Ridley Scott’s Alien provides us with one of the most basic and primal super-objectives: the preservation life. Our protagonist, Ellen Ripley, faces impossible odds as a seemingly invincible alien predator wreaks havoc on the crew of the Nostromo, taking them out one by one until she is the last man (or in this case, woman) standing. In most every horror, or as Blake Snyder would call it, “Monster in the House” film, the super-objective is to preserve life. Some, however, are more successful than others in conveying that idea, and Alien is perhaps the most triumphant of the bunch. The screenwriter, Dan O’Bannon, heavily juxtaposed the frailty of man with the invincibility of the alien. Neither bullets, nor electricity, nor fire can harm the creature, while it possesses a variety of methods of attack, from corrosive blood to razor sharp teeth. Therein lies the strength of the film’s super-objective: though the alien could easily kill them all, Ripley fights to survive.
Alien is one of the few films in which the inciting incident is the very first event. The crew of the Nostromo, on their way back to Earth with twenty million tons of mineral ore, receive a mysterious transmission from a nearby planetoid and are prematurely rousted from their slumber to investigate. Getting that transmission subsequently led to the crew landing on the planetoid, finding the eggs, unknowingly bringing a deadly predator back to their ship, and dooming them all to a grisly death. Well, all but one. The shift in story value takes place very late in the film. For most of it, the characters valued the battle. They wanted to track down the alien and kill it by any means necessary. That is until Ripley accesses the ship’s computer and finds out that the Science Officer (and secret android) Ash had been commissioned to retrieve the alien and bring it back to his employer despite the immense risk it posed to the crew. When Ripley and the two other surviving crewmates confront Ash, he tells...
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