The movie which forever changed the sci-fi genre, taking elements from past monster movies, going against the spotless visuals of 2001 to create a new vision of the future, and one of the most atmospheric movies ever. Rarely does this genre produce a film which inspires acclaim from both fans and critics, but Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic does just that, beginning a famous franchise, story, character and monster, and spawning many inferior clones.
Some time in the future, mankind has the capability of effective space travel, with many planets holding outposts. We are introduced to a crew of miners who work for an all-powerful Foundation, and are returning home on their massive ship- the ‘Nostromo’, after a long period of work. The crew are Dallas-in charge, Parker and Brett-mechanics, Ash-doctor, and Ripley, Lambert and Kane. However, they have been awakened from hyper-sleep early, by it seems an SOS signal. They discuss what to do, eventually deciding that they must investigate. They follow the call to a planet, and Kane, Dallas and Lambert go outside for a closer look. After discovering what appears to be a crashed ship of unknown origin, some sort of organism attaches itself to Kane’s face. Tension grows as they try to take the creature off, but eventually it goes by itself, and dies. Kane wakes and seems to be OK. Soon though, things turn nasty, and a creature is lose on the ship. The remaining crew members try to find it and kill it, but it has grown, and is violently hungry.
Alien works primarily because of three factors; 1. The performances are all immaculate, with some actors giving career bests. Weaver is immensely strong coming to movies from the stage, the veterans all take it seriously even though it first appeared to be a silly scary movie, Holm is extremely good as Ash etc. 2. Scott’s taut direction adds an edge to the script, his stunning visual style giving the sense of isolation and fear perfectly, the lighting is effective, everything is wonderfully detailed, and he knows that less is more when it comes to showing the monster. 3. Geiger’s creature is terrifying, and one of the best monsters ever made, beautiful, sultry, horrifying, mysterious, mechanical and deadly, everything a predator, and a monster should be. The story itself is strong, but it is these three factors which raise it from B-movie status, as well as some truly memorable scenes-The chest burster, Dallas in the tunnels, Ripley’s final encounter, and Ash’s revelation. The film is incredibly intelligent at a time when sci-fi movies were taking over, and it is one of the few which still remains powerful today. Everything about the film is near-faultless, but perhaps it suffers slightly from being too detached or cold. This is a minor complaint clearly. The set designs, the creation of the Alien and the face hugger are all realistic in the sense that we believe these things could conceivably exist. It is definitely the stuff of nightmares, an unseen foe stalking us, seemingly without weakness or emotion, its single motive to kill us. The recent director’s cut shown in cinemas proved that the movie can still excite audiences, even those who have seen it several times, and there were certainly screams as I watched.
This DVD is available at a great price, and is littered with every sort of feature you could possibly want. The new version is also worth buying, but only if you are a big fan.
Feel free as always to comment on the review and anything you disagree with- is this still the best monster in space film? Where would you rank this in the series?