Between Alien [1979] and Aliens [1986] : Which is Better?

4:57 PM

Alien : Covenant is going to be released this week. For younger generation, Aliens franchise may not be as popular as Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars, but the first two of its films are regarded as the best sci-fi movies ever. According to metacritic, both Alien [1979] and Aliens [1986] have high scores, 83% and 87% respectively. Many movie goers think that Aliens is better than its predecessor and say it is more effective in delivering the mix of sci-fi, action, thriller and horror themes into a single film. But, is it?

---------------------------------------------------- ALIEN [1979] ----------------------------------------------------

The first installment of the franchise, Alien [1979] is directed by Ridley Scott and starred Sigourney Weaver as the main protagonist, an officer of Nostromo, a commercial space ship who accidentally encountered vicious unknown species in an unknown planet. It also starred Tom Skerrit, John Hurt, and Ian Holm. The latest, played as a "malfunctioning" android who betrayed entire crews. His acting was surprisingly wonderful, as he kept his expression as mysterious as possible and was successfully dismissing his hidden intention throughout the movie from the audience. 

The story is much simpler than its successor : Nostromo received an emergency signal from an unknown planet near them. Since the policy of their company made them to check it out, they went to that planet. Surprisingly, the planet's atmosphere was nowhere near friendly, then you guess it, Nostromo crashed down. Later, two of them stayed in ship while the rest were out to locate the emergency signal. The investigating team, led by Captain Dallas (Skerrit), found an alien nest which containing a lot of alien eggs. Unfortunately, Kane (Hurt) was attacked by an alien (later called as xenomorph) by attaching itself on Kane's face. Dallas and co then retreated to Nostromo, they escorted Kane back to the ship while the vicious creature was still attached to him. This point, was the beginning of the Nostromo terror. 

First of all, the immature xenomorph seemed dead and Kane consequently was back to normal. No one knew that the xenomorph used Kane's body as host to grow to its perfect form -and killed him instantly. The scene where the alien comes off from Kane's stomach is widely appreciated as the greatest jump scare of all time. 

Later on, as you can think, for almost an hour of Alien's run time, the alien spread its terror and hunted down every Nostromo crew. Long story short, in the final thirty minutes, Alien focused on how Ripley struggled so hard to survive. After long mentally-exhausting scenes, Alien was ended emotionally as Ripley and her cat, Jonesy, went into cryocapsule for their long sleep, waiting for someone rescue them.

---------------------------------------------------- ALIENS [1983] ----------------------------------------------------

On the other hand, the second episode of the franchise, Aliens [1983], has much longer duration (154 mins) than its predecessor which only has 117 minutes. It is directed by James Cameron and still starred Weaver. In addition there were also Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, and sweet little Carrie Henn. The story began as Ripley (Weaver) woke up from her 57-years-long sleep and Weyland-Yutani Corp, the company who owned Nostromo charged her as guilty for destroying the space ship. Few weeks after her return to the company, Burke (Reiser), the company's representative asked her to return to LV 426 -the planet which she encountered the alien- to help the marine investigate what happened there. It turned out that years after Ripley left LV 426, the company sent a colony of human to live in several breathable planets, including the cursed LV 426. 

At first, Ripley refused to go, but after having several nightmares about her past and Burke's promise to wipe the xenomorphs, she eventually agreed to help the marine. She and the marine went to LV 426 and found colony's empty base camp. While they were discovering the area, they knew something was wrong there. Not long, they met Newt (Henn), a suspicious little girl from the very first scene of the film, who unexpectedly survived the massacre. After few minutes, the terror started. The marine then found dead bodies, wrapped into cocoon-like vessels around the main station. Later, a pack of xenomorphs attacked them, killed or abducted some of them, while the rest got away with Ripley's vehicle.

In the middle of the film, Burke was known for hiding a couple of small aliens in the medical room. Those small aliens got out and the big ones started to hunt them down. This fight lasted more than half of the film and filled with extreme tense. One by one, the marine fell, including their commander. When the rescue ship finally came, Newt was still abducted and Hicks (Biehn), the next person in command, who has affection for Ripley, was also injured. To save Newt, Ripley decided to go back to the alien nest and had a fierce battle against the alien queen, a huge, badass xenomorph that could lay eggs. That battle was very delightful to watch, as Ripley heroically defeated the horrifying queen with her robotic costume. Aside from that, it also contained one of the most memorable line ever : "Get away from her, you bitch!". Until the last moment, there were only Ripley, Newt and Bishop (Henriksen) -an android with questionable attitude at first but later saved both Ripley and Newt- who can leave the doomed planet.

