Alien Evolution is a 2001 documentary directed by Andrew Abbott and Russell Leven and presented by Mark Kermode that details the production of the films in the Alien franchise. Originally broadcast on British television on October 13, 2001, it 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. Both versions of the documentary were later included in the 2010 Alien Anthology Blu-ray set. It features interviews with a range of cast and crew from the films, including Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Sigourney Weaver and H. R. Giger.
The documentary is divided into eight 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 the film evolved from low-budget b-movie to big-budget blockbuster.
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.
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.
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.
The sixth chapter covers the development of Alien3, described as the series' "most unusual and troubled incarnation", with significant input from Vincent Ward regarding his unproduced script for the movie.
Life and Death
The seventh chapter deals with the extensive studio interference in the third movie 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.
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.
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 similar runtime to 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 acknowledged at the end of 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 experience viewing the finished film.
Aside from the removed/added footage, there are other minor differences; most notably, 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 set, alongside the original cut.