Alien is a 1979 science-fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O'Bannon. Based on a story by O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, it follows the crew of the commercial space tug Nostromo, who encounter the eponymous Alien, a deadly and aggressive extraterrestrial set loose on the ship.
Director Ridley Scott crafted a masterpiece, making a film that was serious and expertly designed. Storyboards that surfaced in 2016 for the original 1979 Alien were drawn by Scott himself and show just how detailed he got with his vision, making sure that every thought came forth in the final product.
These icons are the work of cinematic design legend Ron Cobb. He named them the Semiotic Standard For All Commercial Trans-Stellar Utility Lifter And Heavy Element Transport Spacecraft. These are the production sketches.
You might have noticed that these icons bear a striking resemblance to the rounded rectangles used for modern app iconography. Indeed, design company The Iconfactory has recreated the Semiotic Standard as a beautiful set of iOS app icons. It could be argued that Cobb provided the inspiration for rounded-rectangle iconography some 28 years before Apple made it the standard on the iPhone.
The Alien concept art designed by artist H.R. Giger helped transform the project from a b-movie into a genre classic.A number of artists took a stab at conceiving of the monster, but it wasn't until O'Bannon introduced director Ridley Scott to Giger's work that it all clicked. Scott fell in love with the artist's unique, nightmarish style, and felt he should represent what the creature looked like.
- a creature whose origins would be explored further in Scott's 2012 Alien prequel Prometheus.
Giger was thus hired as a designer, with his Alien concept art defining the lifecycle of the monster and the derelict craft. Giger's beautifully designed monster suit still looked like a man in a rubber costume, but Scott decided to only show the creature in pieces so the audience's imagination could fill in the gaps, making it even more terrifying. Giger's Alien concept art is also responsible for the dead Space Jockey
More than a Film
What is Alien?
Pick out almost any frame in the original ALIEN and I’ll bet it’s something that has gone on to become iconic. The film is scene after scene of intense, disturbing, and innovative imagery. But a few stand out. The chestbursting, the facehugging, Ripley’s desperate sprint to the escape ship, and the acid blood scene, where we discover that these xenomorphs have blood that can burn right through a spaceship.
The Alien chestburster scene is the stuff of movie legend - and could genuinely be one of cinema's greatest ever scenes if only for the reason that, despite having seen it countless times before, you still never expect what follows.
Kane, having had an unknown creature attached to his face for days, sits down to eat with his fellow Nostromo crew members; all seems well until he begins convulsing in pain. As the crew members try to contain him, a small alien creature bursts through his chest, killing Kane, before escaping into the depths of the ship.
After Brett was killed by a xenomorph, the crew went searching for the creature. Dallas concluded the creature was using the ship's ventilation ducts to move around and proposed to flush it into the main airlock, at which point it could be jettisoned into space. Ash suggested that, since it worked on animals, fire might work to force the Xenomorph to retreat. Dallas went into the ducts armed with a flamethrower, Parker, also armed, stayed behind with Joan, operating a tracking device. Dallas fired the Flame Thrower occasionally, but was eventually caught by the xenomorph, dropping his weapon and triggering one of the most well known, and made fun of jump scares.
Is it possible for a lumbering, futuristic space-cruiser to be transformed into a Victorian-era haunted estate? Ridley Scott successfully answers the call of this challenge in Alien. The scene features the first appearance of the maturated xenomorph and its director pulls no punches in heightening the suspense of the insidious creature’s reveal.
The falling liquid’s tone changes to a flatter, slapping noise. The alteration in sound can be attributed to the bill of Brett’s hat, serving as a cue for the character to remove his cap and crane his neck upward. The camera then tilts similarly to replicate Brett, the drops that fall on the camera lens almost seem to fall on our own faces. Brett closes his eyes to don his headwear once again and the act allows the scene’s focalization to separate from Brett’s interiority and in turn adopt an external focus.
