This is the most ambitious of the 40th Anniversary short films. A bit of Phillip K. Dick investigation of the nature of artificial intelligence and ethics.
Directed by Noah Miller
I have come full circle on this short film. I’ve now watched it a few times, and my opinion on it has changed a bit. I’ve come to realize the ambition of this film, and how different it feels from the others in the project. Alien: Alone focuses on Hope (Taylor Lyons) who is an android, left behind by her captain on the commercial frigate Otronto, and she has been in space for over a year.
She goes dutifully about the ship maintaining it as she can, awaiting rescue that likely will never come. An accident on the ship opens the medical lab to her, and allows her to awaken a companion… a face hugger in cold storage. It’s the most unlikely of pets, and because she is non-organic, the hugger proves no real threat to her. However, it won’t survive long without a host. Hope is beginning to get a bit “twitchy” as Bishop would describe the older android models, and her systems are beginning to wear down.
So, in a bit of bitterness for her plight as well as her companion critter, she pilots the ship back towards the shipping lanes in order for her to be rescued… as well as the hugger. It’s a bit of a revelation, as this time she’s not being dictated to by the COMPANY, as so many of the other androids in the franchise are often directed, but she acts out of her own curiosity and odd compassion.
It doesn’t take long for what appears to be a shuttle to arrive, with an unfortunate passenger (James Paxton) arriving at the airlock. They don’t explain his presence, but given that the ship that arrived is the same lifeboat that Ripley was in, I would guess that he’s expecting that the Otronto will be his rescue. He’s dead wrong. Hope ambushes the poor guy, and allows the face hugger to do its thing.
My initial reaction to this film was that I thought that Hope was a bit stiff. But upon reflection, she is an android, and one that is beginning to wear out. This actually reminded me a bit of the David android from Prometheus/Covenant more than Ash. Like David, she is allowed to spend a lot of alone time to contemplate her place in the universe. She exhibits a real interest in what life is, and she also shows some real concern for her own survival and curiosity as to what will become of the xenomorph. And, like David, she makes some decisions, that should they make full contact with a human population, would be disastrous.
I also initially thought that the CGI was rather under-cooked compared to the other shorts, and certainly the features. That much I still believe to be true. The ship animations are fairly stiff. The rewatch allowed me, however, to appreciate how well the face hugger was animated in this film. Also, director Miller put in some nice easter egg nods, like the dipping glass bird, and by bringing back the Mother A.I. The interior sets look great, as all of the project films have.
This is the longest of the 40th Anniversary shorts, and it is certainly the best character study of the bunch, so what it lacks in polish, it makes up for in the story. There are strains of Phillip K. Dick or Westworld with this film. it explores the ethics of the way that androids get treated, and whether androids are capable of caring for themselves and for others. It also manages to treat the face hugger in a somewhat sympathetic light.
Four of these films have now given us franchise androids, (three humans and one dog) two of which give us the classic villainous android, one heroic, and Hope manages to traverse the full spectrum of hero-anti-hero in the course of a twelve minute film. I’m glad I gave it multiple watches, now.