Film #1: Alien
In space no one can hear you scream.
The crew of the starfighter Nostromo is awakened from hypersleep to investigate a mysterious transmission of unknown origins. Tracking the call to a primordial world, the search team discovers an alien ship, unaware of the dangers that lie within.
Film #2: Aliens
This time it’s war.
A moon colonized by humans has gone dark and all attempts to communicate with the colony have failed. A team of hardened space marines embark on a rescue mission, unprepared for the terrors that await them.
The Double Feature
The Alien franchise is my favorite film series and the original movie is my favorite of the bunch. It’s probably one of the things I’m most geeky about and there’s plenty of evidence to confirm this already on the site and my personal Twitter account. Without question, it is one of those tentpole films that I watched as a child that solidified my love for cinema and the horror genre.
While the original film was a haunted house meant to scare and make you feel uncomfortable, the sequel is a rollercoaster ride meant to thrill and get the heart racing. Aliens is an action horror thriller that expands not just the lore of the original film, but the character of Ripley as well. It also delivers an eclectic cast of characters(fan favorites Newt and Hicks) and introduces us to the galactic bad-asses known as the colonial marines.
What I find most fascinating about is how my outlook on these two films has changed from childhood to adulthood, if I may rightly be called an adult. Most fans of the series have a favorite between these films, though both are highly regarded in horror and sci-fi circles. If you had asked me which was my favorite as a teenager, I would have said James Cameron’s Aliens. I think, in a way, this speaks volumes as to where I was in my personal life as a younger man. I was impulsive and less emotionally unstable, so the intense thrills the sequel provided was much more alluring than the slower, more methodical pacing of the original. The hard-hitting action just appealed more to the testosterone-fueled version of myself.
As I’ve aged, the more subtle nuances and themes of the original has pushed it as my personal favorite movie of all time. Its effects have aged gracefully and though it could be argued that certain tools it utilizes to scare its audience have since become cliche, it is because of the tremendous cultural impact the film has that these things became cliche. Greatness is often imitated and a plethora of films in both the horror or sci-fi genre have paid tribute in their own ways.
Watching these two films back to back, one can really gain an appreciation for what each does for the franchise. Making a sequel to one of the greatest horror movies ever made is no easy feat and yet James Cameron made it look deceivingly easy. His unique take on the Alien mythos has led it to become a juggernaut of a franchise across all media. It’s because of his movie that there will always be an audience rediscovering these films and the empire of spin-off films, comics, books, artwork, and video games. It also dialed up the volume on female action heroines, cementing Ellen Ripley as The Baddest Bitch in cinema and paving the way for our current action heroines.
Which of these two films is your favorite? Why? Is anyone else riding the hype train with me for Alien: Covenant? Let me know in the comments below.