Saturday, November 8, 2008


#250 in the 1000 greatest films of all time

If Ridley Scott made “Alien” today, no one would notice. You'd find it in Wal-Mart at the bottom of the the straight-to-DVD bargain-bin with all the other Bantha Poodoo. But that’s the problem with being an archetype. Your novel contribution is sullied by all of the cheap imitations that follow.

Even disregarding all of its serial-killer bastard children, I’m forced to wonder why this film was ever archetypal in the first place. Sure, the film is enjoyable. The special effects – especially the alien ship scenes – have that loving touch missing from so many CGI-driven features today. The 2001-esque tracking shots of the spacecraft's interiors, the hopelessly dated computers, and the made up programming languages all made me warm and fuzzy inside. When the cute little blood-drenched alien baby pops out of Kane all hiss and spit, jumps off the operating table and scurries across the floor, my wife and I nearly died of laughter.

The film offers very little in the way of character development, which is probably a blessing, considering the one-dimensional characters painfully drawn in its sequels. (“Game over, man!”) The terse dialogue and elliptical narrative also fits in perfectly with the screenplay’s efficient pacing. I loved watching android Ash descend into fanatical and homicidal obsession.

And we can overlook some of the more problematic plot points. I’m thinking specifically of Ridley staring at the screens of binary 1’s and 0’s and magically deciphering the code “stay away” (is it really any more ridiculous than Cypher watching the scrolling Matrix screens and seeing “blonde, brunette, redhead?”). Then there’s the absurdity of the recon crew parading through the sinister alien ship like starry-eyed, slack-jawed yokels without even having radio contact with their home crew.

In the end, the alien’s serial destruction of the crew is the only original contribution this film made to the medium (which, as my B-movie obsessed friend Sam Deldago pointed out to me, comes full circle in “Jason X: Jason in Space!”). And here’s what I can’t understand: even in this, the first film to really formalize this now well-worn formula, who seriously couldn’t see where it was heading? At most, this is a one-trick pony. Why God why has Hollywood raped this film over and over again?

Maybe you can help me understand. All I can say is: Watch it. Enjoy. Laugh. And Lament.

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