The Aliens Turn 30
By Bert Ehrmann
June 5, 2009
This spring the Alien franchise that includes six films, numerous comic books, novels, toys and everything else turns 30. And though I've been a fan of just about everything Alien for most of that time, when the first film was originally released I was a bit too young to quite comprehend and appreciate that movie.
I first discovered Alien (1979) sometime in the early 1980s when the TV networks used to regularly air movies each Sunday night. I remember specifically telling my mom that she needed to call me in from playing outside when Alien started. And though I might have watched it that Sunday night, I do remember that I didn't care too much for the movie – I would need to mature a little to really "get" just what Alien was all about.
In Alien, the crew of the space ship the Nostromo are doing the dirty work of hauling raw mineral ore from some far off mining planet back to Earth when they're interrupted by a distress call on a remote planet. When they investigate, one of the crew is attacked and is impregnated with some wired alien spore that later violently hatches into an insect like creature and begins picking the crew off one by one.
As a young kid who was interested in seeing something more along the lines of Star Wars, I don't think I was ready to sit through this plodding and slow moving horror film set in space. It wasn't until the sequel Aliens (1986) aired on cable (and scared the b'Jesus out of one of my cousins) that my love for the Alien franchise began in earnest.
While the first film was all about dark corridors and "Hey, did that piece of conduit along the wall that could be man-made or could be the alien just move, or are my eyes playing tricks on me?" The second was about kinetic action with little room for introspection between set pieces. If the crew of the Nostromo had to fight the alien with whatever they could find on their ship, then the sequel was about heavily armed space marines blasting away at swarms of aliens with machine guns, grenades or just about anything one would assume a soldier of the future might use in combating an alien swam.
I don't want to give the impression that Aliens is all action and no plot. In fact the movie does have a great story that works very well within the confines of the film. Unfortunately, after Aliens the franchise as a whole would start to decline.
Alien 3 (1992) would follow, but made the odd choice of killing off most of the survivors of Aliens and instead would focus on the character of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) who also was the only character to survive the first Alien. This time, Ripley finds herself the lone female on a prison planet that just so happens to also host one of the deadly creatures. Alien 3 is a film that's mostly known these days as being the first film of director David Fincher (Se7en, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).
Even worse was the fourth film Alien Resurrection (1997). This film is wholly unremarkable as it tried to mix the best parts of Alien and Aliens yet fails badly.
Unfortunately, the franchise would only get worse as arguably the next two films Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem (2007) would essentially destroy and credibility the franchise once had in the minds of many of Alien fans – me included.
As I got older I was finally able to rediscover Alien, in no small part after seeing it on the big screen in re-release a few years back. And though I still think that Aliens is my favorite film of the franchise, I'd have to rate Alien a close second. Now there's talk of a reboot film, something where the original director of Alien Ridley Scott could come back into the fold and reinvent the franchise presumably by stripping it back to the core essence of what initially made the franchise so great. I can say that I'm honestly intrigued!