Brett has been dispatched by senior officers Parker and Ripley to recover the lost feline Jonesy. Alone, he has reached a corner of the ship that he’s determined holds Jonesy, but hesitant to pursue the cat any further. The camera is thrust into Brett’s perspective after a shocking uncovering of the panic-stricken Jonesy. Through the man’s eyes and ears we watch and listen dumbfounded as the cat noisily scampers between two open doors into the next room.
One of the biggest revelations Scott has brought to attention is the original ending he wanted to go with for Alien. Scott told Entertainment Weekly he thought a more appropriate ending for the film would be to have Ripley die. Instead of having Ripley, emerge victorious after a ferocious battle, she was supposed to try and fight the alien to no avail.
Ultimately, it’s a good thing that Ripley was able to defeat the Xenomorph and move on with the series, but there’s no question that an alien who can’t be stopped is far more terrifying. Scott said the idea was shot down almost immediately by executive producers at Fox, who weren’t okay with the idea of the movie’s main character dying in such a graphic manner.
Throughout the scene Scott expertly weaves the techniques of continuity editing, psychologically-geared audio tracks, and multiple focalizations into a great, fibrous tapestry of sheer terror. It is a tapestry spattered in blood and held aloft by a network of clanking chains inside one of the many groaning hallways of the commercial space-vessel.
The camera quickly cuts to a close-up of the floor just as Brett lifts a moist xenomorph carapace. The peeling sound not only provides a disgusting audio accompaniment, but also an enormous clue: xenomorphs grow rapidly. Here, the character and the audience share a mutual discovery.
Inside this new focalization, the audience is free to make discoveries apart from the on-screen character. There is a fully-grown xenomorph suspended by chains above Brett’s head, and he is entirely unaware.
What makes the scene so iconic, however - alongside the technical bravura and Ridley Scott's incredibly simplistic direction - is that none of the cast knew what was coming next either.
Scott: Prosthetics in those days weren't that good. I figured the best thing to do was to get stuff from a butcher's shop and a fishmonger. On the morning we had them examining the Facehugger; that was clams, oysters, seafood. You had to be ready to shoot because it started to smell pretty quickly. You can't make better stuff than that - it's organic.
It all started with Scott's desire for genuine reactions of terror. "[They] were going to be the most difficult thing. If an actor is just acting terrified, you can't get the genuine look of raw, animal fear," he mused.
Cartwright, who famously passed out when cameras stopped rolling, said: "We read the script. They showed us a mock-up, but they didn't show how it was going to work. They just said, 'Its head will move and it's going to have teeth'.
Dan O'Bannon (executive producer/screenwriter): Once the creature was rigged up, they stuffed the chest cavity full of organs from the butcher's. Then they ran a couple of big hoses to pump the stage blood. During all this Ridley moved about, tending to the finest detail. I remember easily half an hour was spent with him draping this little piece of beef organ so it would hang out of the creature's mouth.
“I thought that the alien should come in, and Ripley harpoons it and it makes no difference, so it slams through her mask and rips her head off,” Scott said.
The star of the iconic poster, a painted chicken egg, obviously never appears in the film, but the publicity team — who only had some early test footage from the egg chamber scene — chose the image to represent the R-rated film, without knowing how much the eggs would play into the plot.
The doomed crew of the Nostromo lands on an eerie planet and discovers a chamber filled with rows and rows of giant eggs. When approached by a potential host — in this case the infamously unlucky Kane — one egg opens, revealing a gooey, stomach-churning interior. It pulsates until a facehugger bursts from within to, well, live up to its name.
As harmless as they seem, eggs can be scary. “There are subconscious fears we all have of something growing inside [of us], of cancer, and also of what comes out,” Christian says. “Eggs are beautiful objects, but at the same time, you wonder what’s inside. Alien traded on those fundamental phobias.” And then it created many more.
