Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alien (1979)

Alien (1979)
Alien, rarely does one come across the words 'Horror' and 'Science Fiction' in one film. In fact, it is even rarer for this combination to result in a masterpiece, and one of the best horrors ever made. While to call Alien an authentic horror would be a little naive, it definitely fits in the genre somewhere. I of course watched the director's cut. The great thing with Alien is it's a fresh changed from all the cliché horror tricks, instead of an old haunted mansion, we have a giant transport ship in the middle of space. As well as the Science Fiction point of view, in Alien, it is less concentrated on space itself; in fact, space seems to be well conquered in Alien. Although for a Science Fiction, it holds-up well against the ravages of time. Is it just me though, or were the 70's infatuated with grids? They just assumed the future of navigation would be on a grid format, well Ridley seems hooked on the idea. Now we have holographic screens, let us see how that looks in thirty years.
I think the saddest thing of all with Alien was that the cover of the film said "From the Director of 'Gladiator'" It's like Blade Runner just doesn't exist...

The plot, well after the millions of sequels and spin-offs the Alien/Predator franchise has spat-out, the plot is well known. Yet for all those who love the latest instalments such as: Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, I will indulge you with some GOOD plot work.
As it is well known, it follows Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, sounds suspiciously like Ridley?) - well actually no, despite the sequels, Ripley is quite a small character until the end. Therefore, it follows the seven-crew members of the Nostromo a commercial transport spaceship, on its return from Thedus back to Earth with a load of mineral Ore. On the trip, they get an unknown transmission from an uncharted planet. After exploring the distress call (or warning) and finding an alien ship, one of the crewmembers - Kane - is attacked by a little alien, which attaches itself to his face. They take him back and try to get it off him. Yet, the creature has acid blood, despite how silly this sounds, it works well and causes a dilemma, which is until the alien dies and Kane is fine. Well Kane is fine until an alien burst outside his stomach during dinner and disappears into the large ship. The crew search for it as they slowly disappear one by one.
The plot is not the most complex of plots, but it does a reasonably simple plot to perfection. Throughout the whole film, we always have an eerie suspense. It also has a little Das Boot in it as it goes through the life of the average commercial space ship. The whole uncharted planet thing is not exaggerated, but treated as just an average day on the job. In fact, it is very realistic; they worry more about their paychecks then the dangers of space and so on. I think what the main drive for the whole movie, is mainly the search for the alien, like what is it? They have created quite an interesting alien, so most of the audience is in engaged in what's the alien like, as well as crew survival. It also gets a little Jaws-ish, it does not flaunt the alien around like nothing. Very little of the alien is on screen, and it is a great effect Ridley manages to pull-off.
Unlike 'horrors' though, Alien seems to be like a survival tale, with horror elements. It has all the scares and shadows for a scary horror, but a story and scale to be a fun Science Fiction, although it takes on a more dark and poetic aspect.
The Face Hugger
The acting is exceptional. Sigourney may be the main character and pull-off a great performance, be we do not really see that until the end of the movie. In fact, this guy Dallas seems like main character material, he's good looking, macho and so on and his name comes first in the ending credits! It really does not centre any particular character, but they all are great actors. To say they are a landmark in acting would be wrong, but for their shared performances together, they are all fantastic. They all fit their characters, but do not rely on poorly made cliché characters.

Ridley seems to be quite fascinated with the idea of Androids. Although in here it is not the main ethical question like Blade Runner, we get the idea Ridley likes to put them in his movies. Truth is, Ridley is not the greatest director, he is good, but really does not have the level of many others. He also is rather poor outside Science Fiction, yet he continues to leave the genre to take on films that are more mediocre, like Robin Hood (2010). The direction and Cinema Photography are excellent. It shows Ridley has the potential, and with two of his movies, the direction is of the highest quality, absolutely magnificent in this film. Ridley has made a suspenseful and memorable film. The special effects are so memorable, the alien design is probably the most famous type of alien in film. The Chest Bursting scene and the Face Hugger are all well known and so notable. Therefore, Ridley has already succeeded in giving us a visually memorable movie, which is what Lucas did with Star Wars, but Ridley does a lot more to Alien. Ridley gives Alien substance, which Star Wars lacks in many parts.
Ridley gives us similar direction to Das Boot, a claustrophobic feel inside a large ship, with the fear of an alien lurking in the shadows. The use of the shaky camera is superb; an often-hated style of camera work is one of the highlights of direction with Alien. Watching Ripley run through the dark corridors with the camera shaking all-over the place, the suspense goes through the roof. Beyond those attributes, Alien is also an easy film to watch. A Modern Classic it may be, but it is still enjoyable for the simpletons of our Earth, although James Cameron's Aliens has a lot more action. Alien on itself is a highly entertaining horror, which is seldom boring. There is always something happening to keep you captivated, and it is all well balanced. "In space no one can hear you scream." - now that is memorable stuff Ridley has made.

So are there any major problems with Alien? No not really, the whole film is imaginative and well directed, and perfectly acted. Alien is well loved by critics and the general 'idiotic' public alike, although there is small amount of criticism. Yet I can confidently say that criticism is not credible. Such criticism Alien receives would be that it does not reach the chilling potential we expect; people's problem is they expect a horror movie. Alien is not a horror, but a horror sub-genre, so do not expect the scares of say Halloween or whatever trash horror shoots out. I personally believe this is some of the best horrors out there, despite it being a sub-genre. I think my personal criticism would have to be that instead of helping the crew load up for their escape, Ripley goes to get the cat! That was just so frustrating to watch, I wonder what happens to the crewmembers...
The famous Alien

As well as substance and entertainment, Alien crosses many ethical questions as well. Although in some cases, Androids are shown in a bad light, that is not the focus. We are asked the question to what expense will we sacrifice for a new weapon, or unstoppable force? That really is the main idea of the story, which is similar to Aliens. It really makes you wonder what is happening out there, what missions are just phony so someone can reap the benefits. Just off the top of my head, many claim the Gulf War to be a conspiracy to get free oil. This is what Alien portrays, people being played as puppets for someone else's greed wants and needs. So maybe the Android just happens to be that cause of it this time, opposed to Ridley trying to warn us how much he hates them.

Overall, Alien is a landmark achievement in modern film. It's one of the greatest Science Fictions ever made, but manages to be as entertaining as it is a masterpiece. While it may be a little too unconventional to full throw it into the horror category and say it's the best horror, but in sub-genre horror it's definitely one of the best. It really is essential viewing for critics and the general 'idiotic' public alike, unless they are a really narrow-minded Avatar junkie. Alien resides as one of the most notable and recognisable films.

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