August 27, 2017 5:18 pm

The latest film in the Alien franchise hit cinemas this year, under the title of Alien: Covenant, and it was a continuation of the prequels to the original series of films – with this film fitting into the franchise’s internal timeline after Prometheus, but around twenty years before the events of Alien. The film did reasonable, if not exceptional business at the global box office, which means that it remains in question whether this prequel run will continue. Here we will look back at the complex history of this long-running franchise.

Original series

The film that began the franchise was Alien, released in 1979, which centred on the crew of a spaceship that accidentally allow a murderous alien on board. With a game-changing female lead character, in the form of Ellen Ripley, and memorably gory scenes such as the one where the alien bursts out of the chest of one of the crew members, it became a worldwide box office smash – and is still viewed as a classic. The sequel, titled Aliens, did not arrive until 1986, but maintained the quality of the first film, albeit on a larger scale. With James Cameron taking over directing duties from Ridley Scott, the film saw Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley wake after decades in cryosleep as the only survivor from the first film, and given the opportunity to get her revenge on the alien. The movie proved another big hit and was followed by two further efforts – Alien 3 in 1992 and Alien Resurrection five years later. The first was reasonably well-received, but by the time of the latter, both critics and moviegoers felt that diminishing returns were setting in.

Prequel series

Things went quiet for the franchise after that, until original director Ridley Scott released Prometheus in 2012. There was no Ripley this time as the film was a prequel to the original series, taking place years before, and centring on a group of explorers who go searching for the origins of mankind. It was praised for its atmospheric qualities, and for expanding the franchise’s universe, but some critics also felt that there were too many holes in the actual plot. The latest film picks up where that one left off, with the crew of the ship Covenant finding a survivor from Prometheus on a ‘paradise’ planet. It received predominantly positive reviews, but questions remain as to whether this timeline will continue further.


Complicating the franchise still further is the fact that there have been two spin-off films produced – Alien vs Predator in 2004 and 2007’s Alien vs Predator: Requiem. Combining the Alien franchise with the much less prestigious Predator one, the results were closer to B-movie action than the intelligent sci-fi thrillers of the main series and prequels. There have also been other spin-offs, from a comic book series and novelisations to video games like Alien – for Atari consoles in the early 1980s – to Alien: Isolation for Sega, released three years ago. Now there is also an online casino slot game themed around the Alien franchise, marking the latest development.

Whether the prequel series continues or not, there are strong rumours that further Alien films are on the way, with the chance of a return for Ripley even being mooted.

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This post was written by Nadia Vella