I’ve been in the Alien mood for a hot minute now, and I can’t for sure say when or why it started. I had seen the movies when I was young, probably with my father. Upon re-watching Alien I fell in love with the atmosphere that is built by Ridley Scott and his team, which is all inspired by artwork from H.R. Giger whose art I discovered while I was in college.
So what can I say about this piece of cinema that hasn’t been said before? It’s beautifully shot, gloriously acted by Sigourney and the pitch itself is brilliant. Yet Aliens does not arouse me the way that the original 1979 Alien film had.
"I've been headlong into Aliens: Fireteam Elite on my Xbox One. It is an engaging third-person shooter with intense scenarios and gorgeous scenery. Playing this game also inspired me to take on Scott Sigler’s novel ‘Aliens: Phalanx’. "
Is it my problem with the supporting cast? I would say yes and no, Michael Biehn is a great actor for what he does, but he’s the leading man in The Terminator, so all I see is John Connor's father, Kyle Reese, which takes me out of the film a bit. Maybe that’s due to seeing The Terminator film first, and liking it more.
Carrie Henn as Newt is fine. Great child actors are hard to come by, and her accent is questionable. And my final gripe when it comes to the cast is the charmer Paul Reiser as Burke, his role is ultimately the one I can’t care less about. He feels bland, and I end up coming away dismissive of him once he does die, which we don’t even get to witness!
The rest of the cast is outstanding: Lance Henrickson, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein knock their roles out of the park.
Action vs Horror
James Cameron is a master of his craft, so there is no doubt that Aliens is a pinnacle film in sci-fi action history. I came into Aliens expecting more of... well, Alien. Not more in numbers, but more in the scare department. I wanted to see a continuation that kept that sterile feeling of a spacecraft being violated by an apex predator; the perfect killer.
I know what you’re thinking, aren't hundreds of Aliens scarier than one? Sure, hundreds can be scarier, but when you get into the technicalities of the Alien lore these aren’t even the same Alien variation, which downplays their individual threat.
Aliens introduce the hive queen, the big momma Alien. Her job is to make the eggs that birth the face-huggers, these face-huggers then put the worms into the marines or the residents of the space colony. The worms then grow into full-size Aliens which go on to retrieve more human victims. This is too many steps.
I am arguing that Ridley Scott’s vision for the Alien property is the scarier and more mysterious of the two making it the more successful horror story. Ridley begins to explain the history of the Alien in Prometheus and Aliens: Covenant. He loses many of the fans of James Cameron’s take. Ignoring Alien then Aliens is a perfect action film, with sci-fi horror aspects but the film never actually capitalizes on the horrors of its predecessor.
The Legacy of Alien
Now, just earlier this week I turned over the last page of the novel Aliens: Phalanx and was pleasantly surprised by the journey I had been on. That novel relies heavily on the features that Cameron introduced us to in Aliens, like the hive, and the queen. I found that I enjoyed this dynamic, just like in Aliens: Fireteam Elite which is also helping carry the legacy that is Cameron’s Aliens.
I think it’s best to intentionally separate the 1979 movie from many of the other titles. This can be said about many film franchises as well. The first film becomes the reference point, the movie that builds the groundwork, so as sequels come along the rules become muddled. It is not common that a sequel expands the lore in a successful way like in Aliens. I enjoy Aliens for what it is, but it will always make me want to turn on the original slow-moving and brooding Alien.
I want to thank all of you, for being my loyal readers.