Jun 05 2012
This entry is often cited as an equally brilliant or superior sequel, but to be honest it suffers a bit from Cameron’s tin ear for dialogue and general ham-fistedness. The cold menace of Alien is replaced with gung-ho military energy. Entertaining as all getout, but not as satisfying in the long run.
That said, this movie is entertaining as all getout.
Cameron took advantage of the possibility of Ripley being out of sync with time. The Alien franchise actually covers hundreds of years, which is kinda cool. And in this movie Ripley’s been asleep long enough to wake up after her daughter has already died. And naturally one of the primary new characters is an orphaned little girl.
Actually, the characters in this movie are the most memorable in the series across the board. You’ve got the patron saint of cowards in Hudson. You’ve got the uber-cool Bishop. You’ve got the effortlessly charismatic Hicks. Even Ripley is at her most memorable in this movie. What’s that famous Ripley line everybody quotes?
Yeah, that one.
1979 – Alien (Theatrical Cut)
In the world of film, there are different breeds of “classics.” There are classics that simply didn’t age that favorably (Touch of Evil). There are classics that still work well, but will always be stuck in the time they were made (Dr. Strangelove). And then there are classics that are truly timeless, and will probably be great forever. This last category, I submit, is the category the original Alien falls into.
For one thing, it just oozes atmosphere. The opening forty minutes are bone-chilling; nothing happens, but the whole movie feels fraught with unseen dangers. From the silent descent of the Nostromo in the opening, to the harsh digital readouts from the ship’s computer, to the howling storm that surrounds the derelict, this movie is scary before anything alien even shows up outside the title.
And then comes the facehugger. We don’t clearly see it as it attacks Kane, but we get a good hard look while it’s attached. It’s just about the creepiest creature ever put to film. Mainly because it looks stunningly real, even today. For me, one of the creepiest moments in the whole film is the little moment where the facehugger’s tail tightens around Kane’s throat.
A few minutes later, of course, comes the scene that needs no analysis. And it’s all downhill from there.
Despite how iconic it is and how many attempts there have been to copy it, the original Alien still feels unique among the worlds of horror, science fiction, and film at large. The thing that seems to have sparked people’s imaginations more than any other in this film is the production design, famously drawn from the mind of H. R. Giger. He found a sinister visual palette to highlight and underscore writer Dan O’Bannon’s sexual undertones.
And, let’s face it, overtones.
The sex-driven horror side of these movies has been better covered elsewhere (like here), so that’s all I’ll say on that subject.
As of this writing, to this writer, it’s unclear how clearly Prometheus will tie into the existing Alien continuity. Only one of these movies is (more or less) perfect, but all of them are distinctive, and all of them are memorable. If Prometheus ties in strongly, I just hope it lives up to that legacy.
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