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Analyzing the Aliens Films

A new Alien movie is on the way, so we decided to watch the franchise all over again.

Neill Blomkamp, the director and writer of District 9, Elysium, and Chappie, will be the mind behind the next movie in the Alien franchise. What will he bring to Ellen Ripley's story? Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see where he wants to take it and how it'll fit within the continuity. In the meantime, this news motivated us to revisit the franchise (yes, we included the "vs. Predator" movies) and share our thoughts on what it does so well and what we sincerely hope Blomkamp will avoid. Once you're through reading the article, we encourage you to get your elaboration on it the comments. Which is your favorite film and why? How would you rank them? And what do you think of Blomkamp writing and directing a new Alien movie?

Alien (1979)

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Ladies and gentlemen, it all starts here and this first movie paves the way for a whole lot of potential. Ridley Scott's Alien is all about pulling you right into this new sci-fi universe and letting the atmosphere sink in. There's a tremendous amount of worldbuilding as Scott focuses on showing us what this story has to offer instead of blatantly spelling it all out for us. You won't find any big action or spectacle here; there's a strong emphasis on character, mystery, a ton of tension and, of course, some violent kills. Those qualities are exactly what any good Alien movie needs. It can focus on a different genre (this one is all about horror and exploration), but it'll always need to make sure it has strong characters, a sense of mystery and danger, and some bloodshed. Sure, many of you probably won't think Alien is legitimately scary anymore, but that didn't take away from the experience at all for me. It's still a phenomenal movie and you simply have to appreciate just how much attention went into crafting this universe and the way it all builds up. I mean, who can forget the vent sequence or the alien's debut during the meal? This movie deserves all of the praise it regularly receives.

Aliens (1986)

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If you ask anyone what their favorite Xenomorph movie is, the odds are very good they'll say either Alien or Aliens. James Cameron stepped in to direct the sequel and it places a strong focus on the company's twisted mission while also adding an awesome amount of mayhem. Scott's Alien is slow and calculating while Cameron's Aliens is explosive and consistently exciting. They thrive for totally different reasons and both are brilliant sci-fi movies. There's still plenty of horror scattered throughout and no longer does Ripley feel like a frightened person who's just trying to survive. Even when surrounded by marines, she comes off as being a bold, tactical badass. The focus on the motion sensor and oh-so-rad Pulse Rifle is terrific and seeing what would happen when well-trained characters face this nightmare was a change of pace that worked amazingly well. No one could have guessed that Alien's follow-up would be action-heavy, but man, Cameron really made it work and it's without question one of the best sci-fi movies out there. I mean, how many times have you heard someone say Bill Paxton's famous "game over, man!" line? I'm guessing a lot.

Alien 3 (1992)

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Alien 3 often gets ripped on. It isn't all that bad, but it's not really that good, either. When you're following Alien and Aliens -- two amazing movies -- being just "okay" makes things pretty disappointing, doesn't it? The first movie is exceptional sci-fi horror that's loaded with mystery. The second expands on the premise and goes action-heavy and does so damn well. This third one, though? It returns to the basic premise the first one had (a group trapped with a single alien) yet it never really brings anything stunning to the table. There's some solid performances and a nice focus on fleshing out several characters, but it really isn't a memorable addition to the overall storyline. Ripley remains a strong character and that's commendable, but it's a horror movie that isn't really scary, some of the special effects certainly don't hold up (the corridor sequence), and it didn't feel like the compelling conclusion this character deserved. Alien and Aliens have such strong personalities and leave an impression. Unfortunately, this one doesn't and the end result is a movie that's just okay.

Many people aren't fans of the way it begins ("they went through all of the madness in Aliens just for that to happen?"), but I honestly don't mind. It's not like the characters' deaths are disregarded and the franchise has always focused on Ripley being the one human who travels from terrible experience to terrible experience. These experiences toughen her and that's made crystal clear in this one. Would I have preferred to see Newt and Hicks live? Absolutely, but it doesn't ruin the movie for me, either. Still, part of me is left wondering what this movie would have been like if director David Fincher had proper control of the project.

Alien: Resurrection (1997)

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On paper, Alien: Resurrection sounds like it could be pretty cool. 200 years after the events of Alien 3, Ripley is brought back and she's more than just an ordinary human; she's part alien. The government attempts to learn about xenomrophs and control them, things obviously go horribly wrong, and this enhanced version of Ripley has to team-up with a ragtag crew to escape all of the craziness while also making sure the aliens don't get the opportunity to spread. Sounds like it could be a good time and breathe some new life into the franchise, right? Unfortunately, the final product is disappointing and doesn't really hold up. It's surprising Joss Whedon is credited with the screenplay, but obviously, the problems go beyond just the script. It's a really, really odd movie which is scattered with silliness and sadly, it's just not very good. It had a lot of potential and does deliver a few clever bits (the final kill is unforgettable), but overall, Alien: Resurrection feels like the weakest feature out of the first four films. It went too far out there, didn't have satisfying twists, and the horror beats were pretty generic.

Alien vs. Predator (2004)

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AvP is a guilty pleasure of mine. I won't call it a good movie, but I still manage to have fun with it. The directing, story and some of the performances could use a lot of work, but this is still a decent amount of popcorn entertainment. The combination of close-ups, shaky camera work, and weak choreography (grappling and flailing for everyone!) ruins what could have been a jaw-dropping first fight between a Predator and an Alien, but there's a part of me that still enjoys it just because of the fan service. The Predators look heavier than usual and we could talk about the movie's problems for hours, but at the end of the day, it's just silly fun. At least the Alien Queen action sequence is enjoyable (even though the main actress never looks nearly as afraid as she should be), right? It may not be a good movie, but it's an amusing one.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

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The sequel to AvP earns its R rating with a huge amount of gore and downright messed up developments, but this movie is proof that a good Xenomorph story needs more than just violence and a dark atmosphere. The characters here just aren't interesting and the script doesn't do them any favors, either. You can tell the people behind this movie are fans because it does offer a mountain of fan service and nods to the franchise's history, but that just doesn't make up for a forgettable script and even more forgettable human characters. Over-the-top kills are certainly fun, but it feels hollow without any weight behind the narrative. On the plus side, this movie does give the Predator franchise a good amount of love, so at least there's that. AvP: R may offer more violence than the other movies do, but that most definitely doesn't make up for its many flaws.

Prometheus (2012)

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Ridley Scott's return to the franchise is a polarizing one. Prometheus is well-directed and packed with silly albeit cheerworthy moments of horror, but odds are you're going to be questioning a lot of the logic. The movie attempts to offer a compelling tale, but questionable decisions and certain story beats will probably leave you scratching your head. (I still can't get over how the dude with the mapping technology gets lost.) The themes can get pretty heavy-handed as well. The more you watch it, the more the problems begin to stand out. Despite issues with the script, Prometheus is still a movie I enjoy. It has stunning visuals, some excellent shots, and, despite the script having problems, it is a consistently engaging and entertaining movie. Fassbender's performance definitely helps, too. Prometheus isn't as substantial or thought-provoking as it wants to be, but it makes up for that with a ton of style and some solid performances.

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What do you think about the Alien franchise? Share your thoughts with the world below.