Wednesday, September 21, 2005

On Space (Where, I'm told, no one can hear you scream)

Alien is a genius film that by all rights should be an absolute pile of crap.

It's a B-movie monster flick, originally called Star Beast. Even Dan O'Bannon, the script-writer, admits that he didn't really bother fleshing out the characters much. But instead of insipid duffness, we got something else completely.

Firstly, the film is damned slow. And it works brilliantly because of it. No slam-bang fast cut action here. The tension throughout is unbearable. The cast is absolutely brilliant; Ian Holm and John Hurt in a film together? Fantastic. I would have loved to have seen it without knowing what it was about. Christ, imagine watching it with no idea about facehuggers or chestbursters. I mean, you'd expect Tom Skerrit's Captain Dallas to be the hero, only for him to be the alien's second meal. Not to mention Giger's nightmare designs, easily the most disturbing creatues created for the movies. Entire sets built from bones, insects and glistening alien wing-wong.

The dialogue should suck. And I think that really, on the page, it does. There's an exchange between Ash and Ripley where he goes on about his reasons for letting an infected crewmember back aboard the ship. If you listen to the words, and if you imagine them spoken by, I don't know, Will Ferrell and Angelina Jolie (who'd probably be cast these days) then it really, really wouldn't work. But they're delivered so naturally, in that 70s realist style with people talking over each other, stuttering, etc., that you buy it completely.

Brilliance aside, what the hell is going on at the end? Why was it essential for Ripley to wander around in her underwear, showing serious builder's crack? Well, suits the blue collar truckers-in-space vibe, I suppose. Honestly, if I were King of the World, I'd make it law that every film with a gratuitous titilation shot would have to even it out with a testicle sequence. That's right, in McEvoyworld there'd be a whole lot more manberries in movies.

Why is the alien taking a nap? And if it's such a devestating hunting machine, how come Ripley hasn't woken it up with her whimpering? Why does Ripley think hiding in the wardrobe is going to work? For that matter, why does hiding in the wardrobe work?

I've got to admit one thing though. Unlike in most movies, I'm sort of glad that Jones the cat makes it.


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