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‘The standard glamorous Hollywood archetype is usually blonde and buxom and the hero’s love interest, sidekick or victim. Ripley is five feet, eleven inches tall, lean, brunette and brown-eyed,’ explained writer Gladys L. Knight in Female Action Heroes: A Guide to Women in Comics, Video Games, Film, and Television.
‘She is grim-toned, her face is unembellished by make-up and she visibly sweats and grimaces as she chases aliens through darkened tunnels dressed in the functional attire of a space industry. Ripley is no sidekick, and she is certainly no one’s victim.’
The character in question, Ellen Ripley, served as a supporting character in the 1979 science fiction horror Alien, before transforming into the ‘final girl’ when all of her male colleagues had been killed by a deadly alien creature that had invaded her spaceship. For the movie’s sequel, 1986’s action-packed Aliens, Ripley had become the masculine character, achieving what her tough marine companions had failed to do by destroying a hive of the creatures. For David Fincher’s Alien³, Ripley’s head was shaved as she found herself in a prison colony, taking her role as the hero to the logical conclusion by removing the final trace of her femininity.
Prior to her casting in Alien, Sigourney Weaver’s most notable role had been in Woody Allen’s 1977 comic drama Annie Hall, but following her star-making performance as Ripley she would help to define the female action hero with James Cameron’s explosive sequel Aliens. Cameron would create another masculine heroine with his 1991 classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day, in which Linda Hamilton’s character Sarah Connor had followed in the footsteps of Ripley by taking on both the role of mother (protecting the child victim) and the strong and fearless hero.
While Ripley would sacrifice herself to destroy the last surviving alien that she had been impregnated with in Alien³, Weaver would return to the role one final time in Jean-Pierre Jeanut’s critically-reviled Alien Resurrection, the fourth and final instalment of the long-running franchise that would see a clone of Ripley displaying alien-like characteristics while attempting to save a group of human smugglers from a secret government experiment that had brought the extinct alien race back to life.
It would take another seven years for the xenomorphs to return to the big screen with the crossover feature Alien vs. Predator, but despite one veteran of the Alien franchise, Lance Henriksen, returning for a supporting role, Weaver chose not to participate. The series seemed dormant until Ridley Scott, the director of the original Alien, decided to return to the world he had explored in the first movie with the prequel Prometheus, a highly-anticipated project that was met with mixed opinions from both audiences and critics.But Weaver, who reunited with James Cameron for 2009’s Avatar, the highest-grossing picture of all time, has once again expressed interest in returning to the role of Ripley for the first time since her character finally returned to Earth during the final moments of Alien Resurrection in 1997. ‘I hope someday to complete the Alien saga,’ Weaver recently admitted to Bloody Disgusting. ‘I meet so many people for whom these movies mean a lot, and it would be great to let the story be finished properly, which is my fault. I didn’t want to do five with four because I wanted some distance, but maybe someday we’ll get to do the final instalment and Ripley will find some peace. I hope so.’
Earlier this year Weaver explained to Collider her reservations about making a fifth Alien movie: ‘I feel after going to a couple of these Comic Cons and meeting so many fans who are so passionate about the series, passionate about Ripley — that there’s more story to tell; but I don’t know how to do that. I don’t think Alien belongs on Earth popping out of a haystack, which is where I was afraid it was going to go. I feel it should take place in the far reaches of the universe where no one in their right mind would go. There are very few filmmakers that I can think of that I would want to entrust this to.’