Monday, December 31, 2018

Predator- Xenomorph Aside

The Alien franchise crossing over with the Yautja brought a great deal more than the individual creatures and battles.

In general, I am a much bigger fan of the Predator as a being, but the Alien films are better constructed.

Combining the worlds brought the Yautja into a futuristic science fiction setting.  The back story created a detailed and impressive back drop for the Predators to work against. 

Also, by supplying a highly dangerous foe, with minimal personality in the Xenomorphs, it allowed the Predator to be highlighted and stand out as complex, thinking individuals.

Each of the original Alien films contributed something.

The first introduced the all-powerful Weyland-Yutani corporation, and the lived in and functional looking ships, with many dark corners for the Yautja to hide in. 

Ridley Scott’s prequels, though intended to dissolve any possible connection to the Aliens Vs Predator films did succced in adding to the combined franchise as well.

On one hand, the extended universe writers completely ignored the goal of dissolving, and worked the Engineers seamlessly into the AvP storylines.

On the other hand (claw?  Mandible?) the newer movies do highlight what turns into the key villain of the franchise.  This was driven home to me watching the original Alien with my daughter.  The success and fame of that movie was based around suspense tied to the never before seen creature design, and the chestburster scene.  Having grown up with me, the chestburster and Xenomorph design weren’t surprises, but elements she recognized since early childhood, rendering the film kind of slow paced to her non-startled eyes.
The reveal of Ash in all his inhuman, fluid spurting glory, shocked the hell out of her however. It is the corporate created Artificial Intelligence that is the driving force behind the main characters’ predicament. This is amplified in both Prometheus and Covenant. Various forms of android, evil and otherwise, show up in the various Aliens Vs. Predator games and comics.

Aliens introduced more detailed environments and corporate interactions to the universe these creatures inhabit.  More importantly, it also introduced the Alien queen, a single creature at a power level above a Predator and the Colonial Marines. The heavily armed “state of the badass art” crews would be sometime foes, and sometime allies of the honor bound, Yautja hunters.

Alien3 was, let’s face it, an epic disaster of studio interference.  However, it did canonize the idea that the host creature the facehugger locks onto yields the final form of the Xenomorph.  That eventually led to a bunch of various Alien forms in the comics and games, including the Predalien.  Granted there was concept art before the release of this film, but the movie was in development for so long it still may have started there. Plus I kinda feel bad for it, so I'm throwing it a bone.

Alien Resurrection gave us a cool dangerous but strangely honorable crew, and more depth into the Artificial Intelligence questions.  It also demonstrated the Mad Scientist aspect of how humans (and Predators) view the Xenomorphs as something to be modified and /or harnessed.   Again, some of this popped up in comics both before and after the movie, but seeing it on the big screen makes it somehow more real.

In general, what the Aliens do for the Predators is become a (literally) faceless enemy forcing the writers to give the far more interesting and diverse Yautjas more character development and complexity.

There may be two other additions that are far more important.

One is Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. They started out working on Aliens with Stan Winston, then broke out in their own company which focuses heavily on practical effects (Amalgamated Dynamics) for the next two sequels and the AvP movies.  No one is better at playing a Xenomorph than Tom.  

Even more key is, via Ellen Ripley, the Alien franchise brought in the notion of a powerful female lead character.  While occasionally awesome, Anna and Leona did very little against their extra terrestrial foes.

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