I Can’t Lie to You About Your Chances, But … You Have My Sympathies.
When I reviewed Prometheus, I was a little bummed out that I was not able to review the movies that made that movie possible. I always review the movies in order! But, Prometheus was so spur of the moment that I didn’t have the time to review 4 – and possibly up to 9, if you count the Predator series that later became intertwined – movies. Though I can’t fix that problem anymore, I can still review the movies now. Most people are entirely familiar with these movies, and I would probably consider at least two of these movies to be in my favorite science fiction films of all time. In fact, I probably would’ve called the second movie my favorite if I wasn’t holding off the review until I could review Prometheus. But reviewing these movies after Prometheus has a hidden benefit in that I can now go into today’s movie with an eye towards what happened in the prequel. So let’s get into it with my review of Alien, written by Dan O’Bannon, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright, Bolaji Badejo, and Helen Horton.
The commercial towing spaceship called the Nostromo has been rerouted from their trip back to Earth by their ship’s computer that they call Mother (voice of Helen Horton). They’re told by Mother that their orders are to investigate a transmission from a nearby planetoid (later known as LV-426). They land on the planet and 3 of the crew members – Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt), and Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) – go to investigate, with Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm) monitoring from the ship and Engineers Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) making repairs to the ship. It’s not long before Dallas, Kane, and Lambert come across a derelict alien aircraft. On further inspection, Kane comes across a room full of eggs, one of which opens up when he gets too close. Back at the ship, the three crew members return because Kane got some alien creature making sweet love to his face. Ripley refuses to let them in because of quarantine procedures, but Ash lets them in anyway.
Though it’s true that this movie has aged somewhat, it still completely holds up. The story is fairly simple in that it’s not a whole lot beyond a horror movie with an alien in it. The story points are also simple: land, get infected, hunt alien, all die. Even had it underlined. No one gets that but me… What elevates those pretty basic story points is the imaginative ways they happen, and the fact that they’re vaguely sexual. I had never thought about it before, but something on the bottom of the Wikipedia page shows that sometimes people read way too much into these movies. They talk about how the facehugger represents male rape because it forces itself onto something’s face, jams it’s alien penis down the throat, lays a baby in the belly, and then it pops out as another phallic looking creature. I never read this much into the movie, and I recommend you don’t either. I’m sure the people making the movie weren’t intending to make a commentary on rape as much as they were trying to make an alien movie.
After having seen Prometheus, I did take notice of the fact that the derelict ship did look the same as the one in this movie, but it also can’t really be the same one as best I can guess. The pilot of the derelict ship definitely looks as it did in Prometheus, but it had a pilot that was in the pilot’s chair and had one of the creatures burst out of its chest, unlike in Prometheus, so it must’ve been a different one. The look of this movie, though it can’t possibly live up to Prometheus, still holds up. It’s still designed by H.R. Giger, so it still looks really creepy and gothic. The movie had to make up for its limitations by making the movie really dark, but it also helped for the creepiness that comes with not knowing where this thing was coming from. The darkness also helps hide the fact that the Xenomorph itself does not usually look very good. It’s pretty obviously just a guy in a suit, but they keep that from becoming a problem by having it be hidden most of the time. I really liked the part where it was hidden in the ship because of how well it blended in before it was time for it to come out. In contrast, the facehugger still definitely works. That little bastard makes my skin crawl every time, whether it’s still alive and clinging to a guy’s face or when it’s dead and splayed out. It’s part spider, part snake, and part deep-throating penis; three of the things I’m most afraid of in life.
The thing I respect most about this movie is the fact that the woman character is not the typical damsel in distress character. Sigourney Weaver isn’t quite playing Ripley up to her badass potential yet in this movie, but she’s on her way, especially near the end. At first the biggest badass move is making the very unpopular decision to not let the infected guy onto the ship. Sure, he got in anyway and Ripley got slapped in the face for it, but she could’ve had loads of “told you so” time that she didn’t take advantage of. And sure, it was pretty fuckin’ stupid to make such an effort to save a stupid cat. I love my cats just fine, but if there’s a Xenomorph between me and my cats then I’m about to save some money on cat food. Even though she saves the cat, she gets to be fairly badass near the end of the movie, and that’s very respectable since it was not that common at the time for women to be anything other than distressed damsels and sex symbols. …Okay, they do get her into her underwear for no particular reason but it’s a step in the right direction. I never really liked Ian Holm in this role, but I suppose that’s what he was going for. I think I just thought he made some odd decisions. For instance, don’t you think there are better ways to kill someone than trying to stuff a magazine into their mouth? I mean, you can still breathe through a rolled up magazine, so you really weren’t doing much other than mouth raping her with a copy of Seventeen. Damned Wikipedia page got me mentally fixated on mouth rape! Also, I’m not sure why the choice was made to defend himself against Yaphet Kotto by grabbing a handful of his man tittie.
Though I would say there were things that could’ve been done better, Alien is still a great movie that entirely holds up. The story is arguably basic, but it’s still told in a fairly creative and imaginative way, and the look is still very gothic and the facehuggers still make my skin crawl. And they know that no creature could be scarier than the audience’s imagination, so they don’t show it very much and let us get used to it. And though she’s not quite there yet, a certain character in this movie is well on her way to going down in history as one of movie’s biggest badasses. There’s no logical reason that everyone in this world hasn’t already seen this movie, so fix the problem if you haven’t yet. Alien gets “Mouth rape!” out of “We Ain’t Outta Here in Ten Minutes, We Won’t Need No Rocket to Fly Through Space.”
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