Alien, Aliens, a Review of the Movies and Book
“In space no one can hear you scream.”
“I’m not afraid of the dark I know. It’s the dark I don’t know that terrifies me. Especially when it’s filled with noises like that distress call.” (Lambert to Kane in the book Alien (1979, Twentieth Century Fox, p. 44) by Alan Dean Foster.
There is evil out there, and its sole purpose is to kill you, consume you, and use you for its vile and unholy purposes. You cannot tame it, negotiate with it, bribe it, nor use it for your purposes. Either you kill it, or it kills you. That is the theme of Ridley Scott’s Alien.
1Peter5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Revelation 20:1-3 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
Alien, 1979, is one of the top ten Science Fiction movies of all time, probably in the top 5. It is a fairly simple movie, with not many characters and only 1 subplot. It has one of the best monsters of all time in cinema and the tension, the drama and suspense, the terror rivals anything Hitchcock ever did. It is a mix of SF, film noir, and horror all in one.
Directed by Ridley Scott, screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, starring Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, Tom Skerritt as Dallas, the Captain, Veronica Cartwright as Lambert, Harry Dean Stanton as Bret, John Hurt as Kane, Ian Holm as Ash, and Yaphett Kotto as Parker.
The commercial mining vessel, Nostromo, is pulled off course and the crew awakened from their frozen sleep for the interstellar distances, due to an apparent distress signal coming from a small planet off the beaten path. Due to the Company’s orders, they are required to investigate. The crew separates their tug from the 20 billion ton ore carrier/refinery and lands on the unknown planet, experiencing some maintenance trouble on the way down, due to the strong dust storm.
Some critique the movie for moving slow at the beginning as the first 20 minutes or so is taken up with primarily routine shipboard material. For the hard core SF fan this is a bonus because it does show what driving an ore hauler would be like. This is a touch of realism that I require in good SF stories. It makes it believable, not to mention that the routine aspects set you up for what comes next.
Upon investigating the source of the signal, the ground party composed of Cpt. Dallas, Lambert and Kane discover a giant alien space ship. Inside they find the skeleton of a giant (12-15 feet tall?) humanoid still in a command chair, but with evidence of his ribs having been broken from the inside, like a small explosion.
Kane is lowered into a hole and descends close to 100′ when he comes into a room filled with what appear to be leathery vases that contain what is discovered to be eggs. As he touches one of the eggs it comes to life and in the first “gotcha’ scene in the movie it erupts with a creature that looks like a cross between an octopus and a hand that lands on his helmet face plate. The creature melts through the spacesuit faceplate and wraps itself around the face of Kane.
Dallas and Lambert drag Kane back to the ship and Ripley, the ship commander in the absence of Dallas, follows protocol and refuses entry to the ship by the threesome because they have an alien attached to Kane and need to be quarantined. Here is where the sublpot begins. Ash, the science officer, disobeys Ripley and obeys Capt. Dallas, breaking ships orders and science protocol both, by opening the airlock and admitting Kane, Dallas and Lambert in so that he can take care of Kane and study the alien life form.
This is the undoing of the ship’s crew as the alien eventually kills Kane in the most gruesome scene in the movie, hides, grows and kills the remainder of the crew one by one. The movie and the book both do a great job of communicating the obscene nature of the Alien. It is described by science officer Ash as the perfect organism, adapting to any environment, taking over its host as a parasite, being almost impossible to kill with a highly corrosive, acidic blood and being very intelligent. Lambert calls out Ash for admiring the alien.
The great subplot is that Ripley begins to suspect Ash for having an agenda that favors the Alien. First he failed to accurately interpret the SOS call- Ripley translated the call and found it to be a warning, not a call for help. Second, he allowed the ground party to board the ship with an alien life form, thus endangering the entire crew. In the book, there was an extra scene where Ripley and Parker almost had the Alien out of the lock into space, but Ash sounded the alarm prior to openning the dock door, thus warning the Alien. Finally, Ripley goes to Mother, the super computer, and finds out about Ash’s secret orders, and confronts him. In the ensuing fight, the second most gruesome scene in the movie, Ash’s head is cut off and it is revealed that he is not human, but a robot. He had orders from “The Company” to bring back the alien at all costs.
The Company knew about the Alien all along and had purposely misled the crew, used the crew, to do something unsafe, illegal, and unethical, just so the Company could make a profit. Imagine that.
The Alien kills off everyone except for Ripley and the cat, Jonesy. Ripley sets the ship for self destruct and flees on the shuttle with the cat in the nick of time. The ship explodes in a huge nuclear fireball. Just when you think she is home free, a large, slimy, dark green hand appears. The Alien was on board the shuttle. Ripley hides in a locker and puts on a spacesuit, draws the monster out of its hiding place and opens the shuttle airlock. The Alien is cast into the outer darkness.
The movie ends with Ripley and Jones the cat inside one of the cryogenic sleep machines, alone in the dark, supposedly heading for home.
