Summer movie season is right around the corner, and we couldn’t be more excited. It’s a magical time of year, when giant Hollywood studios unleash pure unadulterated entertainment upon the popcorn-gobbling masses. Usually, we don’t like to get our hopes up too high in regards to the quality of any summer’s particular offerings of mindless theater entertainment, but we’re making an exception for the highly-anticipated release of Alien: Covenant..
In 1979, director Ridley Scott single handedly flipped not one, but two genres of film on their heads with the release of Alien. The film, which became an instant classic of both science fiction and horror, follows a doomed crew of spacemen (and spacewomen) as they encounter an alien life form that decimates their ranks in the most violently entertaining manner.
Not only did Alien pretty much define the nascent genre of survival horror, but it also cemented Sigourney Weaver as a star with her portrayal of protagonist Ellen Ripley. The film also served as the most mainstream vehicle to feature the works of Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger who designed the horrific titular creature.
The film was a grand success, grossing over $100 million at the box office (though, with creative Hollywood accounting, 20th Century Fox claimed that the film still lost money despite this milestone.) Of course a sequel was in order, and the franchise did not disappoint.
The James Cameron-helmed Aliens was released in 1986,slightly shifting genres to more of a straight sci-fi action thriller with an impressive script by Walter Hill. It has become perhaps the most beloved all of the Alien films, due in large parts to an impressive effects budget and a strong ensemble cast, featuring Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, and Lance Henrickson alongside the returning Sigourney Weaver. The film was a smash hit just like its predecessor.
Looking to keep the money train rolling, 20th Century Fox developed Alien 3 shortly afterwards. This much maligned entry in the saga saw Ripley stranded in an all-male penal colony located in the far reaches of the galaxy, again fighting her alien nemesis — which according to some was supposed to stand as a metaphor for AIDS in this installment. The studio gave the picture to first time director David Fincher, who would go on to enjoy a successful career after this very rocky start.
While Alien 3 performed well, critics and fans of the series didn’t embrace it nearly as much as the entries in the series before it. Many blamed the studio for rushing the film, leading to an incomplete final edit. If you can ever track down the longer workprint version of the film, it is indeed a much better watch. (Weaver famously went bald for this outing, but the final cut doesn’t even offer a reason why she does this, while the extended workprint version explains it is to prevent lice.)
The folks at 20th Century Fox decided a third sequel was in order, despite Ellen Ripley having died at the climax of Alien 3. A script involving a cloned Ripley was cobbled together by Joss Whedon and French auteur Jean-Pierre Juenet was brought on to direct. Juenet’s impressive visual style and a strong supporting cast featuring Ron Perlman and Winona Ryder couldn’t save such a sweaty premise, and while the film is a fun watch, Alien: Resurrection again falls very short of the original source material.
Afterwards, it appeared the franchise was dead. It wouldn’t be until 15 years later that Scott would finally return to helm a prequel — the heavily debated Prometheus. While an enjoyable film in its own rights, it really doesn’t have the vibes one expects from the Alien series, and its climactic tie-in to Alien feels a little shoehorned. Luckily, Ridley Scott so enjoyed making the film enough that he immediately started developing a new full-blown Alien movie.
So now we look forward to the future of the franchise, to Alien: Covenant. The trailer looks dope, we love xenomorphs, we love Danny McBride… What could go wrong? While we idle away the days until its release, salivating at the thought of a return to glory for one of the best series in sci-fi history, let’s take a look at some cool Alien-inspired tattoos to tide us over. With all the love out there for these films, it’s no shock that some cool nerds all over planet earth have made the decision to get a dope Alien tattoo.
(Author’s note: while we could have brought the two terribly disappointing Aliens Vs Predator movies into this discussion, we didn’t because they suck so bad that no one in their right mind would consider them canon. We are trying our best to forget they even exist. Editor’s Note: But the comics were pretty fucking rad.)