So I saw Prometheus last year, but believe it or not, I’ve never seen a single Alien movie. I’m not sure what piqued my curiosity, but let’s just call it a day and give the credit to Head in a Vice, TIWAM, Dan, the other Dan, IPC, or FilmHipster. (Hooray for plugs!)
So, I grew up in a world where I knew of this movie’s existence and general premise, but that’s about it. The creatures are instantly recognizable, and I even vaguely remember a toy commercial – I’m gonna go out on a limb before I look it up and say it was Kenner – where the voice over asks if Ripley can save Newt.
TEN MINUTES AND TWO FACEBOOK STATUS CHECKS LATER…
Okay, so there is no such commercial that I can find on YouTube, but Alien toys WERE produced by Kenner, so I’ll just assume some sad sap has yet to add the Ripley/Newt Aliens commercial to the YouTubes.
Back on topic, I always assumed the Alien franchise was more along the lines of Independence Day, your standard cowboys versus Indians action flick, where the Indians are gross buggy black monsters from outer space. But this shit is straight up horror/suspense!
For 1979, the effects are pretty damn good, which is my completely stupid way of saying Alien won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. The creepy-crawlies are believable, to the point I picked my feet up off the floor in case a facehugger was lurking beneath my dad’s recliner.
That’s part of the reason “older” movies like Alien will dominate anything that comes out during the digital era. Without the crutch of CGI, things that needed to look real DID LOOK REAL, because they WERE REAL. (Or they completely sucked, and it was easier to weed out the bad movies from the good.) All manner of animal guts were used in creating the facehuggers, and creative camera work prevented the audience from seeing the alien as a man in a costume. Off the top of my head, I don’t think there is a single scene where a full-bodied alien is visible in its entirety. Props to director Ridley Scott.
As part of my tangential knowledge of this franchise, I somehow always knew Ridley Scott was attached. To me, the guy is synonymous with Alien. After some light reading, I learned that a new director tackled each of the first three movies. Another impressive feat, that a franchise could survive so many changes in vision. It’s not like Alien is pre-established like characters such as Batman or Superman. Those guys can survive new and wild interpretations (and shitty ones, Joel Schumacher). But a budding series? Goes to show how resilient these aliens are, on and off-camera.
Overall, I can’t believe how creepy this movie is, and how downright scary milk can be. Having inadvertently spoiled some of Alien by looking for connections to Prometheus, I expected to find an android somewhere, so when the reveal of Ash happened, I saw it coming a mile away, but shit, what a brilliant wrinkle to add to the story. If Ash was just a regular guy who’s hellbent on helping the company at all costs, I would have bought that… although, as a human, he’d also be in harm’s way, and might not follow through on his orders to bring an alien back alive, so I guess the robot twist is necessary for the sake of logic.
THIS ONLY MAKES SENSE IF THAT GUY IS A ROBOT!
That attention to detail/character motivations is often lacking in a lot of cinema. How many times have you asked, “Why doesn’t X just do Y? Then this whole crisis would be averted?”
Another example of foolproofing the characters’ logic comes from the alien’s blood. It’s powerful acid, so while the creature can be shot to death, the last thing this crew needs is acid eating through the hull of their ship in deep space. So there goes my obligatory, “JUST SHOOT IT!” solution to the problem.
Great effects and strong storytelling gave Alien a chance at surviving, which it obviously did, spawning a franchise (and a Predator crossover) that’s going strong today. Just goes to show, you can’t kill those bastard bugs!