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Alien vs Aliens: A Comparison

Alien vs Aliens: A Comparison

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Gavin

Mar-24-2017 1:56 PM

All too often on this, and doubtless other Alien forums, James Camerons 1986 sequel Aliens is criticized by fans who seem to have placed the 1979 and original interpretation of the alien creature on an all too high pedestal. While there is no denying that Ridley Scott's Alien is a classic piece of cinema that created an intensely scary science fiction horror from the ashes of a plethora of generic B-movies that preceded it, are the repeated criticisms against its successor valid? Did Aliens really dilute the Alien into nothing more than an elaborately designed boogeyman? Or did Aliens, in fact, improve upon the perfect organism?

CLASSIFICATION

Many fans relate to the alien drone from the original movie as being a biomechanical nightmare. This biomechanical augmentation does not liken the creature towards a cyborg like the Terminator or Robocop, but is more similar to how modern humans use heart pumps or breathing tubes. Interestingly, augmentation aside, there is nothing actually alien about the Alien, for it is essentially just the human form reconstituted with basic mechanical components into the form of an alien creature. This merging of flesh with something synthetic, artificial that is born from an Alien parasite is what makes the Alien, visually so menacing yet so fascinating.

It is heavily inferred, if not stated in the 1986 sequel that the Aliens are akin to overgrown parasitic insects; being born from eggs that have been laid by a mother caste known as the Queen, which is later introduced to audiences. Visually the alien creatures differ only slightly from their forebearer with the absence of a hardened, semi-transparent dome. Yet many fans of the original movie feel that classifying the Alien as an insect strips them of their nightmarish uniqueness. This is despite that fact that Ridley Scott has repeatedly stated that the original creature AKA "Big Chap" was inspired by and likened to an insect. 

In nature, insects are not only the most dominant lifeform on our planet, second only to bacteria but also the most diverse. Able to adapt to almost any environment and dramatically reconstitute their bodies into another form insects and related fauna such as Arachnids and Crustaceans can propagate using a wealth of techniques and exist on almost any diet. Spiders can produce silk harder than steel, Cockroaches can survive nuclear fallout and Lobsters could theoretically live forever. 

PROPAGATION

In Alien the much heralded deleted scene from the movie's directors cut shows the creatures first two victims, Engineer technician Brett and Captain Dallas trapped deep with the bowels of the Nostromo cocooned there by the Alien using some kind of secreted resin. While Dallas appears alive and conscious, it seems that Brett is somehow in the process of being mutated into one of the eggs seen beneath the derelict Engineer craft. This scene infers that the creature was able to self-propagate. Commonly referred to as egg morphing, it is believed that alien creature, born from a host itself would require a further two more hosts to reproduce. A truly alien and parasitic method of reproduction, it is no surprise that fans have called for its inclusion in the alien universe canon.

In the sequel, it is directly asked as to what is laying all of the eggs witnessed in the hived remains of the Hadley's Hope colony and beneath the derelict Engineer craft, to which we are later introduced to the Queen Xenomorph, capable of producing hordes of eggs. While a Queen logistically makes more sense in terms of propagation and survival of the Xenomorph species, fans of the original movie maintain that the egg morphing deleted scene is a more alien, and thus more suitable than the insect-inspired method of propagation offered by the Queen. Some fans, more accepting of the Queen concept have speculated the possibility that the egg morphing seen in the aforementioned deleted scene may have resulted in Captain Dallas being implanted with a Queen embryo, which would have seen the Nostromo return home to Earth infested with hordes of eggs, had it not been destroyed.

INTELLIGENCE

Fans of the original movie also maintain that the alien creature stalked and menaced the crew of the Nostromo, while the warrior hordes seen in the sequel were nothing more than dumb insects... After shedding its skin "Big Chap" laid in wait to ambush Brett before pulling him into the ventilation shafts to the hive seen in the aforementioned deleted scene. Later, while patrolling said ventilation shafts the alien then defends itself against a flamethrower wielding Captain Dallas. After Ashes breakdown, the alien then attacks both Lambert and Parker, with the inference that it may have sexually abused Lambert. The creature then hides aboard the Narcissus before attempting to kill Ripley.

In the sequel, the Aliens successfully subjugate a colony of over 200 humans. Weeks later they successfully neutralize and ground a fully armed squad of colonial marines before using their numbers to overwhelm the marines automated defenses. Then after shutting off power to the human's location the Aliens then outflanked and outsmarted the Marines. Finally, after Ripley rescued newt the Queen and her drones displayed basic communication skills between each other and with Ripley.

Acting together as a hive mind in a much similar way in which Ants can become a super-organism, the aliens and the Queen in the sequel show repeatedly more intelligence than the creature in the original movie, which arguably acts very similar to a lone predatorial insect such as a Tarantula or Praying Mantis. The only exception is the possibility of Big Chap sexual abusing navigator Lambert, yet this is only vaguely inferred and never actually depicted on screen.

