Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Just finished up watching Alien, which I haven't seen all the way through in a very long time. One of the things that really struck me was that it's one of those movies that never spring to leap to mind when I think of my favorite movies. This is a mistake.
When I was in high school, I took a science fiction class with a good friend of mine. It was taught by a drunk and we read some of the most enlightening and disturbing things I've read to this day. Naturally, it quickly became one of my favorite classes. My English and writing teacher was pissed to see the tomes of sixties counterculture he'd lent me go rotting in my locker as I flew through Bradbury and Jerome Bixby and Frederic Brown* and Judith Merril**. Anyway, I remember learning the 12 or 14 major themes of Science Fiction in this class. I wish I could still remember or find it online or something, but it might well have been something of that teacher's creation. But this is another one of those movies in that "opens-on-a-spaceship-with-varied-crew-with-a-mission-in-front-of-it" category (my own name). I forgot about it in that post as well. huh. Anyway, this is the best possible scenario with that opening. The crew's different characteristics and personalities are established, as is some of the ship's technology and mission. All good here. But instead of this being my favorite part of the movie as usual, this is just exposition. Things are interesting, even a little wondrous. Then we're introduced to the aliens. They don't speak English. They don't vaporize everyone in sight, and they have no wildly impressive technology.
Yet somehow they remain among the most terrifying creations of the last century. And still it isn't overused. There are considerable production gaffes throughout the movie. But still, it tells such a great story and in such a great way that you're fine with overlooking them.
Maybe it's because the sequel was so much more popular during my adolescence. Maybe it's because people are so quick to proclaim Blade Runner to be Ridley Scott's definitive early work. Maybe it's because I think Gladiator is criminally overrated. But I've always felt that Alien doesn't always get its fair shake. and that's just wrong. The cast alone makes this one of the greatest films ever. Ian Holm in one of his greatest roles. Tom Skerritt! HARRY DEAN STANTON. You know what? I should just end it with that. If that guy can't sell you a movie I don't know what I'm wasting my breath for? Go watch Alien again, folks. If you haven't seen it in 5 years or twenty, it's worth checking out now, I promise. That is all.

*hey, why not read Brown's classic story "Arena" here. Or better yet, copy it, paste it into a word processor and format to the font and spacing scheme of your choosing, and then print it out. Hot Dog Fingers: Concerned about your vision since 2005.

** Unfortunately, I don't have a link to Merril's "That Only a Mother" to put here, but if you ever come across it, read it. It's super creepy and like 6 pages.

1 comment:

Eric D. Wilkinson said...

I would like to recommend to films you should see, both written by Jerome Bixby...

1) "It! The Terror From Beyond Space" - Many call this the inspiration for Ridley Scott's Alien

2) "The Man From Earth", Bixby's last screenplay which he completed on his death bed, which ironically deals with the issue of immortality. 10 years after his death, his final words were turned into a movie.

In the fairness of full disclosure, I did serve as producer for the movie "The Man From Earth", but none the less, it is still an amazing story.

Check both out if you can.