Aliens, 1986, directed by James Cameron and starring Sigourney Weaver again with O’Bannon and Shussett as the writers, and Carrie Henn as Newt, Lance Henricsen as the android- or “synthetic” Bishop, and Michael Biehn and Cpl. Hicks, continues the story in a very good sequal.
Ripley is rescued from the shuttle of the Nostromo, after 57 years of hibernating. She is shocked upon being awakened at how long she was out in the darkness. She is shocked even more to learn that the company not only does not believe her story, but has colonised the planet LV-426. She tries to warn them of the evil that is there, but they seemingly, seemingly, do not listen to her. Ripley is practically blamed for the loss of the Nostromo and is given a low level job as a cargo handler at the space station.
The company representative, Ripley’s “handler” tries to persuade her to go back to the planet LV-426 because they have lost contact with the colonists. She eventually agrees to go with the Marines back to investigate the colony along with Burke, her Company handler.
Upon their arrival they only find one live colonist, Newt, a girl about the age of 8-9. Very quickly the Marines, Burke, Ripley and Newt are hunted down by the Aliens, and few survive. Burke is shown for being on a mission by the Company to, again, retrieve an Alien for a profit. Thankfully, Burke is eaten.
Ripley, Newt, a wounded Cpl. Hicks and the “synthetic” Bishop are the only survivors to escape the planet before the nuclear plant blows. Of course, like in the first movie, one alien makes it back on board the ship. Ripley dons her loading dock mechanical suit and does battle with the Queen Alien, ultimately shoving her out the dock. The movie ends like the first, with Ripley in a cryogenic sleep locker.
The overwhelming theme is that Evil exists and it is relentless in its pursuit of vicitms. No amount of adolescent wishing it away will work. No compromise is possible. It is human verses alien, to the death. There is no shade of grey in this battle, no middle ground, no sympathetic view of the poor, under-privileged alien who was hatched on a cold windy, deserted world.
The sub-plot is that Ash, and later Burke, wanted to take the alien back to “The Company” for a profit. Both violated multiple rules to get their way and both met their fates for thinking they could control the evil they had unleashed.
The heroine, Ripley, early on suspects things are not right, suspects Ash and later Burke and the Company. She leads the fight against the evil and exhibits tremendous courage throughout the ordeal, yet shows an incredible tenderness with young Newt in the sequel. She pays a price for her fight against evil in that she was in deep sleep for 57 years and has the nightmares.
Yet, when others are endangered, she volunteers to return, realizing that she must confront the evil to overcome her own wounds. When the Marine unit breaks down, it is Ripley who takes charge.
There is an undertow of anti-business in the movies and book as the greed of the Company overrules morals, ethics, and common sense. This shows that there are always those who are willing to sell their souls to the devil, and sell out those closest to them, for a profit, fame or power. This is always the case with sinful man.
What these movies and book say to us: Evil is out there and we must learn to stay away from it. When unavoidable confronted with evil, it must be resisted and fought. We must fight to the death because evil would have our souls. We will always be tempted to profit materially from evil or to try to use it. but in the end evil will eat those who play with it.
I believe in a real, personal devil, Satan, Lucifer who was created by God as an angel of light, yet chose to rebel against God and has now been cast down from heaven. He is the Evil One, who was a liar and murderer from the beginning. There is a spiritual war that is being waged around us and many are already captured in the cocoon woven by the Evil One, slowly being consumed, awaiting death and hell.
Just as the evil embryo grows unseen in the host/victim only to break out eventually and kill its host, so too does sin grow in the hearts of fallen man and ultimately break out, does its damage and eventually kills its host.
Jesus Christ is the only One who has conquered Evil and he provides the salvation that we need.
A contemporary application: while there is much evil in the world today, I must say that the current fight with Islam is the main battle. It is almost impossible today to name the evil that we are fighting, and euphemisms, like the “war on terror” are failing. I do not say that individual muslims are the enemy, though clearly some are, the “radicals and terrorists”. But it is islam itself that is the great spiritual darkness of our day. And those in the West who would seek compromise with Islam, or who say that all religion is the problem, they are evil as much as Burke and the rest of the Company were.
Recommendation: these movies are rated R and deservedly so. The intensity of the drama, the violence and gore, and the language (several profanities with the Lord’s name used in vain many times; several obscenities with multiple uses of the F-word). So why should a Christian watch something like this? To remind you that there is Evil out there, and many fail to recognize it. To spur you on to do battle against the evil and to not fall prey to those who would deceive you and seek to use you for their profit.
The only great weakness in the movies is in Aliens, with the Marine unit poorly depicted. Cameron really did a disservice to the USMC on that one. When will Hollywood hire a military consultant? That is majorly irritating. From their attitudes to their uniforms to their leadership (that LT was such a remarkable wuss) and their tactics Cameron got it all wrong.
I highly recommend the movie, though it is not for the faint of heart.
Here are some reviews but I could not find any review that discussed the deeper aspects of the story, the reality of evil and what to do with it.