Classification Alien lifeform
The Alien (also referred to as a Xenomorph) is a fictional endoparasitoid extraterrestrial species that is the primary antagonist of the Alien film series. The species made its debut in the 1979 film Alien, and reappeared in its sequels Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), and Alien Resurrection (1997). It has also appeared in the series' two spinoffs Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), as well as the various literature and video game spin-offs from the series.
Unlike many other recurring enemy extraterrestrial races in science fiction, the aliens are not an intelligent civilization, but predatory creatures with no higher goals than the propagation of their species and the destruction of life that could pose a threat. Like wasps or termites, aliens are eusocial, with a single fertile queen breeding a caste of warriors. The aliens' biological life cycle, in which their offspring are violently implanted inside living hosts before erupting from their chests, is in many ways their signature aspect. Their design deliberately evokes many sexual images, both male and female, to illustrate its blurring of human sexual dichotomy.
The alien design is credited to Swiss surrealist and artist H. R. Giger, originating in a lithograph called Necronom IV and refined for the series' first film, Alien. The species' design and life cycle have been extensively added to throughout each film.
Concept and creation
The script for the 1979 film Alien was initially drafted by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. Dan O'Bannon drafted an opening in which the crew of a mining ship are sent to investigate a mysterious message on an alien planetoid. He eventually settled on the threat being an alien creature; however, he could not conceive of an interesting way for it to get onto the ship. Inspired after waking from a dream, Shusett said, "I have an idea: the monster screws one of them"; planting its seed in his body, and then bursting out of his chest. Both realized the idea had never been done before, and it subsequently became the core of the film. "This is a movie about alien interspecies collied," O'Bannon said on the documentary Alien Evolution, "That's scary because it hits all of our buttons." O'Bannon felt that the symbolism was an effective means of discomforting male viewers. The title of the film was decided late in the script's development. O'Bannon had quickly dropped the film's original title, Star Beast, but could not think of a name to replace it. "I was running through titles, and they all stank", O'Bannon said in an interview, "when suddenly, that word alien just came out of the typewriter at me. Alien. It's a noun and it's an adjective." The word alien subsequently became the title of the film and, by extension, the name of the creature itself.
Prior to writing the script to Alien, O'Bannon had been working in France for Chilean cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky's planned adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic science-fiction novel Dune. Also hired for the project was Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger. Giger showed O'Bannon his nightmarish, monochromatic artwork, which left O'Bannon deeply disturbed. "I had never seen anything that was quite as horrible and at the same time as beautiful as his work," he remembered later. The Dune film collapsed, but O'Bannon would remember Giger when Alien was greenlit, and suggested to director Ridley Scott that he be brought on to design the alien, saying that if he were to design a monster, it would be truly original.[
After O'Bannon handed him a copy of Giger's book Necronomicon, Scott immediately saw the potential for Giger's designs, and chose Necronom IV, a painting Giger completed in 1976, as the basis for the alien's design, citing its beauty and strong sexual overtones. That the creature could just as easily have been male or female was also a strong factor in the decision to use it. "It could just as easily fuck you before it killed you", said line producer Ivor Powell, "[which] made it all the more disconcerting." Fox were initially wary of allowing Giger onto the project, saying that his works would be too disturbing for audiences, but eventually relented. Giger initially offered to completely design the alien from scratch, but Scott mandated that he base his work on Necronom IV, saying that to start over from the beginning would be too time-consuming. Giger signed on to design the adult, egg and chest-burster forms, but ultimately also designed the alien planetoid LV-426 and the Space Jockey alien vessel.
