Gamla inlägg, Kulturella exkurser

Alien war machines

This post contains spoilers to Alien and Alien: Resurrection.

In Ridley Scotts Alien (review at cyberpunkreview) the commercial spacecraft USCSS Nostromo encounters an alien spacecraft on a previously unknown planet (later called LV-426). It doesn’t seem to belong on this planet, and they don’t know where it could have come from. It is a pure form of exteriority, and, as they soon found out, a war machine.

H. R. Gigers art work and design give the aliens an otherworldly and untimely atmosphere.

When the crew of USCSS Nostromo invades the alien spacecraft a war breaks out. To the protagonists the aliens (xenomorphs) are monsters, just as war machines always are depicted from the point of view of the state.

In Alien we only get one xenomorph, but in James Camerons sequel there is a multiplicity of them. The insect-like xenomorphs swarm the enemy. James Cameron said he felt like he was doing a Vietnam movie in outer-space. And just like the Vietcong the xenomorphs are decentralized and highly intelligent, using the knowledge of the terrain to avoid battles and instead employ speed and secrecy to wipe the enemy out, one by one. Moving through airshafts, eroding through walls and floors, hiding in the darkness; the xenomorph war machine’s use of speed and secrecy is highly superior to the heavily armed state recuperated war machine.

“A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. … I admire its purity. A survivor. Unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.” -The android Ash about the xenomorph.

The xenomorph has an arsenal of projectile weapons, like the extendable, piston-like tongue with a secondary jaw, a venomous blade-like tip on the end of its prehensile tail and the ability to spit a lethal, extremely potent molecular acid (that is also used for eroding walls etc.). But most importantly the body in itself becomes a weapon due to great physical strength, quickness and uncanny agility, thus making projective use of the body.

The xenomorphs have an intricate relation to their surrounding, with no clear distinction between organic and artificial. The xenomorphs can produce a thick, strong resin, which is used to build hives and cocoon victims. The resin is made similarly to termites: the same glands that creates their viscous saliva is mixed with dead victims or dead/cannibalised xenomorphs. These materials are then broken down by spitting acid on them and molding into shape and place. Also, xenomorph hives are built with smooth, rounded edges instead of rough, sharp edges because sound propagates better in such an environment (xenomorphs utilize ultrasound for relatively long-distance communication). This makes them itinerant, ambulant; indicating that there is no separation between manual and intellectual labor. Instead of imposing a form on the matter the xenomorphes follow and work upon it according to the lines it follows.

This also shows that the xenomorphs only engage in war when necessary. Otherwise their chief objective is to produce (the hive).

The xenomorphs intelligence is fundamentally different from human intelligence. They do not use writing in the same sense, but instead “ornamental” rather then scriptual text (before the producers for Alien decided to go with the idea of the wrecked derelict ship, H.G. Giger had drawn pyramids that had a hieroglyph that depicted the xenomorph’s lifecycle. However, the pyramid and hieroglyphs re-surfaced in Alien vs. Predator.). They don’t use tools, only weapons.

The war machine only exists in its metamorphoses. The parasitic Facehugger needs a host in which it implants the xenomorph embryo, which may take on some of the host’s triats. The xenomorphs are always mutating. In Alien: Resurrection (review at cyberpunkreview), however, the Newborn – a genetic cross between a human and a xenomorph – becomes more human than xenomorph and kills the Queen, believing Ripley is its real mother. The Newborn is the mutation that finally destroys the xenomorph war machine.