Alien (1979)

Maxwell Jennison

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Since the Alien series is my favorite sci-fi series, I had to throw my two cents in:

Alien: Remarkable movie. I agree that this one is legendary and near perfection.

Aliens: Most amazing sequel ever made. I think the reason for it's amazing success was that they changed the genre. Horror to action/war movie. And he made it work, that's the more amazing thing. Loved the characters (especially Hudson...ah, Bill Paxton...only guy to be killed by an Alien, Predator, and Terminator...he should get a medal).

Alien 3: I'm one of the few people who loved this one. It was a bit of a buzz kill to go from action back to horror, but they did it something hardcore. No real weaponry, surrounded by convicts, friends killed and you've got an alien in you...and it's a queen! Lots of good conflict there. Plus the religious symbolism was spectacular, or so I thought. Also liked the redesign for the alien/dog hybrid thing.

Alien: Resurrection: Again, one of the few who liked it. But it was mainly due to being an alien fanboy. I know this one was not spectacular by any means, but it was enjoyable for such a bad film.

AvP: Bad bad BAD movie. Horror/gore title with a PG-13 rating, bad idea, never works. Most of the Alien/Predator fan base is over 18 anyway, didn't see the point in the PG-13 rating limit (the video game has a MA rating, so you can't tell me it's for the kids playing the game...yes, I know they do play it, but we shouldn't promote underage videogamers by making the movie for kids). Upset greatly by Anderson directing it as he's not the greatest filmmaker in the world (but at least it wasn't that Bohl (sic) guy that ran Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead into the ground). All that being said, I'm an alien and predator fanboy, and I have to admit I still enjoyed it. *hangs head in shame*
 

Syn

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The Master™ said:
Alien (Special Edition), Aliens (Special Edition) and Alien Resurrection!!! Alien3 was a waste of bloody time!!!! :D
i agree from where you are coming from.
i remember that there used to be such a 'HYPE' about it then people went and saw this "HYPE' and were majorly disapointed....i was one of those people:(
however Alien Vs Preditor kinda brought up my sadness a bit:)
 

GrownUp

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Absolutely. 1, 2 and 4. I watched them all, have those three on video, wouldn't go near Alien 3 with a barge pole.
 

Foxbat

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Alien 3: I'm one of the few people who loved this one. It was a bit of a buzz kill to go from action back to horror, but they did it something hardcore. No real weaponry, surrounded by convicts, friends killed and you've got an alien in you...and it's a queen! Lots of good conflict there. Plus the religious symbolism was spectacular, or so I thought. Also liked the redesign for the alien/dog hybrid thing.
I agree. I think this movie was far more thought provoking than the rest and definitely underrated. It also contained a better quality of actor than the others and an element of pathos which was again lacking in the other movies. I think history will view this one more kindly than most people do today.
 

ravenus

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With regards to Alien 3, director David Fincher apparently completely dissociated himself from it even before the editing was taken up because of what he cites as constant studio interference. The project was troubled from the start with numerous script reworkings and director walkouts.
 

moviefan

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It was retake after retake and David Fincher was under alot of presure to make alien 3 by 20 centiry fox
 

McMurphy

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The original Alien film is---by far---my favorite one of the series. There is so much going on in Alien beyond that of inspirational genre directing and visuals. The rest of the series seemed to scrap the conscious motifs and heavily relied on their film direction.

Not that that is the most heinous thing in the world to do. I would be thrilled to see more science fiction films be able to achieve even that.
 

Foxbat

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Just thought I'd drop in this touch of trivia - Dan O'Bannon wrote the script for Dark Star and then rehashed it as Alien. He admitted this in an interview recently. Both were fine movies in their own right - but hats off to Mister O'Bannon for his recycling skills:)
 

lazygun

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What were the motifs that were dropped by the following movies,McMurphy?....:eek:

Like books i approach my Movies in the same way,as in mood and feeling.

Only theme that ever stuck with me thru all the movies was the strong female lead.
Even thought that Ripley falling into the furnace flames with the last Alien would have been a nice finish to the series.

Opinions?...
 

