Aliens: Colonial Marines – No Survivors Part 1
Aliens: Colonial Marines – No Survivors
The Death of Feminism and Cultural Significance in a Franchise
Don’t. Just don’t. I know what you’re thinking and it’s just not worth it. I certainly won’t be the first to say this game fails to stand out in any significant capacity whatsoever. The graphics are unspectacular, the level design is bland, the story unfolds like some kind of half-assed assembly of every action film you’ve ever seen and fails to develop in just the same anticlimactic fashion. The entire game basically plays like an interactive amateur marionette theater, you can see the strings holding everything together and the puppeteer is obviously drunk.
Probably the most unfortunate aspect of this entire game is the fact that it’s actually a canonical entry into the Aliens franchise. A franchise that has been a champion for feminism in film, a franchise that has constructed itself with layer upon layer of aesthetic and narrative significance with the use of religious culture as well as renowned literary works to assist the rise of its own gothic-horror-based imaginings. This calamity is part of a wider story now and I honestly don’t believe enough fuss has been made about this last point.
The amount of abuse the Aliens franchise has suffered at the hands of this game seeps into many levels and without any apparent sense of shame. The original purpose of the xenomorph species has been completely ignored and replaced with groups of blast-away puppets for the player to march their way through in a dull cadence. When H. R. Giger designed this terrifying antagonist race of problem-solving hunters, not only did he coin the term “biomechanical”, but both he and Special Effects Artist, Carlos Rambaldi, received the Academy Award for Visual Effects in 1980 for its creation. The Alien is as revered as it is feared and that’s because it filled the antagonist role of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien, as well as its successors, perfectly. When Dan O’Bannon set about writing the screenplay for the film he then knew as “Star Beast”, he described the project by saying “This movie is about interspecies alien rape,” and each alien design (be it a Chestburster, Facehugger or Queen) played around the inherent sexual themes. When gender and film scholar, Ximena Gallardo, wrote about the xenomorph in her book “Alien Woman: The Making of Lt Ellen Ripley” she vividly described the creature by noting that it was
“A nightmare vision of sex and death. It subdues and opens the male body to make it pregnant, and then explodes it in birth. In its adult form, the alien strikes its victims with a rigid phallic tongue that breaks through skin and bone. More than a phallus, however, the retractable tongue has its own set of snapping metallic teeth that connects it to the castrating Vagina Dentata,”
By design, the aliens have always terrified viewers, not because it is an unknown entity, but because it is designed to inflict the most violating and, traumatic experiences on its victims in a calculated and methodical fashion.
The aliens have always been the most overtly sexual antagonist creatures known to cinema since their introduction and have also proven repeatedly to be an effective element in story-telling to demonstrate corruption. Whether that be through the corruption of characters or the environments the aliens penetrate. However, the only corruption this game seems to effectively demonstrate is an overblown runaway desire to earn as much money as possible by swimming in the aesthetics of the Aliens franchise. The aliens seem to serve no real role in Aliens: Colonial Marines, there’s no definitive character for the horror monster, but then again… There aren’t any actual characters in this game and none of them appear to serve any real purpose.
The Alien in the original film was a predator which served as means for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation to demonstrate man’s inhumanity to man by declaring the survival of the xenomorph critical and the lives of the crew expendable. In James Cameron’s 1986 sequel, Aliens, a group of Colonial Marines team up with Ripley when they are pitted against an entire alien hive, in an allegory Cameron described as
“Their training and technology are inappropriate for the specifics, and that can be seen as analogous to the inability of superior American firepower to conquer the unseen enemy in Vietnam; a lot of firepower and very little wisdom, and it didn’t work,”.
I find this quote especially humorous as ACM seems to completely dismiss this allegory entirely so it can contently let the humans prance about waging conventional warfare against the rampant aliens.
In Alien 3, we return to a single primary antagonist xenomorph hunting Ripley alongside the abstinent “Christian” inmates of an all-male prison and its staff. Hereupon we find the film dealing with themes of isolation and solidarity amongst the humans. Whereas in Alien: Resurrection… Well… Let’s just skip that part, shall we?
So, we find ourselves with a hostile force that plays an active role in developing an aspect of the actual plot throughout these films. Unfortunately, nothing remotely close to such an intelligent plot structure exists within Aliens: Colonial Marines and sadly the aliens are not even primary antagonists. The aliens are in the game simply to impede on what little story exists, which mainly surrounds the Marines fighting the Weyland-Yutani Corporation while the latter aggressively pursues the xenomorphs for research. The aliens are just… There. All of that said, there is a primary group of Marines the game follows, however, not even their annoyingly endless dialogue can establish them as genuine characters (“Oohrah to Ashes” has to be the dumbest piece of recurring dialogue I have ever heard in my life).
The human characters are definitely up there as being the worst offenders of Aliens: Colonial Marines. Straight off the bat, the game fails to live up to the franchise’s feminist roots of having a strong, female character, and it does this by introducing the player character as a male Marine. Not only is this decision a crucial slap in the face to the character of Ellen Ripley, but more so to the legacy the character has indented on the Alien universe. Even from a practical perspective, if the developers and publishers had any intention of utilizing the ruthlessness of the xenomorph creatures by playing on a fear of rape, then they missed a huge opportunity to maximize the player’s fear. However, there are two female characters in Aliens: Colonial Marines by the names of Bella and Reid. The former being a Marine herself and the latter being a pilot (played by Ashly Burch, from Hey Ash, Watcha Playin’? although, to her credit, she is better known for HAWP and for voicing the comically memorable “Tiny Tina” in Borderlands 2 ), but Bella is almost immediately revealed to be in a romantic relationship with another key character upon introduction and she so stereotypically butch it’s pretty much like her vagina grew balls. This seems to be the closest the game’s writing gets to a strong female character, as the majority of her involvement has Bella needing the help and rescue of the men around her.
Whereas the character of Lieutenant Reid is a purely forgettable character who ducks in and out of ACM with no real contributions to the story.
As for the male characters? They are all alpha-male, gung-ho Space Gyrenes who were thrown into existence with no real personalities but with a singular goal to take a male-dominating crap on the alien universe after having a female hero in every canonical Alien story right up to Ridley Scott’s 2012 film, Prometheus. According to an article from Kotaku, “From Dream To Disaster: The Story of Aliens: Colonial Marines”, the multiple developing studios and the goals of the publisher created a “Too Many Chef’s Syndrome” type of environment. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone should excuse this critical a failure on such a basic level of story construction, especially when you have five canonical films starring female leads. Hell, even the 2004 Alien vs. Predator film had a female protagonist.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of Sean’s indepth look at the death of feminism and culture in a franchise tomorrow!