With Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant dividing audiences much like Prometheus, his previous re-entry into the Alien world, just where does this latest film rank in the franchise and which Alien film is the best of them all?
Now the dust has settled from the latest Alien release, Alien: Covenant, even those of us who enjoyed it admit it was a disappointment. The latest instalment finds the colony ship, Covenant, tempted by a rogue transmission, discover David from Prometheus and unsurprisingly some aliens.
There is gathering momentum that Ridley Scott should be gently led away from the Alien franchise as he is coming alarmingly close to removing some of the shine from the original classics. It’s actually quite a relief that Denis Villeneve is directing the Blade Runner sequel. Ridley Scott is recently at his best when he has nothing to do with the script like 2015’s The Martian.
Alien: Covenant is a response to the fan displeasure of Prometheus, there is much more Xenomorph action, but it carries with it many of the flaws of Scott’s previous franchise effort. It fails to deliver a memorable crew member, has enforced homage to Ripley with a strong female lead (this time with the same hair cut) and all tension is diffused by stupid decisions. Silly Billy Crudup isn’t really a captain, he is just a number of silly mistakes: why yes, why wouldn’t you look closer at this moving Alien egg when invited to do so. The Covenant script is unintentionally funny especially as Fassbender in full character-actor mode offers to “do the fingering” in a highly homoerotic scene.
Prometheus at least has some bold ideas and visuals, it could have been a great stand alone sci-fi if not tied to the Alien universe. The most disappointing thing about Covenant is its lack of ambition and originality.
So it’s not quite a top 10 list but Top 10 Films has ranked all the Alien films (yes, even the rubbish Alien v Predator films). Let us know what you think. In reality it should just be Alien and Aliens then everything else, but that wouldn’t make much of a fun list.
8. Alien Vs Predator: Requiem (2007)
How anyone allowed the original crossover film, which left both franchises at a low point, to be made is still inexplicable, but the follow up inexcusable. The follow up did decide to go the full R-rating rather than the previous PG-13, but the gore is laughable, the story incoherent and worst of all it makes the B-movie premise boring.
7. Alien V Predator (2004)
Not even mainstream B-movie king Paul WS Anderson could make this film work especially with a PG-13 rating. The human characters are simply cannon fodder. The comics provide plenty of material but none of the good stuff made it to the screen. The effects are passable, but in the end all it achieves is sullying the memory of two great original films.
6. Alien 3 (1992)
Probably the laziest title in the series and a great example of a studio production gone wrong. After the huge success of Aliens the sequel was rushed into production without a clear story and took almost six years to be released. The best thing this film did was give David Fincher his debut and he gets all the credit for making something almost interesting from the turgid mess left by studio meddling, reshoots and rewrites. The story behind the making of this film is alas more interesting than the film itself. This film tries so hard to capture the essence of the previous Alien films, but the poor production values are all over the screen. When you re-watch the original Alien, the detailed imagery and production value is key and made to a ludicrously high standard. This however is not.
Discover More: Read why Top 10 Films editor Dan Stephens believes Alien 3 is an underrated gem
5. Alien: Covenant (2017)
My thoughts above are pretty clear, silly people making silly decisions, made without tension or a degree of common sense. Yes it looks great and the accelerated if inexplicable Xenomorph life cycle is fun to see in IMAX. Fassbender is a fine actor and steals the film with some unintentional humour. This is Ridley Scott reacting to the response Prometheus received. It turns out you shouldn’t give the fans what they want.
4. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Many may be shocked how high this appears on the list, but it at least learnt from the failures of Alien 3. It doesn’t try to capture the original essence of Alien and by this point recognises the diminishing visual power of the Xenomorph. This film goes more for a fun space opera with a Joss Whedon script and acclaimed director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The strongest element of this instalment is the cast including Ron Pearlman, Brad Dourif and Winona Ryder. Yes it fails to live up to the lofty heights of the original, but succeeds in its own aim of making a fun standalone. The other trick was to unleash a more predatory Ripley on unsuspecting audiences complete with the now famous basketball scene.
3. Prometheus (2012)
The kindest way to describe this film is an ambitious failure. Not a failure of execution or production design like Alien 3. The marketing campaign for Ridley Scott’s return to the franchise was so good it perhaps led to an unfairly high expectation. It serves as a prequel to the original whilst expanding the mythology. The film is ripe with cosmic dread right from the confident opening. The visual spectacle is far better than Covenant and it does reward repeat viewings despite the crew bickering like children, bumbling around scientific discoveries whilst getting lost in a ship they are mapping out. And don’t even mention Charlize Theron’s inability to run sideways. This film did feel burdened by the Alien mythology and wanted to spend more time exploring grand sci-fi ideas in quiet cinematic moments. However you spin it this film still remains a disappointment, the one thing it got right compared to Covenant was the casting and characterisation of the Ripley role as Noomi Rapace remains far more memorable than the flat Katherine Waterson.
Now whatever you think about the rest of the list the top 2 are easy and there is no right order but only personal preference. For me at a very close second comes…
2. Alien (1979)The original Ridley Scott masterpiece that makes the recent instalments even more disappointing. Alien is a truly unsettling horror film set in space with truckers, the unease is rife from the start and enhanced by Jerry Goldsmith’s murmuring score. The whole film beautifully sustains and builds upon that uncomfortable sense of dread with moments of thrilling suspense. The most famous being the chest-bursting scene that has become ingrained in cinematic pop culture history. The beauty of the filmmaking on show here is the minimalist plot and attention to detail and tension that Ridley Scott would be advised to go back to. This film has a grounded realism that makes the horror element even more unbearable and this was the first time the now overused Xenomorph was seen. It was also long before the likes of Wonder Woman and The Hunger Games promoting strong female heroes. The audiences at the time were shocked that Sigourney Weaver was not an expendable crew member but a female hero. It shows how far ahead of the game this film was in every way.
1. Aliens (1986)
It seems inconceivable that anyone other than James Cameron could be bold enough to take on a sequel to the iconic horror film Alien and add their own twist. This was a time before the Hollywood sequel machine and shared universe films, where the statement that ‘the sequel would be bigger, better with higher stakes’ was not met with a sigh of disdain. I love this film. It captures a childlike sense of joy and that final scene is now just as iconic as the chest burster. The sequel really ramps up the action with plenty of futuristic weaponry, but never loses sight of Ripley as the central character who treats the Xenomorphs with an element of respect. She is a survivor not a warrior, but she is forced to become one by the end of the film. I appreciate the filmmaking of the original, but this film has so much more to enjoy. It still remains the greatest sci-fi action film with endlessly quotable lines, “Get away from her, you bitch!” After the strength of this sequel perhaps it is not surprising that all the films since have been such a disappointment.
Do you agree with the list – let us know your order, your favourite Alien film, and what you thought about Alien: Covenant.