Giger conceived the alien as being vaguely human but a human in full armor, protected from all outside forces. He mandated that the creature have no eyes, because he felt that it made them much more frightening if you could not tell they were looking at you. Giger also gave the alien's mouth a second inner set of jaws located at the tip of a long, tongue-like proboscis which could extend rapidly for use as a weapon. His design for the creature was heavily influenced by an aesthetic he had created and termed biomechanical, a fusion of the organic and the mechanic. His mock-up of the alien was created using parts from an old Rolls Royce car, rib bones and the vertebrae from a snake, molded with plasticine. The alien's animatronic head, which contained 900 moving parts, was designed and constructed by special effects designer Carlo Rambaldi. Giger and Rambaldi would both go on to win the 1980 Academy Award for Visual Effects for their design of the alien.
Scott decided on the man-in-suit approach for creating the creature onscreen. Initially circus performers were tried, then multiple actors together in the same costume, but neither proved scary. Deciding that the creature would be scarier the closer it appeared to a human, Scott decided that a single, very tall, very thin man be used. Scott was inspired by a photograph of Leni Riefenstahl standing next to a 6'4" (1.94 m) Nubian. The casting director found 7'2" (2.18 m), rail-thin graphic designer Bolaji Badejo in a local pub. Badejo went to tai chi and mime classes to learn how to slow down his movements.[
The creature has no specific name, and has been referred to most often onscreen, and in the credits of each film, simply as the alien. It was called an alien, an organism, and Kane's son in the first film. It has also been referred to as a creature, a beast, a dragon, a monster, or simply a thing. In Alien vs. Predator, the Predators refer to the creatures as "serpents". The term xenomorph (lit. "alien form"—from Greek xeno- or "strange" and -morph, shape) was used by the character Lieutenant Gorman in Aliens and by Ellen Ripley in a deleted scene from Alien 3. This term has been adopted by fans and used in merchandising as a convenient name. The species' binomial names are given in Latin as either Internecivus raptus (meant as "murderous thief") in the Alien Quadrilogy DVD or Linguafoeda acheronsis (meant as "foul tongue from Acheron") in some comic books.[
Continuing advancements made in the field of special effects technology as the series progressed have led to numerous variations in the creature's design, including varying numbers of fingers and limb joints and varying head design.
When standing upright, the aliens are vaguely bipedal in form, though they adopt a more hunched, quadrupedal stance when walking or sprinting. They have a skeletal, biomechanical appearance and are usually colored in muted shades of black, blue or bronze. Aliens do not radiate heat, as their body heat matches the ambient temperature of the environment in which they are found. In most of the films, adult aliens have the ability of running and crawling along ceilings and walls. They have great physical strength, having been shown to be capable of breaking through welded steel doors, and matching Predators in single combat.
Aliens have segmented, blade-tipped tails. The sharp tip was initially a small, scorpion-like barb, but from Aliens onwards the blade design increased in size and changed in appearance to more closely resemble a slashing weapon. From Alien Resurrection onwards, the tails have a flat ridge of spines at the base of the blade. This was introduced to help them swim convincingly, and was left intact in the subsequent cross-overs. The original shooting script for Aliens and the novelization both featured a scene in which Lieutenant Gorman is "stung" by the barb tail and rendered unconscious. In the final cut of the movie, Gorman is knocked out by falling crates. As a weapon, the strength of the tail is very effective, having been shown to be strong enough to impale and lift a Predator with seemingly little effort. They are also adept at using their tails as blunt weapons, sometimes to deadly effect, as seen in Alien.
They have elongated, cylindrical skulls but possess no visible eyes, though in the original Alien film, the top of the creature's head was translucent, with empty eye sockets of human appearance visible within. This element was re-used for the "Predalien" 29 years later. How the creatures see is uncertain. In Alien 3, a fisheye lens was used to illustrate the alien's point of view. In the novelization of the movie Alien, the creature is held mesmerized by a spinning green light for several minutes. In Aliens, the adult creatures have a more textured head rather than a smooth carapace. In the commentary for Aliens, it was speculated that this was part of the maturation of the creatures, as they had been alive far longer than the original alien. The smooth design of the carapace would be used again in Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection, although made narrower with a longer muzzle and more prominent chin. This design would be kept in Alien versus Predator and abandoned in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem in favor of the ribbed design. The aliens' inner jaws are powerful enough to smash through bone and metal.