McMurphy

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lazygun said:
What were the motifs that were dropped by the following movies,McMurphy?....:eek:
Take for example, the strong female role that you mention she has through the series. I feel that her character plays more roles in the motifs of the original Alien film. Her relationship to the crew as a mother of sorts and the ship being called a mother, the use of her character to showcase the contrast between the human---what we can identify with---and the alien---the representation of the unknown and collective and imprinted fears----in the final confrontation are two great examples. True, the rest of the films had her as a strong female and were about human surviving alien attacks, but, through restricting the motifs, her character really felt more and more like nothing more than that role.
 

lazygun

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I think what you're saying is that after Alien,Ripley's Characterisation became less,....less in more than one way?.

Would agree.It could have been much more in an ideal environment.
But have always viewed the simple,singular constant of the Ripley Character through four movies to be as laudable as it is rare.

Anyways,....:D
 

Hamish Spiers

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Hi. I’m new here but I look forward to getting to know a few of you in the future. It's a massive site, by the looks of things, and I had to think about what I wanted to check out first. However, seeing a thread dedicated to one of my all-time favourite movies is too good to pass up.

I'd like to talk about why it's such a highly regarded movie for so many of us by sharing my own thoughts on it and finding out what it is that others like about it too.


Personally, I like this movie for its atmosphere, its characters, its minimalism (what I mean by this will become clearer later) and its pacing.

Atmosphere

If I had to choose just one word to describe the atmosphere of this movie, that word would be ‘immersive’. I could choose others, certainly. ‘Claustrophobic’ would be a good choice as well but what really strikes me about Alien is the way in which it so fully draws me into its world. It is to the filmmakers’ credit that whenever I see the movie, I feel as though I’m right there on the Nostromo with the rest of the characters. With many movies, even many good ones, I feel a cognitive distance from what I’m seeing on the screen. I’m safe on my lounge watching events from afar, much as I might watch what’s happening in the street below from a restaurant balcony.

Personally, I find this feeling of immersion really only takes place when I’m watching movies with settings that are far removed from everyday life – and I love it when it happens. Escapism is, I find, a large part of the appeal of movies. However, only movies that can truly bring their settings to life achieve this. For instance, consider the manner in which the original Star Wars conveys a lived-in feeling to places like Mos Eisley or the Millenium Falcon. Then compare that feeling to what you get when you watch something like Transformers. When watching one, you forget you’re even in your lounge room. When watching the other, you wonder if your kettle’s boiled yet. When it comes to atmosphere, Alien sits alongside the former.

Characters

I love the characters in Alien. I really do. They’re so ordinary. They’re played by actors who look like the rest of the us, which is probably down to the fact that movie was made in the seventies. It was a good decade for actors as opposed to stars. Furthermore, the characters act like regular folk too and they’re all more or less relatable. If you’ve ever had a job, you know these people. I’m sure many viewers, like myself, relate to Parker and Brett with their grievances about not getting their fair share for the work they put in. We can relate to Dallas too. Sometimes, you do just get too tired of all the hassles to even care. When he decides to leave the planet without completing the last of the repairs, it’s very human. And, of course, we can all relate to Ripley. It’s frustrating when seemingly everyone else in the workplace is ignoring common sense and you feel as though you’re the only sane one in the asylum. When both Ash and Dallas ignore her quarantine concerns – well, Ash seemingly ignores them – and she has no one higher to take her complaints to, we know what that’s like. Banging your head against the proverbial wall. In many ways, you could view Alien as a workplace drama.

Minimalism

Show, don’t tell. Don’t insult the audience’s intelligence. Good pieces of advice for filmmakers, these are guidelines virtually everyone knows whether they are a creator of fictional content or a consumer of the same. Yet, whether intentionally or not, writers and filmmakers don’t always follow them. Alien however, is that rare beast in which the people behind it do remember these words of wisdom. Nobody on the Nostromo goes off on a long soliloquy about how overwhelming the vast reaches of space are and how humans are just infants in the realms of interstellar travel, taking their first steps surrounded by ancient giants. They could have but they didn’t – and they didn’t have to. We know full well how out of their depth the crew of the Nostromo are when three of them step into that great big room where the space jockey’s remains lie fossilised, suggesting that these great space-farers were ploughing the interstellar shipping lanes when the human race was still living in caves. This encapsulates the spirit of the entire movie. It says a lot using just a little. Class warfare, sexual discrimination in the undermining of a senior officer on the ship because she’s a woman, commentary on the ruthlessness of corporate greed and how impersonal the world is becoming... these are all bubbling under the surface of this movie. A myriad of ideas. But not once do the filmmakers feel the need to spell all these things out for us. They’re just there, we can notice them or overlook them and the filmmakers trust us to see them for ourselves.

