Dreadlocks and acidic blood. Yautja and Xenomorph. “Predator” and “Alien”. For over 35 years, the sci-fi landscape has been forever etched in the chest blasters and plasma cannons of some of the most iconic alien franchises in cinema. However, the quality of the two series has been wobbly, each on a roller coaster trajectory from critical praise to outright contempt. But with the release of “Prey,” the fifth standalone film from “Predator,” “Predator” clearly has its footing, and “Alien” appears to be swept away by the surging tide of the franchise.
The two movie series, which actually share the same universe, have been linked to each other for decades. Ridley Scott introduced the Alien Aliens in his 1979 touring sci-fi horror film Alien. Predator took another eight years to hit theaters in 1987. Both have produced successful franchises under the 20th Century Fox banner.
“Alien” and “Alien”
Still widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi horror films of all time, Alien is a masterpiece of horror and atmosphere. It’s a quiet, tense film that relies on the mystery and fear of the iconic Xenomorph alien that wreaks havoc on Nostromo’s dashing crew. From the incredibly gruesome killing to the indelible performance of Sigourney Weaver and company, the original film has all the elements to stand the test of time.
In 1986, James Cameron took over the steering wheel from Scott for yet another classic in “Alien.” Cameron opted for a less scary, more action sci-fi approach, developing the “Alien” universe while still grounding it in the tactile features that made the original great. Throw in some Vietnam War commentary and some gritty action, and you’ve got a sequel that rivals the quality of the first.
A year later, Predator replicated much of the greatness of Alien by introducing a new killer creature: the Yautja. What makes Predator different is its status as a super action genre. Equipped with muscular men, machine guns, and brutal murder, “The Predator” delivered one of the greatest action movies of all time. Its smooth one-liners, heinous killings, laconic action, and mysterious murderous villain make Predator not just a great genre film, but a time capsule of a given moment in Hollywood filmmaking.
Three years later, Predator 2 has failed to capture the magic of its predecessor — though it’s become cult classic material thanks to its willingness to lean in outrageous directions. Equipped with a head-scratching plot that includes voodoo lords and a palpable lack of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film is a full-on shlock fest that, while entertaining, goes hand-in-hand with macho rooftop action does not match the original.
Two years later, Alien suffered its own relative failure. “Alien 3” leans toward nihilistic melodrama, spawning a dark section that resembles a shocking ice bath after the roaring roar of previous films. While Alien 3 still works well on its own, its lack of brilliance compared to previous films has always made it stand out in the franchise.In fact, iconic director David Fincher — who made his film debut — has since rejecting the film because production difficultiesThe freshman director was forced to start the film without finishing the script, several other directors came and went during pre-production, and the film’s $7 million budget was already bogged down from the start. In the end, Alien 3 took a step backwards on the show, feeling as if it was written by 30 different people because of the twists and lack of thematic focus.
It was even worse with Alien: Resurrection, released in 1997. With a resurrected Ripley (because of… science?) and a human-alien hybrid, the fourth part is all over the place. Overall, the trajectory of the Alien franchise seems to be nothing more than a fear of letting go of a storyline that has exhausted its life.
“Alien vs. Predator”
By the turn of the century, both series seemed to be phased out. The “Alien vs. Predator” movie in the mid-2000s didn’t do much for their track record either (of course, it was exciting to see Yautja vs. Xenomorph). However, the next era of the franchise has brought varying degrees of success that have brought them to their current state.
The Predators, the 2010 film starring Adrien Brody, are the closest of the two series to capturing the magic of their original films. On the premise of a similar hunter being hunted, “The Predator” followed up with a straight-forward action movie with intense combat and even more kick-ass Predators. It focuses on what the Predator does best: simplicity, and doing it well.
In “The Predators,” the franchise showed that it didn’t really care about tying up any big storylines. The Predator series is essentially an anthology. Each episode follows a different set of characters in a different setting, the only constant being Yautja on the hunt. While this hinders the deeper thematic resonance of the entire series, “The Predator” doesn’t seem to care. Each film feels like a new adventure, an open invitation to explore new characters, new worlds, and new kills. “Alien,” on the other hand, implores viewers to dig deeper into its mythology and storyline. The next “Alien” series, “Prometheus,” also fell prey to that feeling.
Ridley Scott is back in “Prometheus,” the new installment in the 2012 “Alien” franchise. While Scott’s beautiful cinematography is stunning, his director brings the series into an almost biblical storyline that focuses on important ideas of origin, purpose and perfection. Here, Scott creates a fun sci-fi movie with deep thinking and information, but “Prometheus” pushes the definition of “alien” movies so strongly that it breaks itself belt buckle. It still relies on the mythology set in the previous films, but it hopes to “reinvigorate” the series with an all-new storyline, focusing on Michael Fassbender’s David and his musings on “perfect being.” While “Predator” is creating its own story, the “Alien” series is demanding a new, weighty storyline. It’s ambitious, yes. Ambition, however, requires enormous execution. “Prometheus” had high ambitions, but ended in a mess only Its grand goals are far from being achieved.
Even though the latest “Alien” series, 2017’s “Alien: Covenant,” reintroduced the word “Alien” in the title, the film still feels like it’s making its way through the bible A swamp of proportions and philosophical reflection. It again ticks the strings in David and the Engineer’s storyline, and it still feels stuck in a thought with little to concern itself with. These characters aren’t actual humans, but moving targets picked out in bloody ways, and it’s fair to say that most fans don’t usually watch “Alien” movies to learn more about their creation and purpose in life. Not even the diabolical Fassbender performance could save the film.
Moving beyond the big blunder of Shane Black’s messy 2018 film “Predator,” the “Predator” franchise promises it’s more than happy to stick to its simplistic roots. “The Prey” is now the top-rated series on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with a 93% rating, and has received rave reviews online for its lyrical and thoughtful hunter-versus-hunter storyline. Comanche Nation.
While a movie like Prey may have the same basic DNA as its original, it works because it still feels completely fresh and creative. Director Dan Trachtenberg has created a worthy “Predator” entry while also painting a new, thoughtful portrait of heroism and bad ideas. It doesn’t feel like Prey is tightly connected to an intricate web of deep thoughts, but it also doesn’t feel like a soulless corporate IP.
The permanence of “Prey” is exactly what “Alien” currently lacks. While rewatching “The Predator” or “The Prey,” one can sit back and marvel at the well-executed genre filmmaking. It’s a fun, rewarding experience similar to “alien” and “alien”. Rewatching any “Alien” movie other than the first two might instead feel like homework, though.
The defining crux of Alien is its strong and glorious ambition. It reaches out to the sky (or heaven), but often falls short. Meanwhile, Predator is delivering action-packed but not totally brain-dead capsules. It’s attractive because it can go anywhere, anytime. For “Alien,” the general tone is that we’re in it for the long haul, whether you like it or not.
In reality, it all boils down to this: “Aliens” try to perfect complex biblical myths, while “Predators” hold bear carcasses above their heads. Who is best dressed?