Alien (1979) Review
“Bring back life form.
All other priorities rescinded.”
What can be said about Alien that hasn’t already been said?
I don’t know, I hadn’t seen the film before and never read a review of it.
I don’t like the ‘final girl‘ cliche. It has ran its course, is overused, the final girls themselves are now horrible characters that are better suited to replace Rambo in action films than be in horror movies and are the least deserving to survive. They used to be great when trope first appeared in the 80s but films back then were better so that probably helped.
The more I watched newer and newer films and the more I could see the quality of storytelling, characterisation and filmmaking fall, the less I wanted to watch Alien despite me knowing it would be much superior and yet, I kept watching Sci-Fi and horror post 2000 whilst avoiding this.
I did watch Prometheus (2012) and enjoyed it; but the only other Alien films I had watched before then was the two Alien vs Predator films which I liked for the mindless action, especially the sequel, so I didn’t have anything else to go on for Prometheus to disappoint me.
Time to finally correct this mistake.
The plot is simple. In the future a cargo ship’s crew is transporting something back to earth when it is diverted after receiving a distress call.
Landing on a planet they discover something and then end up bringing an alien parasite back on-board.
I don’t want to say too much for those that haven’t seen it and don’t need to say anymore for those that have seen it.
This is FANTASTIC!
I loved watching it. From the crew quickly getting at each other’s throats in a very believable way, rather than resorting to the usual forced drama, to the ship acting almost like a run-down prison adding to the crew’s frayed nerves as well as creating the ideal hunting ground for the alien.
This film oozes atmosphere.
I watched the 4K, HDR version of this and whilst the increased resolution really brings out the best for the beautiful sets and miniature effects, I’m not sure if the HDR helped improve the claustrophobic, tense, atmosphere.
I still don’t quite know what HDR is supposed to add for the viewer (I know what it is, just, I am personally not seeing the improvement over a normal SDR image) and given that this is a film with artificially added HDR is this just a gimmick?
Even films made with HDR don’t have true HDR when it’s streamed or watched at home on a 4K Blu-ray in most cases.
Regardless, everything about the look of this succeeds, the blacks in the dark scenes, the tunnels when hunting the alien to dimly lit rooms with the eggs are deep and are contrasted with any light sources which are bright and vivid, though the flamethrower in the distance in one scene looked washed out until it was closer to the lens, so maybe that is the HDR effect but it is all part of a very carefully crafted setting in a very well thought out film.
I wanted all of the characters to survive and to beat the alien. Their getting at each other, the panicking and internal conflict didn’t turn me off them like it would in a modern film but drew me in. I liked all of them and the casting was perfect for each.
Tom Skerritt was great giving his usual reserved but engaging performance, Sigourney Weaver found a role few could see anyone else playing as Ripley, Sir John Hurt steals the best scene and everyone else deserves just as much praise.
Their bickering is understandable and justified and never crosses the line into annoying and tedium, but, at the same time you believe this is a crew that has been out there for however many years and do look out for each other.
Despite Ripley probably creating the final girl she avoids all of the modern trappings that have completely ruined this should-be-dead-trope. She isn’t the smartest, the toughest, doesn’t have the rest of the cast be there solely to make her look like the greatest entity in the universe.
She isn’t obnoxiously lucky and her journey from being a not well-respected but not unliked as well, sub-commander to believably surviving (with a bit of luck) the encounter in the finally is honestly refreshing.
Look what happens when a bit of thought is put into the characters and script.
I don’t need to say anything about the alien creature; it looks scary and intimidating and iconic. You cannot picture this film working with any other design.
I don’t remember much about the music, however, everything in Alien comes together as it should to give you the tense, engaging movie that passes by far too quickly (the alien first appears after an hour, but it feels like a fraction of that time) as all good films should.
I cannot recommend this enough. I only wish I had watched this in the 80s and before I knew so much about it.
A deserved classic.
Aliens (1986) Review
“That’s it, man.
Game over, man.
What the fuck are we gonna do now?
What are we gonna do?
I’ve heard people say this is better than the first film; with a bigger budget and James Cameron directing (in the 80s) it must be.
It isn’t and not by a mile.
