As Alien: Covenant, the latest entry in the Alien franchise, lands in cinemas this month, Iain McNally takes a look back at the previous seven entries in the Alien franchise, ranking them from worst to best.
7. Worst: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
A secret invasion of Earth by Aliens and Predators, taking place well before the main entries in the series, could have formed the basis for a decent Alien movie.
Alien vs. Predator Requiem is not that movie.
AVPR goes all out to earn it’s R-rating from the start, offing a dad and his young son with a face hugger attack setting the tone. No one is safe in this movie.
After such a strong choice it’s a pity the film can’t follow through, introducing an entire village worth of idiots and failing for most of it’s running time to decide who the main protagonists are. An ex-con, an army mum, the pizza delivery guy, the girl next door, a trio of bullies, the sheriff in over his head, the characters are every bit as faceless as the Alien warriors they face.
AVPR is dark, and I’m not talking about the themes or violence. It’s hard to see what’s going on most of the time. Nearly all of the fights between the Aliens and the “Wolf Predator” take place in dim sewers or at night so you can’t make out what’s happening!
Even the addition of some lines from older, better movies (“get to the chopper”? Really?) and some hilariously abrupt deaths at the end can’t make up for a Predator who clearly can’t see the buttons on his gauntlet, walks blindly into trouble and the terrible idea that is the Predator/alien hybrid the “predailien”.
They all deserve to die.
6. Alien vs. Predator (2004)
The Alien Vs. Predator concept was only marginally more successful the first time around. Eschewing the off-world colony set up of the comic that began the whole “X vs. Y” fad, you can at least see what the Aliens and Predators are doing. Unfortunately, you can also see Paul W.S Anderson (of Resident Evil “Fame”) drastically damage the mythos and lethality of the Predators as two of them go down far too easy for what are supposed to be the galaxy’s greatest hunters. The third even manages to get impregnated by an Alien (daddy to the “Predalien” for the next film)
Shooting the fights in slow motion as Predators swing Aliens around by the tail doesn’t do the film any favours either. Lance Henrikkson’s appearance as Charles Bishop Weyland (ugh!) only throws into contrast how forgettable the rest of the cast is.
Not quite the shot of new blood the franchise needed after Alien: Resurrection.
5. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Trying to follow the death of Ripley in Alien 3, this genetically modified sequel is a monument to hubris. A truly visionary director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, (The City of Lost Children, Delicatessen), and a script by aJoss Whedon (!) hot off Buffy The Vampire Slayer couldn’t save this cavalcade of bad ideas.
The initial concept of a cloned Ripley, who is part Alien, is potentially intriguing but it’s bogged down by the relentless “brownness” of everything, the ridiculousness of spaceship doors that open by breathing on them, and production designers who think they can one-up H.R. Giger’s original Alien design by putting backwards chicken legs on them and coming up with the absolute monstrosity that is the half human, half Alien, “Newborn”.
The newborn is not in any way terrifying, it’s just an awful, awful design. Seriously look at this thing:
Throw in Brad Dourif doing his usual bug-eyed thing and Weaver making out with a hive of Aliens and even Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman can’t save this disaster.
I’m actually getting ANGRY just thinking about the newborn now.
On to the better films.
4. Prometheus (2012)
Narrowly beating out Alien: Resurrection Ridley Scott’s first return to the universe he created (© Scott Free productions 2017), Prometheus was beautiful to look at but staffed almost exclusively by morons.
Quite possibly the worst spaceship crew in the galaxy goes searching for the source of life and blunders their way from one crisis to another while investigating the alien Engineers and their black goo. Apparently footage left on the cutting room for the sake of pacing explained why a biologist wouldn’t show any fear of a clearly annoyed alien snake thing, or how the geologist with 3D mapping technology managed to get lost in the vast engineer base, but nothing can explain why one of the scientists takes off his space helmet at the first opportunity with no fear of Alien germs and then becomes deeply depressed after confirming that intelligent life exists in the universe, but isn’t around right now to have a chat!