Throughout their appearances, human spawned Aliens have been shown to have a fluctuating number of fingers. In Alien, the creature has webbed, six fingered hands. The number of fingers is reduced to three in Aliens, and are shown to be much longer and more skeletal. In Alien Resurrection, the number of digits is increased to four, with two long middle fingers and a pair of thumbs. This design is kept in the Alien vs. Predator films, though the hands were made bulkier in order to make the Aliens seem more formidable against the Predators.
Aliens have been alternately portrayed as both plantigrade and digitigrade organisms, usually in accordance to their host. Human spawned aliens were usually portrayed as having humanoid hind limbs, while in Alien 3, the featured Alien sported double-jointed legs due to its quadrupedal host. This characteristic would be continued in Alien Resurrection for the human-spawned aliens. Tom Woodruff, who had previously played the "dog-alien" in Alien 3, described the human spawned aliens in Resurrection as feeling more like a dog than the previous creature, despite having been born from human hosts. The human spawned Alien warriors would revert back to a plantigrade posture in Alien vs. Predator.
Blood and secretions
Alien blood is an extremely potent acid and is capable of corroding on contact almost any substance with alarming speed. It is dull yellowish-green in color, and seems to be pressurized inside the body so that it spurts out when punctured. Shusett suggested the idea that the creature have acid blood as a plausible means to make the creature "unkillable"; if one were to use traditional firearms or explosives to attack it, its blood would eat through the hull of the ship. The Alien novelization suggests that, at least at the "facehugger" stage, the acid is not blood but a fluid maintained under pressure between a double layer of skin. In later films in the series, the aliens are shown to be conscious of the effects of their acidic blood, and even use it to their advantage: In Alien Resurrection, two aliens escape a cage by killing a fellow alien so its acid eats through the cage floor; in Aliens vs. Predator a queen being held by chains apparently instructs several aliens to slash and cut her, thus corroding the chains. In the Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem documentary: "Science of the Alien", it is theorized that the aliens' acid blood could be some type of "hydrosulphuric acid" composition due to its corrosiveness and the conspicuously toxic effects on living human tissue. The documentary also speculates that Aliens are immune to their own acidic and toxic liquids due to a endobiological build-up similar to the human stomach's ability to protect itself from its digestive fluids. The documentary takes this theory one step further and speculates that the Alien organisms protection system against its own toxic hydrosulphuric acid is protecting the rest of the organism with what is basically a bio-organic produced teflon isolation.
Aliens can produce a thick, strong resin (excreted from their maws, giving them the look of a slavering beast) that they use to build their hives and to cocoon their victims, and they can use the walls of their hives as camouflage. In the original Alien, the facehugger is shown to be able to "spit" acid, melting the faceplate of Kane's helmet and allowing the creature immediate access to the inside. This ability is also exhibited by adult aliens in Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection; much like a spitting cobra, they use it to blind and immobilize their victims.
Intelligence and communication
Events on the LV-426 colony and USM Auriga showed that the species excels at observational learning and problem solving. In both cases, the aliens managed to learn how to operate the machinery of their mechanized environments at a very basic level. On LV-426, the aliens were able to cut the power from a section of the complex to allow themselves access to the humans. The queen was able to learn how to operate a giant elevator simply by observing it once. The novelisation of the film notes that the queen establishing her 'nest' at the base's main power plant could equally be the result of her selecting the warmest part of the base to make her nest or her deliberately selecting a location where any attackers would be unable to destroy her without destroying the entire facility. In the director's commentary for Aliens, James Cameron noted that the creatures in Aliens had been alive for far longer than the alien in the original, and so had more time to learn how to manipulate machinery. On the USM Auriga, they were able to use blood from another alien to melt through their enclosure and escape, with the Aliens in the Antarctic temple using a similar strategy to free the queen from her chains. With the exception of the "Newborn", Aliens have demonstrated little actual emotion, save for self preservation and maternal instincts toward their eggs.