I’d also like to mention here another type of minimalism at work in Alien and that is the fact that the movie is not that gory. People may be surprised that I would say that but they shouldn’t be. Consider the recent Prometheus, which was marketed as less of a horror movie and more of a philosophical movie. It had graphic violence aplenty, with the camera frequently lingering on gory nauseating imagery when brief visual snippets would have sufficed. Now, consider Alien again and ‘that scene’. You know the one I mean. It’s extremely gory, yes, but it’s brief. There are no lingering shots on gaping wounds, the very next scene is sufficiently later in time that we are spared the messy aftermath of the events we just witnessed and, finally, the scene is an isolated one in what is otherwise a surprisingly bloodless film. Now, one thing is that this shows much better taste than Ridley Scott demonstrated in Prometheus but another thing is that by refraining from turning the entire movie into a visual bloodbath, the scene where the alien bursts out of Kane’s chest has far more impact than it would otherwise. It is a different type of minimalism than what I discussed in the previous paragraph but it’s another way in which this film works so well.

Pacing

This film should be used as a textbook on pacing. It hits all the right notes with me. I like the way the film is divided so clearly into two halves – the build-up and what follows. I’m also a firm believer that no matter how long a movie is, it’s always good if something dramatic is happening around the one hour mark and that just so happens to be when the alien is born, things hit the fan and the film changes gear completely. Some people say they find the first hour slow but I don’t. I like the feeling of discovery at the beginning of the film. I like getting to know the characters, I like the way in which you are given time to feel their isolation and see the strain that they are all under. You could have a rushed first half in order to quickly get to the alien but I believe you’d lose a lot in doing so. I believe the second half works so well because it’s so well set up and the slower pace of the beginning of the film contrasts so brilliantly with Ripley’s mad rush to get off the ship before it self-destructs. At the start, it seems time is something that everyone has in a far greater quantity than they'd like. Months of cryosleep. Months before they can eat decent food. Months before they can get off the ship and enjoy a few days of normality. Then at the end of the movie, it seems there isn’t anywhere near enough time and every last second is precious. It’s tense. It’s brilliant and it makes for one hair-raising finale.

And if you put all these things together, then I think it is no wonder Alien is so highly regarded. So, what is it you love about Alien?
 

TheTomG

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Agree with all of the above, and it's the only film in the series to hit all those points. Aliens is a fine action movie, but that's a different beast altogether, and the alien itself loses its impact once mown down in the tens or the hundreds.

Anyway, the other thing I like about Alien is the realism. The environments strike me as much more what it would be like on a spaceship than most of the wonderful, spacious, squeaky clean ships we so often see. Similarly, the fact that it's boring work adds to that realism - no plying the stars with a new adventure every 5 minutes. Just tedious slog.

All that I think is what helps its immersion. This is a world you can relate to - if you work on a ship, an oil rig, in a submarine, down a mine, this is you. This is what your work is ALREADY like.

Same with the people, these are not gung-ho heroes, no typical movie stereotypes. These are "just people" and I think that also helps us relate, and so helps us really join them in their dreadful situation.

And of course the alien itself, a wonderful piece of horror design. At once beautiful and appalling, elegant and demonic, sexual and predatory, organic and mechanic. It remains one of the few things I have occasional nightmares about (well, they're not really nightmares in a sense as the dreams don't terrify me as such, but they are dramatic!) and I think the design does an excellent job of tapping into several parts of the human psyche. Kudos to Giger.

