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Aliens, Prometheus

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Aliens, Prometheus

Post by Admin on Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:50 pm

http://chillidogmovies.blogspot.com/2011/03/loving-alien.html

Saturday, 5 March 2011
Loving the Alien
HR Giger's original concept artwork for Alien

With excitement gathering and much speculation online about Ridley Scott's Alien "prequel" Prometheus hitting cinemas next year, I decided it was time to go back to the original. I hadn't watched Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi horror masterpiece properly for years and I wondered whether it would still be as potent. And with FilmFour recently showing all four Alien films on consecutive nights, it seemed the time was ripe to revisit a film franchise that had seemingly lost its way. Was Alien worth resurrecting all these years later?

Alien
What's surprising is that more than 30 years after its release, Alien is just as visceral, oppressive, creepy and downright terrifying as ever. It still scares the bejesus out of me. I thought it might have lost some of its power to thrill and unsettle, but not at all. Right from the outset, the tone of foreboding is established. The stark credits, the simple, ominous music, the sweeping shots of the Nostromo, the huge space freighter re-routed from its homeward journey to answer a mysterious distress call from an inhospitable planet.
We all know what happens next... A creepy derelict spacecraft; a mist-shrouded egg silo; a face-hugger, a chest-burster, the Captain (surely he'll sort this out) copping it in the ventilation shafts... One by one the crew being ripped to bloody bits in a frenzy of biomechanoid violence with just Ripley and Jones the cat making it to the end... It's still breathtaking, heart-in-mouth stuff, brilliantly paced and deeply disturbing. I couldn't get it out of my head for days.

Alien is relentlessly tense and when it isn't tense it's terrifying. It's an amazingly economical film with no moment wasted, the shocks actually coming few and far between, and very few proper glimpses of the xenomorph.

I went to a special Jameson Cult Film Club screening of Monsters in London this week along with some other Chillidogs and there was a Q&A with director Gareth Edwards and editor Colin Goudie. They pointed out that the best monsters movies don't show you that much of the monster, which is certainly true of both Monsters and Alien. Edwards made the point that in Jaws (one of his favourite films, and mine!) you only see about three seconds of the shark in the first hour of the film - which was probably just as well.

Goudie noted that he still finds Alien terrifying and that, I think, is because so much of it is about suggestion and imagination. We don't see too much of the monster, but it really gets under your skin, nevertheless. I still feel extremely wary about watching it late at night!

Aliens
The thought of watching Aliens, makes me tense too, a delicious mixture of excitment and dread. James Cameron's 1986 sequel to the original relocates the action back on the original planet, LV-426, where the whole damn mess started. This time it's all-out war between swarming aliens and a unit of hard-ass, wise-cracking marines... but it's just as tense and gripping as the first film. I actually saw this at the cinema and remember feeling somewhat traumatised afterwards.

On another viewing, at least 10 years since I've watched it properly, I now find the marines a bit grating (quick, kill 'em!) and their banter does seem very 80s. That aside, Aliens is still a brilliant film with Cameron moving deftly away from the 'haunted house' feel of Alien to an all-out shoot-up with the nastiest space beasts around.

The characters are well developed with the motherhood theme between Ripley and Newt giving the film an emotional centre that eventually leads to a mum-fight between Ripley and the alien queen. The effects still hold up pretty well too... when Ripley goes to save Newt it's like she's entering the deepest, darkest bowels of Hell, something even Bosch would have had trouble dreaming up.

Alien 3
I remember beeing sorely disappointed after seeing Alien 3 when it first came. It seemed like such a let-down after the first two films.. A few good ideas but mostly a mess involving a naff doggie alien, a gaggle of British character actors and a freshly shaven Sigourney Weaver.

Watching it now, almost 20 years after its cinemtic release, it's not nearly as bad as I remember, possibly because my expectations are different. I still think it's a mistake to dispatch with Newt, Hicks and Bishop (characters we'd invested so much in Aliens) right at the beginning, but at least they tried to do something different again with this one. And having the Alien up against a whole load of convicted murderers and rapists, is similar to what they tried to do with the latest Predators film.

I like the religious themes in the movie and the ideas about redemption and penance. There are actually some quite effective chase scenes through the huge dungeon like corridors and although the CGI effects are pretty dodgy, the animatronic version of the alien is still pretty good.

You feel like there might be a pretty decent film trying to (chest) burst out of Alien 3 and apparently there is a different cut of the film which is a lot better so I'll have to check that out.

I think David Fincher pretty much disowned the film afterwards, but imagine the film it could have been if he'd made it a few years later, given his track record now and presuming he'd have creative control.
Alien: Resurrection
The fourth entry in the Alien series was a frustrating affair. Another interesting director was at the helm, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessan, Amelie) but the films flounders between sci-fi horror and black comedy.

It has some really good scenes and some really bad ones. Some of the dialogue and forced machismo is truly wince-inducing. But then there are really good bits... Brad Douriff's sinister scientist teasing an alien he's experimenting on by imitating it, Ripley confronted with other clone versions of herself and then, later on, being carried by an alien to the queen, in a shot that beautifully echoes HR Giger's original xenomorph concept artwork (see above).

Watching it again, the first hour or so of the film is pretty decent. The evil Company is still trying to harness the alien as some sort of bio-weapon, having managed to clone Ripley from a sample of her DNA interweaved with the genes of the alien she had inside her in the third film. Thus, we have a new kick-ass Ripley and a number of xenomorphs on a ship with a load of soldiers and a bunch of space pirates who've been supplying humans as hosts for alien reproduction.

Once the aliens are (inevitably) running amok on the ship and Ripley and the pirates are trying to get to safety, the film goes downhill, especially when a new queen alien gives birth to a ridiculous human-xenomorph hybrid that's beige with a snubby nose. The film's credibility has gone once this new creature emerges. You can see what Jeunet was trying to do, but it just doesn't work.


Prometheus


So what of Prometheus? Can it be the film that reverses the trend and gives the Alien films their credibility back? The omens are good in so far as Ridley Scott is once more heading things up and the few snippes that have been confirmed sound promising.

A press release from Scott and Twentieth Century Fox says the film will be set before Alien, though it's not officially a prequel. Scott describes it as having some of Alien's DNA but it's about the world the xenomorphs spring from and the 'Space Jockey', the fossilised creature the crew of the Nostromo find in the derelict ship, in a chamber above the egg silo.

Recent rumours have asserted that Prometheus will feature both the Space Jockey and the aliens we're familiar with, and it looks like Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace are now confirmed in lead roles. It also appears that there will be a giant, eight-foot animatronic Space Jockey so they're spendng some money on this. And with CGI now so much better than it was 20 years ago, the prospects for Prometheus look very good indeed. I'm very excited about this and can't wait to have the bejesus scared out of Ridley Scott and his xenomorphs again.
Posted by chillidog at 04:43

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