Would you like to know how actually to gauge the times in which you live? Would you like to know cinematically how to tell what the pulse of the world is around you? Heres a big clue. Watch an Alien film and pay attention to the date. Its that simple and that complicated. Think about it. The oldest story in the world for a fanasy or science fiction author to tell is known as the ‘bug hunt.’ A bug hunt puts a bug in front of a person or group of people and challenges them to destroy it. In this case, the ‘bug’ is well shockingly similiar to well…you know…a bug.
[Warning: This post contains spoilers for every Alien movie. Just in case it matters.]
Alien (1979): Welcome to the seventies. The main character (Ellen Ripley) who is a woman (obviously, but the feminism mystique is there) and put her against an asexual protagonist born out of extended rape fantasy. A man is obviously not able to survive the female power of birth and even the tongue of the beast is surprisingly phallic. In the end, only the woman survives and the bug is squashed. It is made by female friendly director Ridley Scott who would go on to make Thelma and Louise as well as G.I. Jane. Even one of the villians is an android that is so cold and male that he seems to literally have sperm for blood.
Aliens (1986): Welcome to the 1980’s. How does the Reagan era respond to a whole colony of bugs? Easy. First of all. We see a problem and dispatch Space Marines to go and kill the problem. We enter in representatives of big business and remind everyone that all of this destruction comes with a dollar amount. We combine glorious amounts of blood, acid, guts, and a kick ass soundtrack. The main enemy of testosterone is now established to be a Queen which we have to kind of dispatch with our own female heroin. This is of course after she accepts that she is now in a motherhood role and has to take care of a small girl while fighting bugs. Ellen Ripley is not only a fighter. She is now a soccer mom fighter. Thank Goodness a nuclear response is the ultimate solution. The movie is given to you by the same guy who gave us the Terminator.
Alien 3 (1992): There is no movie more early to mid 90’s than Alien 3. In this you can include the entire career of Cameron Crowe. Its one of the great ‘crying shame about that dog’ films of all time. In case you don’t believe that there are other ones, I would submit Cape Fear and Old Yelller. Ripley is now a victim (of said rape fantasy as well as bad barbering), depressing yet surprisingly sexually active, and lands right in the middle of a prison cult. Basically, Ripley had now transformed into a 90’s east coast college freshman. Female power (even though the whole prison cult is men) is now back in vogue. We are back down to one live alien (and one inside of Ripley) and no guns. Because now that we have hit the Clinton era, guns are bad and haircuts that could have only been gotten after a night of pot smoking are good. The alien (like most things in the early 90’s) is dispatched by the bad combination of horrible science and recycled materials. The movie is directed by the guy who would ultimately give us Fight Club.
Alien Resurrection (1997): We have now hit the full blown Clinton era in Alien Resurrection. The android is now female and played by Winona Ryder. Ripley has been cloned after her death with a magical combination of failed experiments and stem cell research. Its directed by some French guy that thought he was way too cool to direct Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix later (much like many directors in the late nineties who did not do anything interesting again) and now Ripley’s hybrid DNA has made her a full fledged member of the fam. The new alien hybrid (you start getting to use that word a whole lot) is shockingly more pink and human yet no less dead. But like most things in the 90s, at least it underuses the talent of Ron Pearlman. As an added bonus, it gave Joss Whedon another excuse to complain about the multilation of his prose. Thats how seriously you get taken when your first big notice turns out being titled Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Alien Vs. Predator (2004): Here’s an idea that works well in the G. W. era. First, take twenty years of history and completely ignore it (in the form of books, comics, and video games devoted to the idea of Alien Vs Predator). Get the guy who had already graced us with such deep fare as Mortal Kombat and Event Horizon. Take years of fan speculation and basically reduce it to Freddy vs Jason. The result was about as magical as it sounds. They did what happened in a lot of things in the G. W. era. They threw every single really cool concept into one thing and forgot to give it any direction. At least it was a blue print for how Hurricane Katrina was going to be handled. The movie ends with taking a great historical artifact and building, and destroying it in one fell swoop. Sadly, that really happened too. On the bright side, the director found the time to make Resident Evil: Extinction in the same year.
Aliens Vs Predator : Requiem (2007): Because when you add Requiem to anything – it makes it like really relevant. Hey, it happened with Requiem for a dream right? Its directed by a couple brothers that are not named Coen or Wachowskis (which was not really a great sign to begin with). Hope and Change is now forshadowed by bringing mindless slaughter to the American Great Sky country. The monsters are really a subtext for a burgeoning story of teens who really want to get laid. Requiem is based in the post – world. This is the world thats like post – racism, post – caring, post – feeling, and well post -everything when we actually learn from rampant destruction how to care and feel again. Yeah, they waste a dog in this one as well. Real hunters and alien hunters as well as a wink wink nudge nudge sensibility give this one all of the subtext of Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (people get laid in that one too.)
Prometheus (2012): This all brings us to next years Prometheus which is what is popularly known as a ‘re-imagining’ of the Alien world. It is a pre-quel that takes place in the Alien world but does not neccessarily have Aliens in it. Try and think of Prometheus as going to see Chris Cornell in concert IF he doesn’t play any tunes from Soundgarden (because he’s like oast all that man). Prometheus is firmly in place in the Obama world. We don’t know what it is about. We know that the only recognizable name is the guy doing it. We know that it is overhyped and we know that no one could agree on a budget for the thing.