The 1970-80s were not just home to the slew of action hero films that gave us the stars of The Expendables: they were a time of rapid growth in the science fiction genre where one could truly see the brilliant depths of the human imagination. Studios weren’t just churning out the same gimmicky B-movies that dominated the 1950s; they were letting visionary filmmakers craft stories that combined groundbreaking special effects with captivating characters. Star Wars, The Terminator, Robocop, Blade Runner, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan stand out as among the best of these feats.
But arguably more noteworthy than even these masterpieces was a small thriller called Alien. Directed by Sir Ridley Scott who, up to that point, had only made the historical drama The Duellists, Alien depicted the crew of the spaceship Nostromo whose lives get placed in danger when one of their crew mates contracts a foreign organism. Retroactively called a “xenomorph” this creature steadily mutated throughout the movie, until by the end where it had acquired its iconic look: an elongated head, razor-sharp teeth, and slender limbs.
Upon release Alien revolutionized the sci-fi horror genre, garnering widespread acclaim for its intoxicatingly bleak production design, realistic characters, foreboding atmosphere, and of course the Alien itself, which, to this day, looks and operates amazingly (shout-out to the late Bolaji Badejo and stunt team for their work). Seven years later, James Cameron followed it up with the appropriately titled Aliens which, while abandoning the original’s use of survival horror, delivered on its own front with a series of visceral set pieces that proved the franchise still had life in it despite the time difference between the two movies.
Unfortunately for fans, this was arguably the last time the series stretched its wings. The third entry, Alien 3 or Alien3, was released in 1992 to very mixed reviews, due to its abandonment of previous tropes and a focus on grotesqueness over thrills. However, even Alien 3 did not degrade the franchise as much as its follow-up Alien:Resurrection, which brought the series into the realm of science fantasy with its depiction of a biophysical bond between a cloned Ripley and Xenomorph queen.
The mid-2000s saw 20th Century Fox embrace a greed-driven approach to the series, producing two crossovers between it and the esteemed Predators franchise appropriately called Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Completely abandoning the canon and extensive mythology laid out in prior films, the AvP movies instead embraced a trashy blockbuster template that clearly took more inspiration from the aforementioned ’50s movies than anything that Scott or Cameron had created.
All hope seemed lost for fans until July 2009 when it was revealed that Sir Ridley would be returning as director for a prequel to the very first Alien, later officially called Prometheus. Exploring the origins of the xenomorphs, Prometheus ended up opening to polarizing reviews, with many praising it as equivalent in scope to Alien, while others detesting it for its poor characterization and plot contrivances. This reflected itself in the box office results, where a strong opening weekend was met with a much weaker second week, though it managed to make enough of a profit overseas to justify a sequel.
Called Alien: Covenant, Scott’s return as director, alongside a screenplay written by frequent Martin Scorsese collaborator John Logan, has seemingly promised even the most skeptic fans that there will be a true callback to the first two Aliens. To capitalize on this anticipation, the marketing team has officially unveiled a picture that is sure to leave you nightmares via Empire Magazine. A shot of what will presumably be either the xenomorph in the movie or a precursor race, much as was seen in Prometheus.
Regardless, we cannot wait to see this new film from Sir Ridley!
[Featured Image by 20th Century Fox/Empire Magazine]