A Xenomorph reviews the Alien franchise
As Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant hits cinemas, we invite a Xenomorph to cast an eye over the franchise and – in the name of balance – EXCLUSIVELY give the Alien’s point of view, for the first time
Dir. Ridley Scott
“I have to admit, the beginning of Alien is kind of frustrating. It’s like when the waiter gives you the menu and then doesn’t come back for 40 minutes. We see a veritable smorgasbord of human meat on display – white, black, male, female – as they wake up from hypersleep and go about their daily routines on the spaceship Nostromo. However, once they land on the planetoid LV-426 I couldn’t help but have my internal phallic teeth pop out the front of my face and snap at the screen in anticipation.
“We all know what happens on LV-426. The star of the movie turns up in a beautifully erotic scene, leaping on to the human’s stupid fat face and melting through his helmet. There’s some comedy as the humans stumble about and try to cut through the face-hugger’s claw, releasing acid – they really are arseholes. But this comedy shifts to a scene that has become a classic: one of the most beautiful depictions of childbirth ever.
“This biopic rather mindlessly loses sight of its eponymous hero as he grows and what Xeno-critics have described as ‘the human gaze’ lingers exploitatively on the sweaty faces of the food, rather than the inner turmoil of Alien. We get glimpses of him, but only in the act of hunting and only at the last moment. We don’t see his turmoil as he discovers that human meat isn’t as tasty as he’d hoped, his attempts to fashion a DIY sauna (a deleted scene cropped up on a DVD of this typical Xeno-trait) or his essential loneliness – his name is the first five letters of alienation for crying out loud – as he is consistently met with hostility.
“Finally, his beautifully pathetic attempts to befriend the ship’s cat, Jones, lead to tragic disaster, as the final surviving member of the crew, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), cruelly traps our hero and blows him out of the airlock.”
Dir. James Cameron
“We all went to see James Cameron’s sequel with high expectations. The previous outing had seen our hero outnumbered and destroyed, but here the roles were going to be reversed as finally we got a look at the wider society of the Xenomorphs. This community included dads, kids, face-huggers in jars and, perhaps most importantly, a Queen. Imagine then our horror when we discovered that the film was almost entirely a story of atrocity and destruction.
“Yes, we bleed acid; yes, we kill anything that moves with a murderous aggression, but we have hearts Goddamnit. The real monsters were the marines with their stupid arrogance, their gung-ho careless violence, and Carter Burke and his conniving 80s fashion. Of course, Ripley had become a huge star throughout the galaxy. She was our version of Darth Vader and Game of Thrones' Joffrey combined: the villain you love to hate. We could never fully enjoy Ghostbusters because of her.
“But nothing prepared us for her wickedness when it came to the scene in the Queen's nursery/sauna, which Ripley destroys with a flamethrower, horrifically killing all the babies and eggs. That was actually way too strong for our censors and several seconds were cut from the film to ensure an H-rating. The misogyny and disrespect of Ripley calling our Queen a ‘bitch’ was also seen as too much; when they showed it on TV they changed it to ‘badass’.
“To make things even worse, Ripley is paired with a little succubus called, inappropriately enough, Newt. The little girl has no amphibious qualities at all.”
Alien 3 (1992)
Dir. David Fincher
“David Fincher’s dark, prison-based entry into the franchise is my own personal favourite. First, Newt gets offed in a hilarious credits sequence – talk about Xeno-fan service! And then the planet itself is just so rainy, grim and gritty, with all those northern English accents and the guys from Withnail and I. It doesn’t hurt that Ripley is finally being made to suffer a little bit for the pain she has caused us through the years. Charles Dance is also amazing, and for once I was sorry to see someone so sweet killed so quickly. It’s like having tiramisu for an antipasto.
“Much comedy is made of the stupidity of the humans once more, but the real highpoint comes with the realisation that Ripley is pregnant. This poignant moment seems to finally give her a chance at redemption – maybe they can build a sauna in the already sweaty bowels of the prison and live happily. But then her narrow human heart leads her to an act of abhorrent self-destruction. It is so upsetting and yet there’s a sadness, a tragedy to it that the films had never before reached.”
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet
“In a surprising twist, the villain of the series, Ripley, finally becomes a hero – sort of. Five years passed before Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed the next entry, from a script by Joss Whedon – Xenomorphs are total fans of Buffy, by the way, from the pod to the airlock – and once more the venal stupidity of the human species is on display as their cleverest scientists behave in the stupidest and most immoral ways.
“By contrast, we show our Xeno-values to be superior. We are resourceful and self-sacrificing. The scene where some Xenos kill another Xeno to use his blood as a way of melting the glass is very uplifting, roughly comparable to the ‘Let’s blow this thing and go home’ bit from Star Wars.
“The film is tonally all over the place, however, and Ripley in the last act reverts to type with the help of robot Winona Ryder. At least, she has the decency to look sad while doing it.”
Dir. Ridley Scott
“We thought it was crap too.”
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Dir. Ridley Scott
“Ridley Scott tried to get rid of us in Prometheus, but it was like those Doors albums that came out without Jim Morrison, or Queen without Freddie Mercury, or Ant and Dec with Ant and Dec. Not fun. Still, the focus is misplaced on a bunch of colonists who are so sickeningly in love with each other that you just can’t wait until they all start to die.
“Once more matters are weirdly complicated by the urge to explain a mythology behind our beginnings, which is also totally inaccurate incidentally. Just as the real villain of the first four films was the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, so in the last two films the real enemy has been exposition. Yackety-yak go Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and Danny McBride. Michael Fassbender returns as Walter and as David; this for me was interminable. It’s established that although you can tear a synthetic in half – see the hilarious scene with Bishop in Aliens – you can’t eat them. Or you can, but they taste like tofu, so...
“All Walter and David's yakking – creation, destruction, quoting poets, one getting the name of the poet wrong and then the other one going ‘a-ha!’ – was only partly relieved by seeing a Xenomorph back on the scene, doing what we like to do best: leaping out at people, taking a fatal nibble and then buggering off smartish. To be fair to Scott, he even gave the audience – all too briefly – our point of view. He got this exactly right: we basically see the world through a bowl of sloshing urine.
“There are at least another two Alien films planned, though when and if they are made is yet to be seen. Personally, I’d like to see just one Alien film without human beings. That way we’d have room to see the other things Xenomorphs do when we’re not face-hugging, chest-bursting or toothed-phallus punching: the poetry we write; the games we play; the amazing saunas we build with free towels. But unfortunately, as the poster once said, ‘In Space no one can hear you steam.’”
As told to John Bleasdale; follow John Bleasdale on Twitter at @drjonty
Alien: Covenant is in cinemas now