You can admire its purity
The iconic Alien franchise has seen some ups and downs in the cinemas, with slightly better luck with games. While disappointing sequels/prequels like Prometheus and Aliens vs. Predator are worth forgetting, most of the Xenomorphs' games have fared a little better. There have been more good Alien games than bad--and it's very infuential series (opens in new tab)--but gamers could use something to wash away the pain of Aliens: Colonial Marines. Sega and Creative Assembly hope to course-correct by going back to the beginning with Alien: Isolation (opens in new tab), a direct follow-up to the first movie in the series.
Isolation looks to recreate the style and tone of Alien, taking place 15 years after the influential films plot, with Ellen Ripleys daughter as the player character. Because the game is so closely linked to one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, this seems like a perfect opportunity to explore some of the trivia behind the motion picture, and how, just maybe, itll all be connected to the game. Even if you think you know the futuristic world, you may be surprised by some of what follows, including...
Ellen Ripley, the sole human survivor of the Nostromo, was originally written as a man
Alien had years of rewrites and restarts before a director could be even chosen, let alone the cast. When looking at the original script by Dan OBannon and Ronald Shusett, which was then called Star Beast, youll see a whole lot of things changed, and that includes Ripley. Originally called Roby, the role was written explicitly as a man, though his characteristics and survivor status were pretty much the same in the finished production.
When casting the film, the producers instead saw the character as a woman, ultimately giving Sigourney Weaver the chance to create the role of a lifetime as Ripley (beating out Meryl Streep for the part). Ripley became something of an icon for women in genre fiction, inspiring many that followed the fierce, powerful performance. For instance, given Metroids clear influence from the Alien series, who knows if Samus wouldve been conceived as a woman if not for the films genderswap.
Amanda Ripley existed decades before her appearance in Isolation
Based on the setting of Alien: Isolations campaign, Ripley is too busy napping away in hypersleep to appear. While Weaver waits for James Cameron to wake her up for the sequel, Isolation finds a suitable lead in the form of Amanda Ripley, Ellens grown-up daughter. And, as convenient as it may seem for the developers to just make up a Ripley Jr. for the game, her history is much deeper than that. In fact, to observant Alien fans, her life has already come and gone.
Potential spoilers for Alien: Isolation! Though not actually mentioned in the most-seen theatrical cuts of the films, a scene added to the Special Edition of Aliens introduces Amanda Ripley-McClaren, Ellen's daughter. She was young when her mother left aboard the Nostromo ship, and had died by the time her mother was found 57 years later. By making Amandas existence official in that newer version, she's seemingly ready-made to appear in Isolation years later. Of course, we sadly know things dont work out that well for Amandas in-game maternal search. Then again, Alien isnt really known for its happy endings.
Weyland-Yutani was originally called Leyland-Toyota
Alien imagines a world where massive corporations merge and combine over and over again, eventually becoming large enough to own whole governments and planets. And the franchises most malicious company, Weyland-Yutani, has gone on to be an inspiration for many other mega-corporations in sci-fi TV shows like Firefly. Wey-Yu--as some fans refer to it--is actually inspired by real-world corporations, and was originally known as Leyland-Toyota.
Producer Ron Cobb (opens in new tab) saw the evil conglomerate as a work of UK and Japanese synergy that goes on to colonize the galaxy, though he based it on real car brands, namely Toyota and British Leyland. Eventually the filmmakers had to fictionalize Leyland-Toyota, so they replaced the UK companys L with a W, and swapped Toyota with the name of a Japanese neighbor of Cobbs. Hmm, now that I think about it, Alien: Isolation is the product of UK developers at Creative Assembly and Sega, a Japanese publisher. Perhaps theyre the perfect combo for this game...
