The Alien anthology consists of four Sci-fi suspense thrillers made over the course of almost twenty years and directed by four of the most visionary and visually influential film makers working today;
Ridley Scott - Alien (1979), James Cameron - Aliens (1986), David Fincher - Alien 3 (1992) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet - Alien: Resurrection (1997).
The first Alien film, and still considered the best, was directed by Ridley Scott early in his career and set the bar extremely high for later sequels to follow. It’s a movie you can’t take your eyes off for several reasons. The visually striking set design and grimy dark lived-in environments are so realistic that you're pulled into its claustrophobic world of futuristic high-tech industrial machinery, which has become a hallmark of the series.
The suspenseful storyline of a group of interstellar miners traveling back to earth from a work assignment on a massive space vessel carrying crude oil, are awoken from their hyper-sleep prematurely to investigate an alien distress signal coming from a nearby uninhabited moon. Contractually obligated to investigate, they do a quick search of the area where the signal originated only to find a lifeless alien ship abandoned in a hostile environment. Finding what seems to be a primordial life form, a curious member of the scouting party unknowingly becomes the host for an alien species with some very unique and hostile qualities.
Essentially, Alien is a Sci-fi/horror thriller, the first of its kind. Ridley Scott was very much influenced by the success and unique used retro look of Star Wars (1977), which was released three years prior and openly admits to wanting to go in a similar direction with his next film. But where Star Wars was a mix of fairy tale and Science Fiction, Alien was a much darker and grimmer tale in a more realistic Sci-fi setting. It was the Edgar Allen Poe of Science Fiction.
The theme that runs through all the Alien films is that all is not what it appears from the outside. The alien at first appears to be very small and vulnerable but we soon discover that the alien is not what it seems at all and quickly metamorphosis into a frightening indestructible and cunning monster. The unsuspecting crew is also not what they appear to be. The seemingly strongest and smartest members of the mining party quickly fall victim to the alien and the weakest or unlikeliest ones become the most resilient, surviving under the most difficult of circumstances. To add even further suspense and confusion, one of the crew members who appear to be human is not human at all and may actually be aiding the alien due to the sinister motives of an unseen corporation.
The subsequent sequels are all variations on these themes. The first and second are considered the best in the series but all four movies are unique films in their own right with their own visual style and they all add something new to this popular franchise.
Ridley Scott, the original director on the series, who would later be known for such iconic films as Blade Runner (1982), Legend (1985), Thelma & Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001), Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and Robin Hood (2010), has now returned to the franchise he started and made a prequel called Prometheus (2012), which is the first in a new trilogy of films that will lead up to the Alien anthology. Watch for it coming to cinemas June 8, 2012.