First of all, it looks worse, not bad but noticeably inferior. The miniatures aren’t as good but still good though the bluescreen used in places and the lighting make them stand out more. This film is brighter, more evenly lit, it lacks the deep blacks and vivid lights of the original.
Maybe I did notice the fake HDR when I was watching Alien.
It doesn’t have the atmosphere (pun intended) of the original because of that but not really a problem because the film’s main problem is the characters, namely, the space-marines.
How did these showers of shite ever become space-marines. They have a commander that has never led before and I doubt has ever seen military action, Hanson who I always thought was Hicks, a mistake the inept commander also made, starts off as the funny, comedic one which simple grates after a while as he quickly turns into the cowardly, whiny one during the first fight.
Initially I thought Vasquez was the joke character, not Hanson, as the first time you see the 5’2″ space-marine she jumps out of the stasis pod, gurning, and starts doing pull-ups (think spaghetti armed Sarah Connor in T2). The gun she carries is far too big and heavy for her with her only personality trait is being strong.
Then there’s her partner Drake who seemingly is there just to be mocked, is twice her size (probably more) yet I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the person Glass Joe beat.
You could take those two out and the movie would improve.
With this pathetic troop, girl guides would be more effective, it leads to the main issue you have for antagonist when the protagonist are so useless; it cheapens them.
They no longer are as scary or come across as the threat they should be. You need good strong heroes for the threat to be worthy and it is missing here.
It affects Ripley as well; this is set just after the superior Alien, or is it 57 years later? I couldn’t tell as it seemed to be one of Ripley’s nightmares, and Ripley, not believed (pun not intended) by the board for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is told she can have her commission back if she goes back to the planet where she first encountered the alien.
Reluctantly she agrees. So as the space-marines show how useless they are, and Hicks takes command; he becomes nowt more than Ripley’s puppet as even though he is a space-marine and therefore probably has been trained; he is like the rest of them and seemingly doesn’t know how to do his job.
Not as incapable as the rest of his squad but still not capable.
Ripley takes charge and formulates a plan, a very basic plan whilst looking at schematics for the installation they are trapped within.
Before accepting this job, Ripley clearly states she isn’t a soldier, she doesn’t even know how to use a gun, the space-marines are sold to her as being the best of the best, the toughest with the best equipment; so when it turns out they are the worst of the worst and Ripley suddenly develops a strategic military mind from nowhere it makes this comes across as a Roger Corman film minus the engaging characters.
An actual strong marine team that puts up a fight makes the aliens seem like the threat they should be. Ripley observing (and spotting things the space-marines might miss in the heat of battle) the space-marines, learning from Hicks as he formulates that very basic plan, and slowly has to emulate the space-marines for the confrontation would make for a far better development arc for her.
Then in the third film where I suspect she has to take over again you can see where she really learnt that skill.
Don’t misunderstand me, Ripley is still a very engaging character and Sigourney plays her very well but just flipping a switch and her being the next Wellington doesn’t fit, with very little about her previous encounter justifying these new skills.
They even make her stupid as well in places as well, such as knowingly sleeping in the same room with two face-huggers in jars. Aliens sets up tropes that have been copied ever since, stupid people and supposedly smart people doing stupid things.
Once the space-marines are no longer part of the film (bar Hicks at the end) and it is just Ripley with Newt for the last 20 minutes is when Aliens really shines even if the loader fight with the queen alien goes on a bit too long and Ripley is a bit too lucky. Such a great cat and mouse, trapped in a maze showdown which highlights how incompetent not only the space-marines were but the writing for the previous 1 hour 50 minutes.
The Aliens look great, the way they curl themselves into the background and then unwrap themselves. No problems there, overall, the cast is great, just a shame they are stuck playing these roles. Aliens could’ve done with more action pieces; even the firefights in this with the useless space-marines show hints at what could’ve been.
Not the worst generic space-marine film I’ve watched but it falls far short compared to the original. The logic is right, have loads of aliens and therefore have big guns and explosions; it is just that a bit of care should’ve been taken with the script which is where the first film succeeded; less of the farcical space-marines.
We know at some point soon Alien will be remade. I dread to think how bad they will fuck that one up.