Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Alien (1979)

                 The foundation for a line of movies to come begins here.  I’ve been a fan of this film since I can remember first seeing it.  It has the science fiction I crave with a story that meshes very well with a cast that can act it out.  I haven’t seen the movie anymore than three times from what I recall but it’s a suspenseful experience even after the first watch.

                 The crew of Nostromo, a mining spaceship, receives a transmission from an unknown planet on the outer rim.  They go to see if there is any intelligent life there to the dismay of some crew members.  They find a spaceship of unknown origin.  Upon investing the ship they find a fossilized corpse with its rib cage broken upward.  This body is huge compared to the human explorers on the mission.  You get a close up of the body and see it’s not human at all, however, that is all you see or hear about that once alive entity.  I’ll admit I’d love to know where it came from and why it was on that planet.  The distress signal, which seems to be a warning signal, was never actually located anywhere, so it’s a slight mystery as to why it was on or who activated it.  Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) deciphered the signal as it was original thought to be an S.O.S.  Has it been signaling for hundreds of years?  Was it somehow a trap set by some unknown adversary?  It really makes me wonder.  It’s a good feeling to be thinking while you watch the film.  I enjoy some of the mystery this film leaves on the table.  Kane (John Hurt), the unlucky SOB, discovers the egg field of the aliens.  It was interesting to imagine how all the eggs got there in the first place.  Did the original owners of the spacecraft try to grow them as their own weapons?  Was it part of some greater plan that went wrong?  It’s the subtle mystery of the discovery that keeps you glued to your seat.  Kane gets a bit too curious for his own good, which delights me greatly, and gets the “face hugger” attached to his space helmet.

                I loved the conflict between Ripley and Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), upon trying to get back on board the space shuttle.  Quarantine orders forbid immediate entry which is most logical; however, Dallas commands to be let in.  You know protocol Captain, shame on you for endangering your crew.  It creates a power struggle and a “should I follow the rules”?  Ripley denies entry but he is permitted by the scientist Ash (Ian Holm) to enter.

                The story continues to flow masterfully as the “face hugger” puts the alien into Kane.  He is lying in a medical room on his back when his crewmen try to remove the alien entity.  They attempt to cut off one of the finger like parts but get shocked by the acid blood that drops out of it.  It’s at that moment in the history of this franchise we discover that horrifying defensive mechanism the alien has.  The crew has no choice but to wait and see what happens.  He eventually awakens as the “face hugger” detaches itself from the body leaving him to be extremely hungry!  There is a thrilling scene where they are searching for the “face hugger” in the medical room.  It’s dead when they do find it leaving some mystery as to why it would suddenly be in that state.  At the last meal before going back to the freezer, space sleeping, Kane’s chest explodes and the real suspense begins.  The classic, absolutely classic scene of the baby alien scurrying away into hiding mortifies you.

                Great on the seat of your chair scenes occur, but a troubling one to me is when they split into two teams.  Why do that?  An unknown alien entity is loose on the spaceship and the Captain wants to divide and conquer his own crew?  For the film’s sake it’s not too bad overall since you need a method to create suspense.  I personally would want to keep together at all times, track down the little bugger and destroy it.  It didn’t look friendly to me in the first place.  Ripley, Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) sent off to find the little alien but find a cat, named Jones, instead.  They are using a motion tracker and that cat runs off.  Obviously someone must find that stupid cat so they don’t track it down again and waste time.  The scene that gets me is when Parker sends his good buddy Brett off to find the cat solo.  The movie gives you the impression Parker and Brett are good buddies so wouldn’t they at least go together?  I mean, Captain Dallas said to stay together and why would Brett go off alone anyway?  I would have refused outright.

                Enter the lengthy death march of Brett.  We get a somewhat long, I know this guy gets it, kind of buildup.  He searches around saying, “Jones” so much I became annoyed.  He wanders in and out of dark rooms that you are wondering which room will be his last.  Obviously the alien gets him and thus finishes the worst part of the film in my opinion.  The rest becomes a survival situation very fast.  A part I like is when Ash is intently studying the now dead “face hugger”.  He is very intrigued by it and wishes to return it to earth with them.  He is later revealed to be an android under orders to bring back any potential useful life forms with him at any cost.  Ripley and he go at it furiously until Ash is destroyed.  It’s that kind of inner turmoil that adds to the disruption this unfortunate crew is undergoing in such a short amount of time.  It’s very tasteful writing makes you already hate the corporation they work for to think of their own employees lives as expendable.

                The crew dies off one by one for the most part until Ripley decides to blow the spaceship up.  I mean at this point the alien is fully grown and that has become the best option.  She also goes way out of her way for that accursed Jones cat.  Why?  It’s a cat; it’s not worth dying for at this point.  The alien could be anywhere and you want to risk getting killed by it?  The alien recognizes the spaceship is going to blow, from what I can tell, and it stows away in the small shuttle presumably while Ripley is searching for Jones.  I hope it was worth it.

                The climatic ending serves well as the alien is found sleeping in the corner.  It’s kind of surprising to see a sleeping alien but it must be tired of killing people.  It deserves a rest right?  Ripley ends up vacuuming it into space through the hatch.  All in all it’s a great quiet thriller to watch.  The alien makes few appearances but that’s perfect enough.  The best part is the film doesn’t set up a sequel.  It’s good to watch knowing it won’t need to be concluded in another movie.

                Rating: 8.5 of 10


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