. And any post Covenant movies would be butting up pretty close against the Ripley era. So Ripley is in the air. Anything is possible, especially considering she died in the last movie.