C2E2 2019: Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts Revealed

C2E2 Alien Shorts

Twentieth Century Fox showcases four of the six new shorts they’ve commissioned to celebrate four decades of chest-bursting terror.

Alien came to theaters 40 years ago, and Twentieth Century Fox Films is commemorating the anniversary with Alien: Anthology, a series of 6 shorts from upcoming talent set in the Alien universe. In advance of their digital release beginning March 29th, four of the six were shown on Saturday morning at C2E2. (Considering these shorts dropped the same day the Internet exploded at the prospect of a high school production’s incredible staging of the 1979 original, this panel was particularly well-timed.)

A capacity crowd of 2,800 gathered in the con’s main stage. Some children remained, even after ample warnings. Around half a dozen Cher Horowitzes were set to enjoy the show while they held their seats for the Clueless reunion panel that would follow. Then, the lights went down, and the screen lit up with the work of writers and directors who are all younger than the film they paid tribute to. (Plot spoilers ahead for some of the upcoming shorts, so reader beware.)


Alien: 40th Anniversary Shorts Trailer

Alien: Containment

“Containment” begins and ends in haunting images. Abstract swirls fill the frame, revealed to be the atmosphere of a ringed gas giant planet. A ship enters the frame on the bottom right. Its name and vital statistics flash in the upper left. Before you’ve finished reading the ship has broken to pieces, and you notice it happened while your attention was drawn elsewhere; thousands of lives lost in the short moment it takes to number them. An escape capsule slowly emerges from the pieces of wreckage, a crew member (Gaia Weiss) using her own blood to write “DO NOT OPEN” on the window as a ship docks with them – ready to start the now-familiar cycle again.

The minutes in-between are also familiar but well-executed. The paranoia, the conflict between the utilitarian greater good and the ethical weight of killing, a surprise chestburster; it’s all here. And it all serves the purpose to tie a sublime moment of distance to one of intimacy.

Alien: Night Shift

A pair of space truckers have a layover at a desolate mining colony, and drop in on the storehouse for a drink. Of course, there’s another chestburster scene, and the colony is not fated to last much longer. The strength of “Night Shift” is presenting its characters outside a crisis, the two colony workers arguing over whether to put whale songs or baseball games on the radio. For all of Weyland-Yutani’s corporate evil, the tragedy comes from a charming trucker (Terrence Keith Richardson) who thinks his buddy needs a bit of hair of the dog. It’s a lovely showcase for the more intimate, casual moments of the Alien universe.

Alien: Harvest

If “Containment” is an epilogue to an unmade feature, and “Night Shift” is a prologue, “Harvest” is the action climax. The final four survivors (Jessica Clark, Agnes Albright, Adam Sinclair, James C Burns) of a comet-skimming ship try to reach an escape capsule before their ship crashes, or the Xenomorph in the halls tears them to pieces. The hallways are dressed with an obvious love for the sets of the Nostromo, and the escape plan relies entirely on using a motion tracker to route a safe course. The setup, obstacles, and final reversal remind the viewer of Alien’s other legacy: as a video game franchise.

This is the short for people who love Alien because Alien has lots of really cool stuff in it. It’s not for anybody who would wonder why white, milky blood is presented as the reason a character would be a turncoat. But then this is a 40th anniversary celebration, not a 40th anniversary introduction.

Alien: Alone

Alone” asks the age-old question: would you kill a stranger to save your cat’s life? Be honest. Hope (Taylor Lyons) is an android, the sole remaining crew member of a slowly degrading ship, with a slowly degrading body. She spends her days counting rivets and awaiting rescue until a fire unlocks a sealed room. Inside is a slowly degrading facehugger. As her attachment to her new pet grows, its starvation grows severe. No longer content to follow orders and drift, she makes dangerous modifications to bring the ship back to occupied space. The creature becomes her path to further life. They don’t make her parts anymore, but there are always more people to incubate inside. Our odd couple story takes a turn to the most chilling moment of the presentation – Hope holds her friend, too weak to live up to its name, over the mouth of their rescuer (James Paxton).

“Alone” delivers exactly what I was hoping to see from the Anthology: people using elements of the mythology to tell new stories examine the franchise under new lenses. Unfortunately, Lyons’ performance is a weak spot, her character a lifeless automaton compared to the highs of the Alien series’ iconic android characters. Of course, it may not be fair to compare anyone to the rare talents of Ian Holm and Michael Fassbender. Even so, “Alone” is the one of the four that gets my highest recommendation.

Attendees of WonderCon in Anaheim will be the first to see the other two shorts on March 30th, before the entire thing goes live on official Alien socials starting May 3rd.

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