18 July 2021 605 Views

Is ALIEN a political series?

by James Murphy

As yet again, a new show runner hints at some real world political motif as the front and centre of a soft reboot show..it’s time to establish the politics behind the ALIEN series..

Noah Hawley is going to run a new ALIEN tv show. Great. He has vision and is immensely gifted and articulate. Except he has hinted hat class war and corporate politics might feature as looming themes. So I am debunking the myth that the franchise was ‘about’ those things. 

The movies (and yes, much as I hate to admit this, I do include every iteration, including AVP and Prometheus and Resurrection) are about existence itself. They focus on struggles: either for survival or with the acceptance that death and loss are parts of that very process. That is big picture philosophical undercurrent conveyed through the machinery of body horror and being chased by a dinosaur like monster.

Corporate politics is but one facilitation of that thread. Same way say the Bond pictures are not ‘about’ the cold war or terror etc but use those as background platforms toward plot and action.

Let me illustrate, as follows:

ALIEN is ‘about’ sex and birth as death. Initially an ant like monster on a spaceship B picture, Ridley Scott brought in H R Giger on design and so an anatomical design became the signature of the series. Eggs; impregnation; body horror; gestation vs extinction. All ‘there’. Now, because you need a way to move the plot along, an unseen corporation made sense as an off-screen string puller. It is not about their folly or greed; it just makes sense to use them because the heroes are basically space truckers ferrying deadly cargo.

ALIENS is about LIFE. Survival. War. It’ s Vietnam, in space. See also the James Cameron written RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2. And Spielberg’s best Jurassic park film, THE LOST WORLD. If you go into a war zone, even after the war seems over and coast seems clear? Expect danger, struggle and challenge. Within that process, the shadowy Weyland Yutani does represent an inciting antagonist but once again, it’s not ‘about’ them. The story is Ripley, war survivor, confronting her fear and PTSD, surviving against all odds and bonding with /protecting a surrogate daughter and a new shot at love (Newt and Hicks, respectively).

ALIEN 3 is like watching depression, personified, onscreen. Picture the most despondent, destructive, hopeless vision of Hell and this is it. So, whilst I loathe what they did in the film, its philosophical strength remains clear. By watching this movie, you simulate the worst case scenario in the furthest reaches of nightmare fears. It is therefore, a catharsis, of sorts. This is death; an acceptance of our common mortality and a last dash bid to somehow embrace rather than deny the opportunity that may afford us for reflection and legacy.

RESURRECTION is a missed opp for taking the show to Earth, though they hint at that in the end. Sigourney was not up for that, though was fine with a rehash of aliens on a ship via some ghastly gothic imagery. The movie is a curiosity and I am glad it exists. Theme here? Abortion? Ripley is the clone host to a batch of alien/human hybrids and it is she who must decide whether the species lives or dies. Thought provoking stuff.

Neither AVP nor REQUIEM has any discernible theme. They’re a bit rubbish by most accounts but I think that’s unfair. They are fun action movies and extend the mythology of two series with a minimum of pretension.

PROMETHEUS and COVENANT are about faith vs science and how science an become faith or vice versa. Science cannot make us into Gods because if we think that way, an immediate angering of true creators is triggered as is the curiosity of those seeking our extinction. Yes, corporations once again facilitate the overreaching ambitions and Frankenstein science in space but as always in the series, it is not ‘about’ those.

To be fair: new series show-runner Hawley does promisingly point out the series’ thread of noticing a conflict between our primal origin and AI destiny, with the aliens trapped between. That’s very Ridley Scott and indeed, James Cameron, too. Bodes well, even if a corporate politics /class war motif is less alluring.

As for unmade Alien flicks? I have no idea what Neill Blomkamp had in mind for his philosophical take on the mythology. It’s a shame his project was prevented from going into production, as the concept art looks fascinating, even if it’s unclear what actual advancement he would have brought plot /mythology wise?

Hicks and Newt returning would have been great (Alien 3 /Resurrection bad hyper-sleep dreams?). Perhaps there might have been some replaying of the abandoned Alien 3 treatments where two ‘companies’ fought for the alien as a prize (thinly disguised USA vs USSR?)? Now THAT WOULD be provocative and progressive: reminding us all that  evil can be manifest on ANY side of the ‘class war’ divide, with corporations simply one iteration.

Either way? ALIEN = Philosophy plus horror via sci fi used future grimy ground up warlike action adventure FUN. Not a civics lecture, please! But on the whole, Hawley is an excellent choice, despite Ripley no longer being talked about or Ridley Scott/Jim Cameron’s ideas coming into play? ALIENS ON EARTH. FINALLY, done right? We can but hope..or it’s GAME OVER, MAN 😉 


19 January 2022

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