Alien Evolution is a 2001 documentary directed by Andrew Abbott and Russell Leven and presented by Mark Kermode that details the production of the first four films in the Alien franchise. Originally broadcast on British television on October 13, 2001, it uses interviews with the films' cast and crew, as well as behind the scenes images and clips, to detail the development, filming and release of the four movies.
The documentary was later re-edited for inclusion in the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set in 2003; this re-edited version focuses solely on the original Alien from 1979, incorporating a wealth of footage originally cut from the documentary while also deleting the material dealing with the later sequels.
The documentary is divided into ten separate chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of the series' production. The documentary is presented by British film critic Mark Kermode, who also narrates where appropriate.
The first chapter covers the genesis of the first film in the series, Alien, covering the development of the script and how it evolved from low-budget b-movie to big-budget blockbuster. It also touches on Dan O'Bannon's first feature film, Dark Star.
The second chapter details the hiring of Ridley Scott as director, and in particular covers his ability to infuse a picture with a detailed visual style even on a limited budget, as seen in his debut feature film The Duellists.
The third chapter focuses on H. R. Giger and his artwork, as well as his designs for the original Alien creature. It also briefly covers Giger's involvement in Alejandro Jodorowsky's cancelled Dune project.
It includes interviews with Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, actors Tom Skerritt and Harry Dean Stanton, and Alien designer H. R. Giger.
The fourth chapter covers the Alien's life cycle, in particular focussing on the infamous Chestburster scene and its lasting impact. One notable section shows reactions from members of the public as they watch the Chestburster scene on a portable television screen.
It includes interviews with Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Sigourney Weaver, H. R. Giger, Ron Cobb, and associate producer Ivor Powell.
The fifth chapter covers the production of Aliens, with emphasis on how James Cameron shifted gears from the horror tone of the first film, instead aiming for an action war movie. The documentary also discusses many of the scenes that were removed from the film for its theatrical release, in particular highlighting how the removal of scenes regarding Ripley's deceased daughter Amanda diminished its key theme of motherhood.
It includes interviews with David Giler, actors Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Jenette Goldstein, and Ron Cobb, along with an archive interview with director James Cameron.
It includes interviews with writer Vincent Ward, David Giler, actors Sigourney Weaver and Charles Dance, H. R. Giger, and Terry Rawlings.
Life and Death
The seventh chapter deals with the series becoming a franchise, with many cast and crew candidly reflecting that ultimately the decision for further Alien movies was based on money rather than artistic merit.
It includes interviews with Dan O'Bannon, Vincent Ward, Sigourney Weaver and Terry Rawlings.
The eighth chapter focuses on the production of Alien3, in particular the extensive studio interference and how it affected the film, with several cast members notably being quite critical of 20th Century Fox executives' involvement and the alterations made by them following test screenings.
It includes interviews with David Giler, Actors Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dance, Ralph Brown, Lance Henrkisen, and Terry Rawlings.
The ninth chapter examines the way both the tone and style of the films and the design of their titular star have evolved through the years.
It includes interviews with Veronica Cartwright, H. R. Giger and Terry Rawlings.
The final chapter covers the production of Alien Resurrection and how the design of the Alien creature itself has evolved with each successive film. In particular, the Newborn is singled out as the most radical result of this evolution. Also discussed is how Sigourney Weaver's own role in the franchise has evolved over time, from second-billed star in the first movie to executive producer of the fourth.
It includes interviews with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Charles Dance and Ralph Brown.
2003 Alien Re-Edit
The 2003 "Alien re-edit" of the documentary was initially prepared for a planned two-disc special edition release of the first film in the franchise. While this product ultimately evolved into the Alien Quadrilogy box set, containing all four films in the franchise, the new Alien-focused edit of Alien Evolution was still included on the set's exclusive bonus disc. Despite featuring a longer runtime than the original television broadcast, the Alien re-edit deletes all of the footage dealing with the sequel films — in fact, the existence of sequels is only briefly touched upon in the documentary — and instead incorporates far more detail regarding the making of Alien. Most notably, the development of the script is greatly expanded upon, while a lengthy added section towards the end shows the cast and crew reflecting on their first experiences viewing the finished film. Additionally, the Alien re-edit includes interview clips with Carlo Rambaldi, the effects artists responsible for constructing the animatronic Alien head used in the first movie, who does not feature in the original version.
Aside from the removed/added footage, much of the material is rearranged within the documentary. There are also other, more minor differences; for instance, H. R. Giger's German-language interview segments are presented with subtitles, instead of being dubbed over in English as in the original broadcast.
The original broadcast version of Alien Evolution did not see a home video release until the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set in 2010. However, the Alien re-edit was included in the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set in 1999; this version is also available in the Alien Anthology and Prometheus to Alien: The Evolution Blu-ray sets, alongside the original cut.