WHAT THE FILM?! The Alien Franchise (Part 1)

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What The Film?! is a weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the plot holes Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by comedy writer Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try and pull the proverbial wool over our eyes.

If you know a film with major plot holes that you feel needs to be exposed, tell us! Email utgjames@gmail.com with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.



This Week’s Movie: The Alien Franchise (Part 1 of 3)


Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Alien is one of the best horror movies ever made. It was written by Dan O’Bannon and directed by never-disappointing-well-maybe-once-but-it’s-okay Ridley Scott. If you look at a standard horror/slasher movie formula, they seem to all run off a Mad-Libs type formula where not many things are changed from movie to movie; a bunch of people are in a house and killed off by a mysterious figure. Why doesn’t anyone leave the house and escape? Alien had an answer for that: put the house in space.


No, I’m not talking about that Jumanji in space movie, Zathura.

Alien followed a group of space truckers who end up being awoken from hyper sleep to a distress signal. Protocol mandates that they have to investigate the signal because space is a massive massive thing and if someone is stranded, that should be mandatory (also it’d be a dick move to ignore them). They find the signal is coming from a old ancient alien ship, because different planets who evolve into life forms intelligent enough to do interstellar travel can independently create the same exact distress signal.


They find that the ship had crashed on a nearby planet and go in to investigate. The ship is centuries old and filled with skeletons and fossils of large 10-12 foot tall humanoid aliens (which is rumored to be explored in Ridley Scott’s 2012 prequel Prometheus). In the cargo hold of this ship they find hundreds of egg sacks, each still pulsing, waiting for a suitable host for the parasite to hatch and grab a hold of. One of the crew members is infected and ends up bringing the Alien onto their own ship inside his own body. The Alien hatches, bursting through his chest, and promptly murders everyone on the space semi truck except for Ripley.


“Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way.”


Alien was released shortly after 1977’s Star Wars and was quite a different movie. Star Wars introduced the world to the fantastic and Alien introduced people to the Blue-Collar side of the future where not everything looked like an Apple store. While both were science fiction classics; Star Wars was influenced by A Princess of Mars, Dune, and Flash Gordon; Alien on the other hand was influenced by 1978’s Halloween, 1975’s Jaws, 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and a general fear of being raped in the face.


“Good Lord, why do you keep trying to put this stuff on the site? No means no.” – UTG Owner/Editor James


Alien was followed by a sequel, 1986’s Aliens, written and directed by James Cameron. He decided to take the franchise in a different direction, ignoring the horror/slasher movie tone of the original and making it more horror/action. It solidified in pop culture the idea of a Space Marine, influencing the video games Doom, Quake, Metroid, Halo, and Starcraft. It became so iconic that lines of dialogue, weapons, and even vehicles were lifted directly from Aliens to be placed in the Halo series.


Try to guess which one is which.


Aliens followed the lone survivor Ripley, waking from hyper sleep, finding out that it’s 50 years later, her then young daughter is now a decrepit old woman, and everyone else she loved is dead or senile. She ends up becoming an adviser to a group of Space Marines sent to the planet from the first movie to clear out the alien infestation. On the planet Ripley discovers a young girl named Newt and is determined to protect this girl at all costs. Ripley’s lack of a daughter (due to the long passage of time in hyper sleep) transforms her, her maternal instincts changer her from the token “surviving girl” horror-movie-archetype from the last movie to the big action hero she is now. Ultimately, everyone in this movie is killed off except for Ripley, Newt, and one Marine, who leave the planet together on a small ship after killing off every alien on it. Mission Accomplished! Dubya would be proud.


Aliens was followed by 1992’s Alien³ (pronounced “Alien 3” not “Alien Cubed” as I assumed) directed by first time director David Fincher (who has since disowned this movie). Alien³ started a trend in the Alien franchise where they completely negate the prior entry by opening with the ship Ripley, Newt, and the marine were on crashing into another planet. Another Alien had sneaked onto the ship, implanted its embryos into the chest cavity of someone, and destroyed enough of the ship to cause it crash. Everyone was killed except for Ripley. Ultimately, we discover that the embryo has been implanted inside our protagonist Ripley, who kills herself in the last scene to make sure that the final Alien dies with her. A heroic death and a  very risky way to end your movie.


It did make a pretty awesome SNES game though.


The prior entry’s driving force was Ripley determined to kill off every Alien and save this little girl. Alien³ opens with us realizing that all of Aliens was in vain. This is as if they made another Harry Potter movie opening with Voldemort already having taken over the world. It negates the entire plot of the last movie. It was a very ballsy move, and not the only one the movie pulled. It ignored the action/horror style of Aliens and tried to be more horror/slasher like Alien. There were no Space Marines, despite being hugely popular in Aliens, and there were no weapons of any kind, causing characters to have to MacGyver their fortifications.


Alien³ isn’t a bad movie at its core, in fact I actually enjoyed it. Its flaws are similar to 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, a movie that has been in pre-production for so long that it has been passed from writer to writer and changed so many times that you can actually tell where the script passed hands due to the change of style and tone. A lot of good and bad ideas rolled together into one mess. While I praise its return to the horror style of Alien, like Jurassic Park III, it attempts to be closer to the first in the series, but comes off rushed, sloppy, and full of broken ideas, like an Xbox. It may not be broken, but its faulty pieces make the whole machine seem that way.



Part Two!

 Dane is here to protect you. He’s like a solider. But it won’t make any difference. You can follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.

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  • anon

    This review seems to wander around without really making a point.