It would never occur to one to compare the great medieval tale ?Beowulf? with the Common Era horror films Alien and Aliens, but in doing so you uncover some very striking similarities. Beowulf is the story of a Geat who upon hearing of the horrific doings of this monster figure named Grendle, sails to Hrothgars land and prepares to do battle with the Grendle. Alien is the tale of a group of navigators on a space craft who receive an unknown signal from what is thought to be a possible wrecked ship, but what they find is much more horrific. In a way, the two stories start off rather similar, there is a distress signal from a distant place and the two ?crews? (Beowulf?s men and the crew from Alien) go off to investigate and find a solution if necessary. The alien crew goes down to analyze and bring back with them a face eater. This creature implants the alien into the crewman and the alien is born. Aliens, the sequel to Alien is also comparable to the tale of Beowulf dealing with hunting down the Aliens, or in Beowulf?s case, Grendles mother.
Looking at the way the Aliens and Grendle are introduced, you don?t get a real sense of what either of them looks like until right before they are terminated. In Beowulf only details of Grendles actions are given at first and for the most part a deep description is never given forcing the reader to use his or her imagination, having only the details of his wrath over Hrothgars men. But in Aliens the use of the camera offers a different perspective, you are not shown what the creature actually looks like until the baby pops from the commanders chest, which is towards the late mid section of the film. The full size alien is shown shortly after that but only once do you get a real good look at it until the end when it is cast into space.
The way in which the two creatures act is slightly different. Grendle kills because he enjoys it. He knows it is wrong and he does it anyway. The alien kills in order to reproduce. The aliens need human bodies to be the hosts for their young. Looking at this you kind of get the sense that even though you are given a good look at the alien, you can in a way feel for the creature. He doesn?t think of what he is doing as being wrong, it is what is necessary for his species to survive, even if we would rather have them all dead. Look at a cow, we go and kill them by the handful and think nothing of it, we need their meat and milk to survive, like the alien needs us. You don?t see a large group of cows trying to exterminate us. Grendle is more of a monster he loves what he does, it is like he gets off on killing. He knows its wrong but does it with a smile on his face anyway.
There is a difference in the way the two ?crews? carry themselves, knowing that there is no way they can match up to the alien after repeated attempts to kill it which all failed, decide to run. They decide to blow up the ship; of coarse Ripley is the only survivor. Beowulf on the other hand has some supernatural strength and would never run from a challenge. In this case the stories are different.
Beowulf kills Grendle as Ripley sends the alien into outer space. Here is where the sequel to Alien comes in. after the death of Grendle his mother attacks Herot to get revenge for the death of her son. Ripley is floating around in space for 50 years. During this time the planet where the aliens were found has been colonized. In an attempt to see how sane Ripley is and that she is not making this up, they send a search crew, a family on the planet, to see where the ship is that Ripley?s first encountered, the family is here met with the face eaters and the aliens are born again.
In Beowulf it is strictly a revenge thing, on Aliens it is once again just a species trying to survive and in the process as in both tales a lot of people die.
Beowulf goes after Grendles mother and hunts her down which is also the case in Aliens, but it is not Ripley who wants to go after them, she is extremely hesitant. Who in there right mind would go back to encounter that when they barely escaped the first time. But as the story goes she gets in a ship and goes back.
It is probably fit to compare Beowulf with people in general in the alien movies, because the main character in aliens in no way wants to come in conflict with the monsters again, but the marines sure do. Beowulf hunts down Grendles mother and goes into her territory just like in aliens and as in aliens is successful in killing off the monster. Of coarse in aliens one of them is brought back onto the ship and causes hell for a few minutes but is eventually killed off.
Think of it this way, in the first encounter the monster goes to them, in aliens as well as Beowulf. In the second encounter they go to the monster as in aliens and Beowulf. And the first thing done in each when going to the monster was to create some protection. In each of the tales this pattern is the same.
The role of woman is Beowulf is non-existent where in Alien the main character is a woman. Only once in the tale of Beowulf is a woman mentioned and that is when Beowulf happens to mention Hrothgars daughter.
The use of a camera in film is very helpful but the same tactics are used in Beowulf. Switching back and forth between characters to show multiple things happening at once is a commonly used trick in film. Showing the aliens coming toward the room then the people in the room preparing for them, then back to the aliens and back to the room etc? In Beowulf the writing is formatted like this, it goes from Grendles mother to the people in Herot, and back and forth as she grows closer to them.
The two pieces are different in many ways, it is quite obvious but the ways in which they are alike are striking. The aliens? saga is an all-time classic as far as horror films go, just as Beowulf is a very crucial part of medieval literature. It is just amazing to see how these masterpieces can be linked together in many ways.