POSTED May 2 2012

Alien or Aliens?

Sigourney Weaver in Alien (r) and Aliens (l)

I suppose it’s the trailer for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus that got me rethinking Alien — which led to the question I never asked myself: Alien or Aliens? Ridley Scott’s exquisite suspense-in-space epic or James Cameron’s adrenalin-pumping action flick?

Scott’s original, written by Dan O’Bannon, was in many ways a straight-faced version of O’Bannon’s and John Carpenter’s Dark Star. (That’s the one in an astronaut, confounded by an alien life form, suggests to his colleague, “Let’s teach it phenomenology.”) Alien played like a high-tech Howard Hawks film, with sleek production design and the kind of lush cinematography that would be impossible to replicate digitally. I remember watching it, at the Loew’s Astor Plaza in Manhattan, with heart in throat. The theater was so quiet you could hear popcorn settle in the bags. (At least until the famous Sigourney Weaver- in-her-underwear with the cat scene. That’s when the guy behind me yelled, “Don’t be petting pussy, honey!” ¬†and everyone erupted in nervous laughter.)

Cameron’s sequel, structured as a conventional action film, unconventionally had a female hero at its center. I remember watching it, at the Sameric in Philadelphia, with heart-in-stomach-in-knots. I appreciated how screenwriter David Giler made the fight between Lt. Ripley and the Mother Alien symbolic of the female between professional and maternal.

The Scott movie was a cerebral experience and the Cameron an emotional one. If you asked me which I prefer, I would ask back, “Do I have to choose?”

Your choice?



  1. Gary says:

    I’ve always preferred ALIENS. I was hiding under the seat in front of me (at the Orleans 8 in the Northeast), but the film was such a rush.
    I’ll admit I didn’t see ALIEN in the theatre when it came out, but caught parts of it when it played endlessly on cable. I eventually saw it in its entirety on the big screen at the Orson Welles Theatre in Boston and I was disappointed; it didn’t grab me like ALIENS did.

  2. Miz Val says:

    I will say this much the nesting place in “Alien” scared the crap out me back in 1979. But I have to agree with Gary.Weaver’s character was more human.Her motherly instincts to protect “Newt”emerged when the Alien was chasing “Newt” on the launch pad. Back in 1986 shouting out the “B” word was shocking but we cheered Ellen Ripley when she said it.Ahhh!!! those were the good old days in film

  3. movieirv says:

    They are both terriific in their own way, but the experience of seeing Alien at a screening at the long-shuttered Eric’s Place in Philly, then taking the El home late at night made for a creepy experience. Geiger’s creature designs were hypnotic yet digusting and the film was filled so many now classic jolts. Also, I will never forget the quote on the poster from Newsweek’s Jack Kroll”:”It will scare the peanuts out of your M&Ms.”

  4. Horse Badorties says:

    Original Alien poster from 1979..In space, no one can hear you scream..

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