Franchises of All Time
The Alien Films
Alien (1979) | Aliens (1986) | Alien 3 (1992) | Alien Resurrection (1997) | Prometheus (2012)
Film Plot Summary
The film opened in the year 2122 AD, with the crew of seven members of the grimy, commercial space towing-freighter Nostromo being awakened from hypersleep by the ship's main computer (nicknamed Mother). A non-human distress transmission-signal "of unknown origin" was soon investigated by the entire crew on the unsurveyed, uncharted moon LV-426. It came from a derelict, downed alien ship that contained thousands of eggs.
Resourceful, self-reliant, hard-assed, feminist action heroine Lt. Ellen Ripley (unknown stage actress Sigourney Weaver in her first major film role) suspected the signal wasn't an SOS but a warning signal. In the interior of the alien craft where a bizarre pod field contained rows of eggs encased in a bluish mist-shrouded pit, crew member Kane's (John Hurt) helmet and face were attacked by something inside one of the eggs.
Ripley wanted to refuse entry and follow strict quarantine procedures ("If we let it in, the ship could be infected. You know the quarantine procedure. Twenty-four hours for decontamination"), but Kane was allowed back on board. Laid out in the ship's infirmary, Kane's face was covered by the alien face-hugger as it choked his neck, but fed him oxygen through a throat tube. It couldn't be removed - and when cut spurted out acidic yellow-bile liquid blood. When it came off naturally and shed its dead carcass-skin (and died?), Kane appeared to recover.
During the film's most notable scene set during a meal at the mess table - their last before a 10-month journey back to Earth - Kane had a seizure and the alien (with a row of sharp teeth) bloodily and unexpectedly burst out of his chest and scurried away. One by one as the crew members searched for the creature, they were eliminated - ship's mechanic Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) was killed by the monster during a lone search for the ship's beloved yellowish, ginger cat Jones.
The menacing, unstoppable, carnivorous, stowaway, primal xenomorph was using the ship's airshafts or cooling ducts to move around. Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) also died when searching for the beast in the air vents with a flamethrower. Ripley announced a new strategy: "We'll go step-by-step and cut off every bulkhead and every vent until we have it cornered, and then we'll blow it the f--k out into space."
Through the ship's computer, Ripley learned the corporate machinations behind the alien - the Company employing them had deliberately rerouted them to pick up the alien, and that the crew was expendable ("Nostromo rerouted to new co-ordinates. Investigate life form. Gather specimen. Priority One. Insure return of organism for analysis. All other considerations secondary. Crew expendable"). It was also revealed that the science officer Ash (Ian Holm) was a scheming android ("It's a robot! Ash is a goddamn robot!").
When Ash attacked Ripley, navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) rescued her, and Parker lethally wounded Ash - as it gasped: "You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility." Ripley decided upon a new strategy: "We're gonna blow up the ship. We'll take our chances in the shuttle. Blow up the ship." The next two gruesome casualties were Parker and Lambert.
Left alone, Ripley heroically activated the emergency destruct system to blow up the ship. She successfully abandoned ship in the shuttlecraft Narcissus with Jones (she told herself: "I got you! You son-of-a-bitch"), not realizing that the alien had hidden onboard.
In the film's exciting conclusion, she stripped down to her skimpy underwear, then donned a space suit when she realized the alien was present, opened the airlock hatch, and jettisoned the creature into outer space - and then blasted it with white-heat exhaust before entering hypersleep with Jones for the long journey home in the Narcissus ("This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off").
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
The grisly, claustrophobic, action-oriented, science-fiction/horror film contained very little dialogue but with some very suspenseful, tension-filled moments (deliberately drawn out with slow pacing), visceral thrills and shocks, and special effects/visual effects techniques.
Nominated for two Academy Awards (with one win): Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects (win).
Its effective and famous tagline was: "In space, no one can hear you scream." It was the first R-rated film to have merchandising aimed at children.
The Nostromo's name was taken from Joseph Conrad's 1904 novel of the same name. This box-office hit from 20th Century Fox, budgeted at about $11 million, with almost $81 million in revenues (domestic), and $105 million (worldwide).
The screenplay for director Ridley Scott's film (only his second feature film following The Duellists (1977), although Walter Hill was originally to be the director) was written by Dan O'Bannon, who based the script upon a story (originally titled Star Beast) that he had written with partner Ronald Shusett.
The imaginative and fantastic settings (and the hostile, slime-dripping, predatory Alien creature itself) were conceived and created by Swiss surrealist designer and painter H. R. Giger and Heavy Metal French artist Moebius (Jean Giraud). Because of the original film's success, Scott was able to finance his next futuristic film, the equally popular Blade Runner (1982).
Although director Ridley Scott did not direct any of the Alien sequels, his recent 3-D sci-fi space thriller Prometheus (2012) was an Alien prequel, occurring 29 years before the events of Alien (1979). The crew of a spaceship named Prometheus, funded by the Weyland Corporation, headed off to the distant moon LV-223 in another star system and landed there in the year 2093 after a 2 year, 4 1/2 month journey. Supposedly, the inhabitants of the destination were greater beings (or "Engineers") who created Earth and humankind, and then changed their minds and wanted to destroy humanity. Starring Charlize Theron (as corporation executive), Michael Fassbender (the ship's resident android David), Guy Pearce (as dying magnate Peter Weyland), and Noomi Rapace (as the lead heroine, archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw).
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