Sunday, August 29, 2010

Movie Night: Alien (1979)

I bought all the Alien and Predator movies on DVD Friday and I'm now in the middle of an Alien/Predator movie marathon.

I just finished watching the first film in the line-up, Alien, and thought I would share some thoughts on it.

First of all... Alien, directed by the now very well known Ridley Scott, is a sci-fi classic that could not be rated less than five out of five stars, or ten out of ten stars. If there's a ranking system going on, it's at the top of it. This movie set the standard for all space thrillers that came after.

Little did we know when this trailer descended upon the theater-going public in 1979 what exactly we were in for.

Was it a space-chicken? What's up with the cat? Why is everyone flailing around like madmen?

Well, what we get is an interesting space horror film with a mix of Lifeboat and a bit of slasher-film antics.

We meet seven folks traveling aboard the Nostromo, a freighter vessel carrying cargo back to Earth. Not the least of which is Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver.

Their ship is designed to travel in auto-pilot while en-route to their home planet. The ship, which has a mild artificial intelligence, follows programming built into it and stops their trip short when it receives what appears to be a distress call. "Mother", as she is called, is not as advanced as HAL of 2001 but she does still manage to piss the humans off.

I must say every time I see the cat eating at the table after the crew wakes up, I think of the cat from AMERICAN FLAGG. I forget his name now...

One thing I love the most about this film is the ambiance. The opening scene with the distress call being received and the ship coming to life is one of my favorite parts. At one time I even searched for the sounds of the computer in that scene so I could use it for my Windows start-up sound.

There are a lot more bits like this where the sounds are kept rather soft and large areas appear on the screen for an extended amount of time just to set a mood. It did a great job of setting up the suspense and getting the audience into the movie.

Even with all the ambiance and beautiful cinematography, the part of the film most viewers would be more familiar with is going to be the "chestbursting" scene.

That brings us to the alien, itself, which was designed by H.R. Giger. His work on Alien garnered him an Oscar for Best Achievement for Visual Effects.
You hardly ever see the alien's full body on the screen and when you do it's not for very long. This was a technique used to make it look even more real by giving it less screen-time to be analyzed. You don't really get a prolonged look at the alien until the end of the film when it's going for it's space walk on a leash.

Something else that occurred to me is that Alien proves that not all people die from smoking as several of the characters smoke (on the spaceship, even!) and ultimately meet their ends. But not from smoking.

After watching the movie again, for some reason, Captain Dallas reminded me of Commander Rann from Marvel Comics' MICRONAUTS: THE NEW VOYAGES. Kelley Jones' art in that series really grabbed me and portrayed space and alien beings very well. Hmmmm... I think I may pull those back out and read them.

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