Thursday, February 7, 2013

MR Alien 1

This time let's revisit an all-time classic of the horro/science-fiction genre...

Want more Alien/Predator-related reviews? Check the following!!

Movie: Alien
Directed by Ridley Scott
Release date 1979
Genre Science-fiction horror
Country USA/United Kingdom

Aaaah. The original Alien!
The one and only classic cult sci-fi landmark that along with the original Star Wars (1977) contributed putting the science-fiction genre on the map.
Before mostly explored in old serials and B-movies. Hollywood seriously rethought the seemingly odd genre as a serious way to explore our culture, our politics and even our fears.

For, you see, science-fiction isn't just for silly cheesy action flicks.
It can be used as a metaphor for our own very real world.
Either to discuss and explore more abstracts human subjects (philosophy, religion,..) or more mundane, everyday and physical traits - such as the limit of our abilities, the power of science and our own fears of the unknown.

Yes. Fear is the key factor here.
While Star Wars went for a more lyrical fantastic, almost medieval literature (in space), Alien went the complete opposite way. Transposing horror, science gone wrong, into space.
Here, scifi's dirty. The ship looks like a more realistic building. (aside from the few cleaned corridors in the opening while everyone's in stasis - once the crew is awakened, life inhabits quickly those alleyways).

Ridley Scott's masterpiece - ALIEN.

The movie opens with the industrial transport spaceship known as the Nostromo.
The ship is returning from a recent trip to Thedus.
When suddenly the onboard computer has to wake up the crew.

The computer just caught an unknown distress signal coming from LV-426, one of the moons of planetoid nearby.
Captain Dallas orders his crew to get ready.
While Officer Ripley keeps an eye on the staff aboard the ship, Dallas goes with two others to explore the signal. It appears to be coming from an old relic, a mysterious giant alien ship crashed on that moon.
Officer Kane finds a bunch of egg-shaped objects laying there.
Something comes out and attacks his face.
Once aboard the ship, the new recruit Science Officer Ash is able to take the xenomorph creatures off Kane's face.

After the commotion, the crew gets ready to eat something.
But it appears there's one more passenger on board now.

Sometimes the scariest things come from within...

Most of the film then follows Ripley and the rest of the surviving crewmembers fighting the unknown assailant.
With the help from the other officers and Engineers Brett & Parker, they try tracking the creature around...
But they still get picked one by one!
They try fighting it off with flamethrowers.
Ash is revealed to be an adroid.
It seems the Weylan-Yutani company was well aware of what the signal would be about. Getting one of them infected and carrying back the creature was all part of their plan to get one of those specimens.

The movie is a pretty basic horror film concept-wise.
People fear something they can't understand, they get separated, killed one by one and only the purest of their crewmembers is able to live to see another day.
But it's such a well executed exercise in style!
Ridley Scott was fresh from only directing one film prior to Alien, The Duellists, and he would only direct the fantastic Blade Runner three years later. (not even counting all the other classics he made over the following decades)
Yet he masterfully created this unique experience that land him the keys to success and a mark on the history of cinema.

The film was filmed in only 14 weeks in '78.
It was written and originally imagined by Dan O'Bannon as a simple "Huis Clos" in space.
They couldn't find any film company willing to produce the film, even 20th Century-Fox refused to do it at first.

Ridley Scott brought in Swiss artist H. R. Giger to design everything related to the aliens.
Giger brought in his unique vision.
Giving the creatures a very creepy humanoid approach.
All things alien have this pure Giger "biomechanical" organic aspect.
He also did the derelict ship. And the unnamed mysterious "space jockeys" creature.
Ridley had some ideas regarding the alien life cycle - the facehugger, the chestbuster, etc.

Meanwhile concept artists Chris Foss and Ron Cobb designed the rest, the more human aspects of Alien.

The special effects, while now a bit dated, are still to this day quite amazing.
The creature may look a bit slow compared to today's stand, but it still is one of the creepiest you'll ever see.

The music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith with the National Philharmonic Orchestra.
It's one of the key factors of the film, the music greatly contribute to the suspense and the ambient fear.
Mostly a mix of "weird" tension and percussions.
It gives Alien a very dark creepy tone.
The music was nominated for various Golden Globe Awards.
 sexual imagery

The casting was exceptional, those characters became a template for later successful sci-fi hits.
John Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright and all the others were simply extraordinary.

The movie went on winning several awards.
The success of the classic original Alien spawned an entire media-franchise that Fox was quick to cash-in.
Several sequels/spinoffs, novels, comic books, video game, and toys... you name it!
It also even launched Sigourney Weaver's career!

In space no one can hear you scream... 

Overall, one of my all-time favorite horror AND science-fiction films!

The original Alien is certainly unique. If the other installments usually focus on the action part, I just love the very Carpenter-ysh feel of the first one.
More horror than anything else really, yet it doesn't primary focus on gore to shock unlike movies nowadays.

Yet at the time of it's release - the 70s!! - it was unlike anything at the time.
And people got scared!
Some left theaters mid-film (you won't see me pulling that today, at the price tickets are now!)

Alien was re-released in 2003 in theaters.
Scott provided an all-new Director's Cut edition as he often does with his pictures.
It reestablished his original vision of film. He re-cut many shots differently, saved from alternate cuts and even including some new unused footage. I have it here on this DVD edition of mine picture above (it's also on most releases as well as the Bluray's)
I kinda personally almost prefer it to the more "classic" original version.
It's a bit more visceral. It's not even that longer, the movie got more streamlined and polished, adding 4 new minutes while cutting 5 other ones. Yep, a minute shorter.
There's new altered sound FXs. The biggest change being the cocooned Dallas near the end - albeit it contradicts later details from the series - I find it quite creepy and fitting.

I give it:
3 / 3 UFOs!

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