---------------------------------------------------- LET'S DO THE MATH! ----------------------------------------------------

Personally speaking, I prefer to love Alien more than Aliens as standalone movie. Why? Here are several things to be pointed out.

1) Ash is way better than Burke as villain.

Nobody knew that Ash was an android. At first, he was only known as a talented scientist who had great interest in unidentified species. Even though he had suspicious yet annoying attitude, many Nostromo crews depended on his knowledge to discover what really happened on Kane. Ash may be a soulless android, yet his emotionlessness highlighted himself as not only tough, but also powerfully sneaky villain. His hi-tech ability to sabotage Nostromo's operating system was delightfully mixed with his hidden intention to secretly bring the aliens to the company for further investigation. Even with the same purpose, this complexity was not found in Burke. Burke was just so dull, he was just your typical minor villain who can only bring a small (and forgettable) leaping stone for much greater sorrow and not long, died.

2) Ripley's decision to go back to LV 426 is just dumb.

You know what happened in your past : All your friends were killed and it took 57 years to get back to your life. When you were about to start a new life, then someone asked you to go back to your nightmare, what would you say? Is it a yes? Nope. Even if they promised you to wipe your nightmare out, you could still do that by giving a preparation brief for those jarheads without joining into their mission. Moreover, the party who gave you the promise was the same company who sent Ash to betray all your friends. Sorry, James Cameron, it's just dumb.

3) Alien has prettier cinematic views.

Aliens has that legendary "bitch" scene. The camera craned up steadily along with the automatic steel door opened from bottom. Slowly, as Ripley gently walked with her badass robotic costume, the camera zoomed in to Ripley's face then stopped at Ripley's face. It's just when she said her famous punchline. Boom.

Although Aliens offered that scene, its predecessor has more appealing visual experience throughout the film. I love the simple camera movements that Derek Vanlint, Alien's cinematographer, offered to the audience. Mainly, they were steady shots with little amount of pans or zooms. Beside that, color tones he used were naturally catchy. Because of that, he earned a nomination for Best Cinematography Award by British Society for Cinematographers at that time. Just look at the comparison of two cryo scenes below, with all due respect, Alien got it better.

Alien [1979]

Aliens [1986]

4) Aliens has military arrogance as their sauce of humor. Unfortunately, it just didn't work.

Yep, military joke aren't funny. For me, this kind of humor represents arrogance, and doesn't appreciate the dignity of other human beings. Aliens displayed bad examples for those who are so proud of themselves, believing that their patriotic actions should be paid with special treatment from other social layers. 

Secondly, in the beginning of Aliens, the marine bigheadedly thought that they can fight anything. Called it a "bug hunting" at first but cried for help when they had no idea what they fought against later. This overly exposed military arrogance had so predictable plot and give no pleasure for the audience except for mocking it. Lastly, remember when Bishop did the knife trick? If Cameron supposedly make me laugh when I saw Hudson's face, it just didn't work.

5) Aliens has many action sequences yet it is figuratively too dark.

Is it just me or you feel it too? I had to increase the brightness of my laptop to its max to watch Aliens. Even though I did, I still feel Aliens' brightness was still too dark, particularly when the marines went into the colonist base camp.

When I was fighting with the darkness of the movie, Ripley and co were still hiding in a closed room. Their barricades were falling apart, their guns were running out of bullets. They ran away through a narrow air duct, but I could only barely see the movements when gun lights flashed out.

6) Alien's actors knew better how to put confusion into their faces when dealing with unknown terror.

Yes, it is personal taste. Comparing to Aliens' military style, I just happened to love on how the actors from first movie put their characters into chaos when knowing unknown aliens were after them. Since they were only crews of a commercial ship, it's funny to see how they panicked when battling against the enemy they've never faced. Also, they could be very innocent and stupidly heroic at the same time. On the other hand, from my perspective, a military personnel should have been a pro to deal with unknown danger. Thus, watching the marine cried the shit out gave me no pleasure.

7) Alien didn't have to be highly complicated to display the fear at the xenomorphs.

With shorter run time, Alien has simpler plot than its sequel. It is common for a sequel to have more complex story than the prequel, but you don't have to complicate things to display the same message. Okay, I understand that Aliens has a different thing to offer : an intimate mother-daughter relationship that can't be found in the first film. However, the main message is always the same : a survival effort to overcome fear. Although the bond between Ripley and Newt was extremely strong, we can find the similar relation in the first film which existed between Ripley and Jonesy. Whenever Ripley is being hunted by a pack of xenomorphs, she always survived if there was a reason to fight for. Same message, right?

8) Jonesy!!!!!!!!!!!

This creepy little fucker ruined the horror party. Love ya, dude.


Listening to : Arianne - Everything You've Ever Dreamed

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