They make few vocalizations beyond snarls and high pitched shrieks when in pain or attacking. They regularly hiss while active, but are otherwise silent, particularly when stalking prey.
Aliens are depicted as eusocial life-forms with a defined caste system which is ruled by a queen. Their life cycle comprises several distinct stages: they begin their lives as an egg, which hatches a parasitic larval form known as a facehugger, which then attaches itself to a living host by, as its name suggests, latching onto its face. The facehugger then "impregnates" the host with an embryo known as a chestburster, which, after a gestation period of several hours, erupts violently from the host's chest resulting in the death of the host. The chestburster then matures to an adult phase within a few hours, shedding its skin and replacing its cells with polarized silicon. Due to the transfer of DNA during the gestation period, the alien also takes on some of the basic physical attributes of the host from which it was born
and now lastly the queen
Queen aliens are significantly larger and stronger than the warriors, approximately 4.5 metres (15 ft) tall. Their body structure differs also, having two pairs of arms, one large and one small. The Queen's head is larger than other adult aliens and is protected by a large flat crest. Unlike other aliens, the Queen also has high heel protrusions from its feet. The Queen also seems to have increased intelligence compared to the other life-cycle stages, as the Queen on LV-426 was able to learn to operate an elevator. Pregnant alien queens possess an immense ovipositor on their lower torso, similar to a queen termite's, which is responsible for creating eggs. The queen is able to detach from the ovipositor. When attached to its ovipositor, the queen is supported by a "biomechanical throne" that consists of a lattice of struts resembling massive insect legs. Unlike insect queens, there appears to be no need for drones to fertilize an alien queen's eggs. The newest film installment, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem also features a new form of oral implantation, by which the Predalien mimics the action of facehuggers, directly depositing multiple chestburster embryos into a host via its inner jaw. The Strauss Brothers, directors of the film, have gone on to say that this is a stage between adult and queen, by which a young queen attempts to quickly build its army before it grows the egg sack and cannot defend itself.
Concept and design
In the initial cut of Alien, the alien possessed a complete life cycle, with the still-living bodies of its victims converted into eggs. However, the scene showing this final stage was cut for reasons of pacing, leaving the ultimate origin of the eggs obscure. This allowed Aliens director James Cameron to introduce a concept he had initially conceived for a spec script called Mother, a massive mother alien which laid the eggs and formed the basis for the aliens' life cycle. Cameron conceived the Queen as a monstrous analogue to Ripley's own maternal role in the film. In that vein, some critics have compared it to Grendel's mother.
The design of the queen was created by Cameron in collaboration with special effects artist Stan Winston, based upon an initial painting Cameron had done at the start of the project. The Winston Studio created a test foam core queen before constructing the full hydraulic puppet which was used for most of the scenes involving the large alien. Two people were inside working the twin sets of arms and puppeteers off-screen worked its jaws and head. Although at the end of the film the queen was presented full-body fighting the power-loader, the audience never sees the legs of the queen, save those of the small-scale puppet that appears only briefly. In Aliens, Cameron used very selective camera-angles on the queen, using the 'less is more' style of photography. Subsequently the movie won an Oscar for Visual Effects. An adult queen was to reappear in Alien Resurrection. The original mechanical head previously used in Aliens was provided by Bob Burns. It was repainted with a blend of green and brown, giving it a shimmering, insect-like quality. This color concept would be abandoned in Alien versus Predator in favour of the original black color scheme.
In the climax of the 2004 film Alien vs. Predator the queen's basic design was altered to make it more "streamlined" in appearance and its over-all size was increased to 6 meters (20 feet) tall. Other changes include the removal of the "high-heel" protrusions on its legs, including additional spines on its head and making its waist thinner because there was no need for puppeteers inside its chest. The animatronic laying queen had 47 points of hydraulic motion.[