Ash, Ian Holm's killer android, is even harder to kill than it seems
The Alien gets top-billing as the villain of the piece, but many forget the film has another villain, one who's out to kill the crew almost as much as the primal Xenomorph. Im speaking of Ash, the secret synthetic operative thats hiding away as a member of the team. Played as an unforgettable creep by Ian Holm (a far cry from Bilbo Baggins), the heartless android was sent to stealthily let loose the extraterrestrial as a way to steal the creature for Weyland-Yutani to research and exploit. And, even with his memorable decapitation, hes even harder to kill than most fans know.
After Ash is exposed as a traitor, hes last seen as a severed head, taunting the rest of the crew about their impending death by Xenomorph. Though his head being burned alive would seem to be his end, he later returns as a seemingly unkillable AI virus that takes over a spacecraft in the spin-off novel, Alien: Out of the Shadows (which you're better off not reading, because the novels are non-canon/crap). Youve got to give it to Hyperdyne for making such a dependable replicant.
Alien's "Directors Cut" isnt the directors preferred cut
Many movie buffs would tell you that Alien is virtually perfect as is, a wonderful expression of all the artists involved. And Ridley Scott would seemingly agree with you, even though a later edition of the film would be billed as a directors cut. Scott has gone on record saying that he prefers the theatrical original. Still, he oversaw the production of the 2003 rerelease, which replaced and rearranged some scenes once thought lost to time. Unlike most directors cuts, this version of the movie is actually shorter than the first.
Scott felt the scenes that were cut from the original were gone for a reason, and for the sake of story pacing, he removed moments from the previous version to fit in new bits, like Dallas explicit death. The directors cut is more like an approved remix, and general consensus among fans is that the theatrical release is still the best. Oddly enough, the "Special Edition" of Aliens is actually James Camerons preferred version of the sequel, yet its missing out on the "Directors Cut" subtitle.
John Hurt was almost not a part of Alien
Gilbert Kane (no relation to this articles author), cemented his place in history with his death. Kane is the first character to be killed on-screen by a Xenomorph, specifically from a chest-bursting newborn. The bloody moment is one of the scariest film has ever seen, and is forever linked to the man that acted out Kanes life and death. And yet, as great as John Hurt is in the role, he almost didnt play the part.
John Finch was an accomplished Shakespearean actor in his day, and was cast as Kane after Hurt turned down the role for scheduling reasons. On the first day of shooting, Finch became very ill, while Hurts schedule had cleared up at the last minute. With less than a day to make up his mind, Hurt joined the production and the rest is history. Hed go on to recreate the role in Mel Brooks Spaceballs, which I can neither confirm or deny will be canonical in Isolation.
Alien's famous, classical closing music was added late
The sound in Alien really shapes the tone of the entire enterprise, up to the final musical piece over the credits. Once Ripley has shot the Xenomorph out of the ship's airlock (not the last time she'll be doing that), the credits are set to the quiet, relaxing tune of Howard Hanson's piece, "Symphony No. 2, Romantic (opens in new tab)." This sets the mood perfectly for the audience to finally relax after having the crap scared out of them for the last hour--yet that music is one of many late replacements to the films score.
Jerry Goldsmith, celebrated for his work on films like Chinatown and Gremlins, created Aliens original soundtrack as bleak and avant-garde as the film required. However, as the editing began, Scott wasnt entirely satisfied with it. Scott replaced Goldsmiths work multiple times in the film, even using some of Goldsmiths own music from a different film, causing the composer to hold a grudge for years and years. 20th Century Fox released the original version of the soundtrack in 1999, so why not listen to the original closing (opens in new tab) score and see which you prefer? Who knows--maybe some of those unused tracks will worm their way into Isolation.
You have my sympathies
Those are all the bits of Alien related trivia for today--maybe next time we can get into the rumors that Alien designer H.R. Giger kept the bones of his late wife. But if you have any more bits of trivia to add, share underneath the article. In the comments, everyone can hear you scream.
And while you're ready in the mood for Alien, check out how to make a good Alien video game and 12 big ways that video games have ripped off the Alien movies.