DIRECTION

Both Alien and Aliens were the second ever directorial projects of their respective directors. Ridley Scott's original is heralded as a classic science fiction horror movie, a subgenre of movies that while being well populated has few shining examples, whereas James Cameron's sequel is seen by some fans as a dumbed down science fiction action movie. Arguably both movies have inspired a wealth of science fiction in the wake of their releases; but in terms of execution...

In the original movie, there are two key scenes which are forgiven by the fans despite being jarringly out of place. The first is the establishing shot of the Space Jockey in which the suited actors were Ridleys three children (Luke, Jake, and Jordan) in scaled down versions of the main cast costumes. Yet in all subsequent shot's the main cast are used, creating a vast difference in the inferred size of the Space Jockey. The second is the shot of the Aliens tail menacingly moving between Lambert's legs, adding to the inference that she was abused by the creature. Yet the footage is from the creatures attack on Brett, as can be evidenced by the footwear seen in the shot - Brett wore the sneakers seen, whereas Lambert is depicted throughout the movie as wearing cowboy boots.

James Cameron's sequel, however, has no such glaringly obvious errors, and thus could arguably be seen as being technically better executed. A counter argument would be that the characters in Cameron's movie are generic stereotypes, whereas fans of the original praise the corporate conspiracy offered by Ian Holm's portrayal of Ash. One of the last films of the 1970's Alien follows over a decade of science fiction movies that heavily featured the corporate conspiracy angle including Demon Seed, Soylent Green, Rollerball, Logans Run and many more. Widely publicized as one of David Giler's additions to the Alien script, Ashes inclusion was at the time a tired and over-familiar trope in science fiction movies.

 

Repeatedly Aliens has stood against and overcome the criticisms all too often thrown needlessly in its direction. Although it may likely prove in Ridley Scott's series of prequels that the Xenomorph has no insect related origins, its design and behavior are heavily inspired by the insect world, of which Cameron only added to while making the creature both more intelligent and more efficient, and thus arguably more threatening.

Rendered images used courtesy of Markus Pansegrau.

6 Responses to Alien vs Aliens: A Comparison

Rick

Mar-24-2017 2:15 PM

Damn Snorkelbottom that was a rather good laid out defense of both movies.

S.M

Mar-24-2017 2:31 PM

I don't think either film needs defending.

"In the original movie, there are two key scenes which are forgiven by the fans despite being jarringly out of place. The first is the establishing shot of the Space Jockey in which the suited actors were Ridleys three children (Luke, Jake, and Jordan) in scaled down versions of the main cast costumes. Yet in all subsequent shot's the main cast are used, creating a vast difference in the inferred size of the Space Jockey. The second is the shot of the Aliens tail menacingly moving between Lambert's legs, adding to the inference that she was abused by the creature. Yet the footage is from the creatures attack on Brett, as can be evidenced by the footwear seen in the shot - Brett wore the sneakers seen, whereas Lambert is depicted throughout the movie as wearing cowboy boots."

Neither of those scenes are jarringly out of place.  99% of the audience don't notice them.  If you want jarring, try the Ash dummy head jump cut or some of the looped dialogue.

In regards to the scale doubles - Jordan Scott was 1 year old when Alien was being shot.  It was Jake, Luke and Derek van Lint's son in the suits.  They were used on a number of shots.  The wide shots in the Jockey chamber as well as leaving and arriving back at the Nostromo (walking past the legs and using the lift).

Durp004

Mar-24-2017 6:24 PM

I think this forum gives people the impression that Aliens isn't usually viewed as a great movie, when that isn't anything close to the case. In most cases I think it's viewed with equal love as the original, it's just that the loud minority make it seem otherwise.

S.M

Mar-24-2017 8:12 PM

Agreed.  Any decent sized poll is going to rate the first two films as the best and generally fairly equal in their standing.

MC17

Jul-20-2019 1:41 PM

WHY NOT BOTH? People always say "it has to be One Or the other, not both." why? The Eggmorphing theory works Also because if there is a queen alien, then there would be no reason to have an eggmorph; however, if there Was No queen, then how would it reproduce? an Eggmorph, of course (in fantasy logic). Both of these should be canon because if there was no eggmorph they could use their bodies to further the Alien-version of terraforming their environment ("it's a Dry Heat" = moisture absorbed for terraforming), while a queen would create a large number very quickly by utilizing the egg-womb or whatever by laying many eggs very fast. Otherwise, an eggmorph would be a last-resort for a single surviving alien combat form which would use the terraforming of its cells to morph a person into an egg to create a queen, which would logically be the first alien (which would also have a long gestation period to grow larger with more resources like why she didn't die immediately in Alien^3).

Both of these are logical and work seamlessly Together, which is why both being canon are excellent ideas.

dk

Jul-20-2019 3:14 PM

They are both outstanding movies in their own right. I cannot think of a single movie anywhere that was flawless. I think most love both movies and nit picking shows people are really into them. I like the whole Quadrilogy despite faults.

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