This image depicts Sigourney Weaver testing out the flamethrower prior to filming Alien on the Shepperton Studios’ backlot lawn, 1978. A remote switch was used to activate the lighter inside, and once lit, director Ridley Scott “liked to keep it that way.”
More than a Film
What is Alien?
Speaking about his most enduring masterpiece, the director Ridley Scott said he wanted Alien to be an “unpretentious, riveting thriller, like Psycho or Rosemary’s Baby”. It is ironic that perhaps no other film has inspired as much pretentious commentary. Alien has proved an ideal text for academics, a deep well – or perhaps a totem pole – of Freudian allusion from which critics and theorists have drawn whatever they fancied.
Alien 3 is a 1992 American science fiction horror film directed by David Fincher and written by David Giler, Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson from a story by Vincent Ward. It is the third installment of the Alien franchise.
Set right after the events of Aliens, Ripley and an Alien organism are the only survivors of the Colonial Marine spaceship Sulaco's escape pod's crash on a planet housing a penal colony populated by violent male inmates.
Aliens is a 1986 American science fiction action film written and directed by James Cameron, produced by Gale Anne Hurd. It is the second installment of the Alien franchise. The film follows Ellen Ripley as she returns to the moon where her crew encountered the hostile Alien creature, this time accompanied by a unit of space marines.
This low-budget Italian B-movie was an audacious — and almost immediate — attempt to piggyback on the success of Alien.
As for the plot, Alien 2: On Earth opens with a spacecraft returning home after a failed mission, with the team of astronauts replaced by creatures resembling pulsating blue stones. Not to be outdone, these unassuming creatures don't hug faces — they tear them clean off. Scientist Thelma Joyce and her team are unlucky enough to encounter these creatures during a cave-exploring mission.
In terms of atmosphere, appearance, and audio Outland could easily exist within the Alien universe. Peter Hyams' sci-fi ifollows O'Niel as he's sent to a mining colony to investigate the suicides and psychotic tendencies of a number of miners. Instead of extraterrestrials, he battles a corrupt corporation on the same moral compass as Nostromo-owning Weylan-Yutani.
Another similarity is their shared space-set claustrophobia. Hyams doesn't deny where the inspiration came from. "Ridley Scott paved the way. I think he made the best science fiction film ever made in Alien," he told Den of Geek. "The idea of a blue-collar existence in a very hostile environment struck me as very interesting."
Perhaps afraid a space setting would be a little on the nose, DeepStar Six is set deep underwater at a U.S. Naval facility, where an 11-man team is close to finishing its assignment to test colonization and build a nuclear launch pad on the ocean floor.
After breaking through the Earth's crust and uncovering a cavern system, they unsettle a bloodthirsty sea monster. The monster attacks the base, mercilessly murdering them with less grace than its Xenomorph counterpart. In a clear link to Alien, an unlucky victim's chest literally bursts.
A diplomatic way of describing Leviathan would be a collage made from the scrapbook of Alien, Jaws, The Thing, and even Outland. The suffocating setting is deep underwater, but replace dark matter with H2O and you basically have an Atlantic adaptation of Alien. Leviathan was penned by the writers of Blade Runner and Die Hard making its lack of originality all the more surprising. In its favor, it's generally preferred over its thematic 1989 sibling, DeepStar Six.
In this post-apocalyptic world, director Thierry Notz dreams up nightmarish mutants. Déjà vu ensues as the team hunt the creature, armed with flamethrowers, crossbows, and a dog. However, The Terror Within almost tackles serious themes. Shock value and gratuity aside, and there's a semblance of a pro-choice commentary. The Terror Within II was released in 1991 and featured a fair share of talent, including cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, who later won Oscars for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.
Aliens set design contrasting popular sci-fi releases of the time, made darkness evil's ally. In Pitch Black, darkness takes center stage. The 2000 sci-fi/horror introduced Richard B. Riddick, a violent criminal with night vision. The perfect ally when a spaceship crash lands on a desolate planet covered in darkness and inhabited by vampiric aliens. If he helps the survivors escape, he'll be a free man.
