Woman on the edge of time

Lt. Ellen Ripley gets a critical evaluation

Katrina Wilber

This is a real heroine, even if she has some, well, out-of-this-world genes.

Lt. Ellen Ripley, of “Alien” fame, is considered the first woman in science fiction who didn’t need to wear a mini-skirt, push-up bra or skintight pleather suit to get screen time. She can kick some major extra-terrestrial butt too.

In “Alien Woman: The Making of Lt. Ellen Ripley,” a gender-and-film scholar and professor of English look between the lines and behind the scenes to dissect Ripley and her place in movie history.

First seen in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film “Alien,” Ripley returned to finish the fight with the alien queen in “Aliens.” When that didn’t work out, she was back again in “Alien 3.” By the fourth film, “Alien Resurrection,” she was now a Ripley clone with alien DNA.

Try making sense out of that. Or, better still, try writing a book that makes sense out of that.

Gallardo C. and Smith read more into the movies than you’d think possible. They compare scenes to everything from the painting of the “Immaculate Heart of Mary” and movies about Joan of Arc to mythological goddesses. They reference movies from the 1920s and television shows from the 1990s. They use Newsweek articles and comic books. They incorporate quotes from Milton, “Jurassic Park” and even the Bible. Somehow, it all makes sense.

This isn’t a book to read in front of a fireplace on a snowy day. The writing style and language are interesting, if academic, and it requires some concentration.

Ripley was merely human, but in whatever she did – from saving a little girl from the terrifying alien queen to throwing herself into a furnace – she was a hero.

Make that a heroine.