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The original "Alien" was made on a tiny budget and kicked off one of the most successful franchises in movie history. It also made a star out of Sigourney Weaver and gave us one of the most memorable and gory scenes in the Science Fiction genre. When the Alien announced his arrival to the silver screen via John Hurt's stomach lining, it achieved instant iconic status, and signified the beginnings of a horror story that would stretch to 4 sequels (Alien 5 is on the way).
In many ways the best, Ridley Scott's original is effective because of two reasons – (1) amazing attention to detail (the ship, the alien planet, the eggs) and (2) an inability to show the monster (who would have looked decidedly fake) which led to Scott keeping it hidden and in the shadows, creating an atmosphere of an unseen and unknown terror. (Always the worst kind) Ripley's progression from bit player to main protagonist was also an unusual (and pleasant) surprise, female leads still fairly uncommon in those days. If you watch Alien now it still doesn't look dated (despite being made in 1979) and that stomach-bursting scene still has the undoubted power to shock. Exceptional cinema.
Where Alien opted for a tense growing sense of hidden menace to produce the frights, Aliens instead went for a more gun-ho and explosive approach to the series. It could have been a disaster, but instead James Cameron's gamble paid off big time. One of the few sequels to match and even better the original (a debate forever raging) the story consists of our heroine Ripley accompanying a group of hard-ass space marines to a planet colony that may just have had a visit from our acid-blooded friends. Pretty soon the humans find themselves out of their depth having vastly underestimated the power of the extraterrestrials (despite Ripley's stringent warnings) You can read it as an allegory of Vietnam, or just take it as an intense shoot ‘em up action flick- either way it really is an outstanding piece of cinema. "Game over man, game over."
The Bitch is back for another instalment. And no, I'm not talking about Sigourney Weaver (although she does star obviously). After crash-landing on a penal colony planet, Ripley is thrust into a harsh medieval style prison existence (which means having to shave all her hair off) while she tries to come to terms with the rest of her ship crew's death. During her stay however, it soon becomes apparent that she's brought with her an uninvited guest- one of those pesky aliens. And all hell quickly breaks loose.
The third in the Alien series finds it hard to live up to the previous instalments interstellar success, but it's an enjoyable watch none the less. Besides which Ripley's death scene (sorry if I spoilt it for you) is always heart wrenching (not to mention gut, flesh and intestine wrenching) and is a must see for fans of the series. And if you're wondering how she still managed to return in Alien Resurrection (the clues in the title) then you'll just have to watch that as well and find out.
The latest in the series. And yes Ripley is back. (I won't tell you how) The Aliens are at their most advanced yet, CGI allowing them to swim, jump and generally look more real and impressive than ever before. Winona Rider is on board as a passenger with a secret (nothing to do with shoplifting) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet directs. It's not up to the standard of the first two films (it would be very hard to manage that) but it's still an enjoyable episode in the saga and well worth owning.