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Express elevator to Hell: The evolution of "Alien"



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A xenomorph attacks in "Alien: Covenant," the latest film in the 38-year-old sci-fi horror franchise. Buy Photos

Before "Alien: Covenant" comes chest-bursting into theaters Thursday night, catch up on the franchise's previous five films. 

Alien (1979): “Alien” begins with the space freighter Nostromo on a return trip to Earth. When the ship’s computer — named Mother, the first of many Freudian details — detects unfamiliar signals from a nearby moon, LV-426, the crew comes face to face with a parasitic alien stowed away aboard the ruins of a different alien’s crash-landed ship.

An eerie thriller involving the crew’s attempts to elude and destroy the rapidly maturing alien, the film leaves the tough-as-nails Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as the sole survivor. Upon launching the alien into deep space, Ripley enters stasis as her shuttle returns to Earth.

4/4 Facehuggers

Aliens (1986): When Ripley emerges from hypersleep 57 years after the events of “Alien,” she awakens to news that LV-426 is now smack dab in the middle of a terraforming initiative spearheaded by the sinister Weyland-Yutani Corporation.

After losing contact with the moon’s colony, WT taps Ripley to investigate. Armed with a cadre of colonial marines, she battles a hive of aliens and their queen – who’ve used the colonists to gestate their offspring — before a 40-ton thermonuclear explosion destroys the colony. Quoth Ripley: It was the only way to be sure.

For “Aliens,” director James Cameron took the reins from Ridley Scott to reinvent the horror franchise as an action flick. Where the previous film emphasized the claustrophobia of its setting and the deep space dread of its monster, “Aliens” favored cheesy one-liners and massive set pieces.

4/4 Facehuggers

Alien 3 (1992): In the immediate aftermath of “Aliens,” a stow-away facehugger causes Ripley’s shuttle to crash land on Fiorina “Fury” 161, a monastic penal colony for males with double Y chromosomes.

Shortly after her arrival, an alien shows up to wreak havoc on the prisoners. Things get even worse when Ripley learns that there’s an alien queen gestating inside of her. As the embryo bursts from her chest at the film’s denouement, Ripley dives into the prison furnace in a desperate gamble to contain the outbreak.

Game over, man! Game over!

3/4 Facehuggers

Alien: Resurrection (1997): Set 200 years after the events of the previous three films, “Alien: Resurrection” introduces us to the alien/human hybrid clone of Ripley, brought to life by the military scientists onboard the USM Auriga.

With the help of a mercenary group led by Johner (Ron Perlman) and Call (Winona Ryder), Ripley’s clone makes impressive basketball trick shots and eventually escapes her captors, but not before killing a rival, more alien-y, alien/human hybrid. Despite an impressive box-office performance, the franchise would enter its own form of hypersleep for the next 15 years.

2/4 Facehuggers

Prometheus (2012): In this almost-prequel set 60 years before the events of “Alien,” a crew of scientists led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) embarks on the titular ship to a distant moon that might contain the secrets to humanity’s origins.

Things go south when these presumably smart people start doing dumb things, like taking their helmets off in the presence of clearly-agitated and black goo-covered aliens or running in a straight line from spaceships that roll along a single plane.

The film’s conclusion finds Shaw and the decapitated and insane but otherwise okay android David (Michael Fassbender) blasting off to find the homeworld of the Engineers, a god-like race of pallid musclemen whose biological weapons we can thank for the last 38 years of the “Alien” franchise.

3/4 Facehuggers

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