Despite using Alien for inspiration, Pitch Black is an example of how imitation can create something new. Two sequels followed with 2004's Chronicles of Riddick and 2013's Riddick.
Prometheus is a 2012 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott, written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. It is set in the late 21st century and centers on the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as it follows a star map discovered among the artifacts of several ancient Earth cultures. Seeking the origins of humanity, the crew arrives on a distant world and discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human species.
Development of the film began in the early 2000s as a fifth installment in the Alien franchise. Scott and director James Cameron developed ideas for a film that would serve as a prequel to Scott's 1979 science-fiction horror film Alien.
Alien Resurrection is a 1997 American science fiction horror film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and written by Joss Whedon. It is the fourth installment of the Alien film series and the final installment in the main series.
Set 200 years after Alien 3, Ellen Ripley is cloned and an Alien Queen is surgically removed from her body. The United Systems Military hopes to breed Aliens to study and research on the spaceship USM Auriga, using human hosts kidnapped and delivered to them by a group of mercenaries. Ripley and the mercenaries attempt to escape and destroy the Auriga before it reaches its destination: Earth.
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Alien: Covenant is a 2017 science fiction horror film directed and produced by Ridley Scott and written by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Michael Green and Jack Paglen. A joint American and British production, the film is a sequel to Prometheus and is the second installment in the Alien prequel series and the sixth installment overall in the Alien film series, as well as the third directed by Scott. It follows the crew of a colony ship that lands on an uncharted planet and makes a terrifying discovery.
Partly this is due to the quality of the film. Despite many imitators, the original is still the most gripping sci-fi horror ever made. Its pacing, with a slow start building to a frenetic climax, is masterful. Its design has held up where more recent films look dated. For sci-fi, it depends remarkably little on technology.
Since it was first released, every frame of the film has been pored over for meaning. James Cameron’s excellent sequel, Aliens, has been studied too. (The other films in the series, not so much.) Most of this attention has been occupied by the character of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and the Swiss artist HR Giger’s terrifying design for the alien, or “xenomorph”. But the androids, the spaceship, the uniforms and even the ship’s cat have come in for analysis.
The cramped setting is Pine Gap, a top-secret military base in the dehydrated wastelands of the Australian desert, and Dix draws from both Alien and Aliens. An elite team of commandos — locked, loaded, and given permission to shoot on sight — are alerted by a distress signal. The base is under attack from inmates, and the commandos' mission is to save a group of scientists being held hostage.The Alien influence is on full display with the conflict, particularly the interactions between the team.
Life is the most blatant ripoff of Alien to date. There's no denying Daniel Espinosa's sci-fi horror adventure is a cookie-cutter copy. Updated to fit the cultural zeitgeist of 2017, the alien life form a byproduct of cellular experimentation. "This is not the sci-fi movie in the realms of the impossible," Espinosa told IndieWire. "This is something that could happen tomorrow." Added plausibility certainly adds value.
Correlations to Alien unfold rapidly as the crew are hideously murdered, one at a time. From heated debates over how to defeat the resourceful foe to an inescapable sense of foreboding, Life's plot and premise follow the path Scott carved decades prior.
The Cloverfield Paradox feels a like third-generation Alien— or as Polygon bluntly put it, a "straight-to-video remake of 2017's Life." A crew of astronauts assemble to test a particle accelerator in an attempt to harness infinite energy for a future Earth running low on resources. One slight drawback: the risk of ripping the structure of space-time, mashing together alternate dimensions.
The Cloverfield Paradox only tenuously links its two predecessors. Unlike earlier efforts, as its secluded, space-set horror unfolds, it feels rehashed and unimaginative. By the time credits roll, existential philosophers may begin to wonder if Scott tested a narrative-driven particle accelerator in 1979, opening a portal to infinite Alien ripoffs.
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What is Alien?