For a prequel to the Alien series, the film also created more mysteries than it answered. More deleted scenes that showed the geologist Fifield mutating into a Xenomorph-like creature, instead of the weird space zombie we got in the final cut, might have strengthened the links to the other Alien movies but for some reason, Scott and Fox decided to distance Prometheus from the Alien franchise. Which raises another question: why bother at all?
Hopefully, the filmmakers have learned from the Prometheus backlash and have a more coherent storyline and plot in mind for Alien: Covenant.
3. Alien3 (1992)
After Alien’s “haunted house in space” and the bigger, brasher adventure of James Cameron’s Aliens the only real option open for Alien3 director David Fincher was to go was smaller. He had no choice really, seeing as Fox had already spent millions failing to develop a number of other ideas for this sequel.
Confining the story to a weaponless prison planet, Alien3 gets off to a bad start with its ignominious of screen deaths of Hicks, Newt and Bishop from the previous film. The return to a single Xenomorph, loose in a single location with minimal weapons, and a load of English-accented prisoners was also hard to take after the bombast of Cameron’s Aliens.
At least they tried to do something different, fulfilling Ripley’s greatest nightmare and infecting her with an Alien queen. The filmmakers also deserve some credit for following through on this, ending the film with Ripley’s death, as she sacrifices herself to prevent the Alien Queen bursting through her chest from falling into the hands of “The Company”.
2. Alien (1979)
The original (and as I’m sure many, many people are going to tell me after reading this, the best) Alien is the perfect union of a great concept/script, a genuinely visionary director who gave the film a “look” like nothing else of the time, and a designers who came up with an utterly alien Alien. It’s part of the pop culture landscape now but it’s hard to think of any other extraterrestrial that is as terrifying or as otherworldly as THE Xenomorph. There have been many attempts to make one, none have stuck like the Alien.
The original film is even more outstanding when you consider all the tropes it manages to avoids. Rather than a team of scientists or plucky explorers, it’s a group of blue-collar workers, space truckers, who run into the “starbeast”. A diverse crew (in 1979!) where it’s immediately clear who will survive and who won’t. It subverts the expectations beautifully with Tom Skerrit’s heroic Captain Dallas exiting the film early on and background character Ripley ending up the sole human survivor of the Nostromo aboard the Narcissus (along with Jonesy the cat and that pesky Xeno). A world/spacecraft that takes the lived-in tech of Star Wars and applies it to regular working Joe’s.
It’s a film that’s often been mimicked but never bettered.
The haunted house in space, an original horror classic. and home to the best dining room scenes EVER.
1. Aliens (1986)
Ripley: These people are here to protect you. They’re soldiers.
Newt: It won’t make any difference.
What could be worse than a murderous, acid-blooded, alien running around, hunting you? How about hundreds of them?
Aliens is one of those perfect sequels that expands upon the original without diluting it. James Cameron’s tech-heavy military aesthetic, so different to Scott’s, creates some wondrous visions and nightmares (not all of them alien in nature) and yet it gels beautifully with the original. Cameron reveals another, more militaristic, part of Scott’s world, painting it with a fantastic design sense, crewing it with a cast of instantly memorable characters, and giving them a script bursting with life.
Aliens mesmerised and horrified in equal measure when I first saw it. I’ve had the United States Colonial Marines gear stuck in my head ever since. From the brutal elegance of the dropship and APC, the rifle-like Sulaco, Drake and Vasquez’s smart guns and a personal friend of mine… the M41A pulse rifle, Cameron populated the future with soldiers with delightful toys and then showed you just how useless they all were when faced wit the Alien.
Every character seemed distinctive; the whiny Hudson as played so distinctively by the dearly departed Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser’s corporate sleazebag Burke, stoic synthetic Bishop with Sigourney Weaver’s haunted Ripley at the centre of it all, terrified of facing her nightmares again.
Until that is, she gets in a power loader.
One of the best films ever made (alongside the original!).
Alien Covenant has a very high standard to live up to/
Alien: Covenant is released in cinemas on 10 May with Special Sneaks on 9 May