And then similar kudos to Ridley Scott for knowing how to use that design to maximum impact, marrying Giger's work to his use of light and shadow. Brilliant! (And when I watch Prometheus, I think "How far the mighty have fallen.")

The other thing was the movie's bold step in redefining a genre, in moving away from both the sci-fi and the horror of the day, and doing something very different. None of the regular hooks that audiences could relate to, from the movies and TV series of the day. That was ambitious, and the movie stood out then - and still does now, many decades later.

Anyway, enough rambling. Had to say something though, since you asked, and it is one of my favorite movies of all time :)
 

Hamish Spiers

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Thanks for the welcome, I, Brian. It’s nice to be here. And TheTomG, I enjoyed your post.

Like you do, I also find Aliens to be an enjoyable action film but, as you say, the titular monsters lose much of their ability to impress and frighten over the course of its running time. I believe their initial appearance where they ambush the marines is well-handled but too quickly, they become canon fodder and the danger they pose lies in their numbers as opposed to the threat they pose in and of themselves.

Actually, it’s also interesting that you mention Aliens for another reason and that is that it makes a good basis of comparison for pacing. There are unnecessary scenes – the nightmare sequence comes readily to mind – that only add to the sequel’s comparatively bloated running time and a finale that drags on somewhat too long - at least from my point of view.

Another reason I prefer Alien to Aliens is that it is more original. For all its spectacle, the sequel brings little new to the table. We have another character attempting to acquire an alien at any cost and we have a finale that copies the original almost scene for scene, replacing the cat with a little girl, the ship that is about to explode with a planetary installation, the lifeboat from the Nostromo with the Sulaco and, of course, an alien with an alien queen. Actually, the queen was almost necessary from a narrative standpoint due to the diminished status of the other aliens. Anyway, the final act of Aliens is Alien all over again but bigger and louder. It exemplifies something endemic to many movie sequels in that way.

But I digress. To return to the original movie once more, I agree with everything you said in your post regarding the way in which the tediousness of shipboard life aboard the Nostromo adds to the realism, which in turn adds to the sense of immersion. And you touched on another interesting aspect of the movie in your post as well with your point about the characters being regular people and that is that we as the audience feel for them much more when they are thrust into their ordeal.

And of course, the design of the monster is breathtaking, frightening but beautiful at the same time. It is wonderful how well it conceals itself in the componentry of the ship, almost as if it were designed for that environment. And the way it strikes out from the shadows in brief flashes, allowing you to see it only in glimpses until the very end of the movie, has an interesting effect on the senses. Throughout the film, it is largely your imagination that gives it its form. And in all the subsequent movies and cross-over movies related to Alien, I like the original design best.
 

J Riff

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They came in over budget, even had to use the test shot in a couple spots. Not showing the creature is certainly unusual these days, but Alien was a long time ago wasn't it... went to the theater to see it. Was impressed. Seeing it on TV with bits cut out and commercials wrecks it. Aliens was terrific too. But then...
 

Toby Frost

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Alien was about the first really grown-up film I ever saw, and probably the first film I realised was actually a good film rather than just fun. It's still about my favourite.

The realism of the crew and the Nostromo, coupled with the weirdness and magnificence of the Alien and the crashed spaceship, really astonished me. But what really threw me, more than any other scene, was the death of Ash. I remember watching it, not understanding what was going on, thinking "This is a nightmare". It wasn't like science fiction - it was as though the film had gone completely mad. Yaphet Kotto's explanation was a massive relief, in a strange way. Anyhow, my thirteen-year-old self ended up like the hero of an H.P. Lovecraft story, gawping at the TV in awe as the credits rolled.

Years later, I got the chance to see Alien on the big screen, during a festival in Luton. I hadn't realised how slow the film is: no pre-credit death to warm the audience up, no titillation or hint at what's to come, just seven people arguing about wages in a flying oil rig. Kids raised on stupider films muttered and wouldn't stay still, and I remembered why I don't really like cinemas (they're full of tossers who can't shut up).

But as the film went on, they got stiller and stiller, until the room was almost silent. At the end, as I got up, the kid in front of me looked at his friends and said "That was really f***ed up" in the tone of someone deeply impressed. Good.
 
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