A is for Alien

I realised immediately after posting the last post about the A to Z challenge that it’d be fun to do it on more of a theme. Movies sprung immediately to mind, and I set to with a notepad and pen making a list of all the movies I could talk about.

I’ve changed my mind about half of them already! Some are favourites, some are old, some new. A good mix, I think.

So. A is for Alien.

Though of course, it’s also for Aliens, Alien³ and Alien: Resurrection. More of which in due course, of course! Spoilers throughout, so if you’ve not seen the movies, look away…

First, some stats. Mmm, crunchy stats.

Alien (1979)
Comes in at #50 in the IMDb top 250 films, has a very creditable score of 8.3 stars and won the Oscar for best visual effects.

Aliens (1986)
#64 in the IMDb Top 250, 8.5 stars and won two Oscars (visual effects, again, and sound effects editing)

Alien³ (1992)
Not in the IMDb Top 250, only 6.4 stars, and only nominated for best visual effects Oscar (the award went to Death Becomes Her)

Alien: Resurrection (1997)
6.3 stars, no Oscar nominations. Enough said.

We start in 1979 with the release of the original, and some would say best, Alien.

The cast is pretty stellar, with Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto and Veronica Cartwright. It’s a great ensemble piece.

It’s essentially a haunted house, in space. The crew aboard the deep space towing vessel Nostromo is on its way home when they pick an SOS warning from a distant planet. They investigate, Bad Things happen and John Hurt ends up with some extremely unpleasant indigestion. It’s a wonderful film, dark, claustrophobic and very very scary. The acting is brilliant, and is one of my favourite films. Ever.

Interesting trivia: Apparently the blue lasers used in the scene with the alien eggs were borrowed from The Who, who were testing them out on the soundstage next door.

Next up is Aliens. Seven years later, and this time James Cameron takes over directing duties. It’s an entirely different style of film from the first. Whereas Alien was dark and claustrophobic and spooky, Aliens is a balls-to-the-wall out-and-out action flick. More cast, more plot, more aliens. Oh, so many more aliens…

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

The action has progressed – Ripley, sole survivor of the Nostromo, is picked up 57 years later in her escape pod. She discovers that humans have started to colonise LV-426, the planet on which her crew picked up the original Alien. But strangely, contact has been lost. Send in the Marines!

More Bad Things happen, obviously. Some serious weaponry is deployed, including the wonderful dropships, Vasquez and Drake’s smart guns, and, of course, the M41A pulse rifle. Ten millimetre with over-and-under thirty millimetre pump action grenade launcher.

It’s a fantastic action movie, and some would say that it’s one of the very few examples where the sequel is better than the original. It’s not, in my opinion – it’s a substantially different type of film, less of the shock value horror and more guns and explosions. The cast is wonderful, with major kudos going to Carrie Henn as Newt up against strong opposition from the increasingly fearsome Sigourney along with the duo of Michael Biehn’s world weary Hicks and Bill Paxton’s immortal Hudson. The word ‘fuck’ is used 25 times in the course of the movie, 18 of them uttered by Hudson!

Alien³ followed in 1992. It comes in for an awful lot of stick, but I’m really quite fond of it. It suffered enormously from the fact that it followed up two utterly brilliant (though completely different in tone) films. Alien³ changes up the tone again – this time Ripley ends up on a prison planet and bumps into the wonderful (and much missed) Brian Glover and the equally brilliant Charles Dance. Haircuts ensue, the alien rocks up and yet more Bad Things happen. David Fincher takes the helm and makes a pretty decent fist of it – he went on to direct Fight Club, Se7en and The Social Network. He disowned this film though, citing studio interference.

A much-maligned film – had it been a direct follow-up to Alien, it might have fared better. Not without it’s problems, but worth a watch.

Lastly (if we ignore the horrendous Aliens vs Predator series) we have Alien: Resurrection.

200 years later and Ripley’s back. And this time, she’s part Alien. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (of Amelie fame) takes over directing duties for this one. I’m a huge fan of his work, and will be talking about one of his other films, Micmacs, later in the A-Z (somewhere around the ‘M’ mark, I’d say). It also features some of my favourite actors – Dominique Pinon is always watchable, as is Ron Perlman, but I have to say that this film… struggles. Especially towards the end. It has moments which are really good, and others which are a bit ‘what on earth were you thinking/smoking?’.

Jeunet was given free reign to change the script (originallly written by none other than Joss Whedon) as he saw fit, and you get the distinct feeling that this film loses its way as a result. I’d love to have seen what Joss could have made of it…

So, that’s Alien.

B is for… Bond? The Breakfast Club? Bourne? You’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out!

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

34 thoughts on “A is for Alien”

  1. You’ve made my day taking part in the challenge. Looking forward to B. (Yes to Breakfast Club!) …I wasn’t clever enough to come up with a theme so I’m just winging it. Any random ideas for B?

  2. OOOH! I see a few great ones in this list. I’m excited to see what you have in store. I’m already thrilled with “B”! (‘A” was not as much my cup of tea…I’m few and far between on my love for science fiction.) The potential has made me giddy. Elle @ Erratic Project Junkie

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