Revisiting Alien

Screenshot 2018-06-02 23.00.41In preparation for a video on the Screenphiles Youtube channel, I re-watched Ridley Scott’s Alien (the 2003 Director’s Cut, which adds a few scenes not in the theatrical version) and doing so reminded me of a colloquialism, namely you can never go home again because not only is it overrated, it’s also a bit silly in places.

And I fully admit to being impressed by the movie at the time, but it doesn’t wear particularly well.

We see earlier, when the exploratory party encounter the derelict and the ‘Space Jockey‘ that something exploded outward from it’s chest.

We know this because Dallas (Tom Skerritt)  comments that bones were visible, which directly contradicts most of what we see in 2012’s Prometheus, which claimed that the Space Jockey was wearing some sort of space suit.

And speaking of the Space Jockey, in Alien it’s literally three or four times the size of a regular human, while in Prometheus the Engineers are not significantly larger than an ordinary person.

Which makes me wonder:  Did Ridley Scott think that no one would view earlier films in the series?  Has he ever heard of ‘forced perspective?’  Why make changes that contradict what came before?

For instance, when Ash (Ian Holm) and Dallas examined Kane (John Hurt), didn’t anyone notice that a parasite had taken up residency in his stomach?

It’s a really irritating point and one could take the perspective that maybe Ash was altering the medical information, except for the fact that the movie–which implies throughout that he’s not to be trusted–not only doesn’t explicitly show that happening but shows that Mother–the ship’s computer–is working with him, so there is no need for him to do so.

A running theme through the Alien movies is that the ‘Company,’–Weyland Yutani–wanted the alien for the bio-weapons division, but nothing in the movie actually establishes that.  Originally it’s a theory offered by Ripley as to why Ash allowed Kane abroad the ship in the first place, and it’s a good explanation as any but never verified as fact (though I think it was mentioned in Alien 3 as well).

Alien is a trailblazing movie and an almost perfect synthesis of a British esthetic and an American big-budget thriller.  It’s a well done, at times clever movie but it doesn’t hold up particularly well (which ironically has more to do with Ridley Scott’s more recent efforts that the movie in and of itself).

 

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Alien: Covenant – Trailer 2

Don’t get me wrong, the latest trailer for Alien: Covenant looks pretty good–after all, it’s directed by Ridley Scott, so it goes without saying that cinematographically-speaking it’s going to be gorgeous.

What bothers me a bit though is that it doesn’t seem to be doing anything particularly new.

Out the box we get colonists, shots of a spaceship entering an atmosphere that look like outtakes from Prometheus (as I said, it’s gorgeous, but derivative), and hints that the while the colonists may check in to the new planet, most of them won’t definitely be checking out.

And what looks like a potential missed opportunity is that I smell not a whiff of the corporate malfeasance that permeated the two best movies in the series (Alien and Aliens) like a pair of smelly gym sneakers.

And that’s not to say that it isn’t present, but I’m missing the aspects of the movie that implies that, as deadly as the xenomorphs are, humans are deadlier and often our own worse enemies.

Upholding The Covenant

Today 20th Century Fox released a teaser poster for Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant and the xenomorph is (apparently) once again the star of the show. 

Which is very odd because Scott originally wanted nothing more to do with the Alien universe, which at least partially explains why Damon Lindelhof’s rewrite of Joh Spaiths’ original screenplay exorcised virtually all hints of them from Prometheus

And yet it doesn’t because for someone not interested in dealing with Aliens, he certainly included a lot of the elements of their mythology, such as Weyland-Yutani, a variation of the Facehugger and what can only be called a proto-Alien. 

Weird choices, though maybe they’re an indication that Scott took less of an issue with the universe of Alien than the Alien itself. 

Which isn’t what I’d call a good sign, especially since he’s apparently leading with them.  

Passengers – Official Trailer

Screenshot 2016-09-20 16.39.34.pngVisually, Morten Tyldum’s Passengers holds a huge debt to Pixar’s Wall-E, Danny Boyle’s Sunshine and Apple’s design esthetic.

In other words, it’s attractive, but doesn’t appear to strike any new ground.

The same thing can be said of the story, which revolves around two people who accidentally emerge from suspended animation 90 years too (or was it?), and eventually fall in love.

As I said, it’s nothing new.

Though it’s welcome that Jon Spaiths wrote the screenplay (Prometheus–before Damon Lindelhof came in and purged it of direct connections to the Alien movies and Marvel Studios’ upcoming Doctor Strange) so there’s perhaps the hope of a mystery (which is at least hinted at) to balance Lawrence and Pratt looking all starry eyed at each other for over an hour.

What Is Going On With Ridley Scott And Prometheus?

Color me confused, but what’s going on with Ridley Scott and Prometheus?  As far as I could tell, he did all he could to distance the movie from Alienthe original screenplay by Jon Spaihts was called Alien: Engineers (click on the link to read) was firmly entrenched in the Alien universe, while the re-write by Damon Lindelhof was significantly less so in that it involved the personalities and architecture of Alien without actual Aliens (the photo-Alien at the end not withstanding).

So imagine my surprise when I saw this (courtesy of Comicbookmovie.com):

Alien: Paradise Lost.

From seeming not interesting in playing in the Alien sandbox, to diving in up to his neck, I am not sure if this is a good thing for the franchise.  Visually, Scott is a very talented director–with perhaps one of the most distinctive visual styles today–but this odd indecisiveness (I know of nothing else to call it) is a bit disturbing.

The Martian – Trailer

It may have just been me, but looking at the trailer for Ridley Scott’s The Martian the first thing that came to mind was another Scott movie, Prometheus, which features a silica storm that looks just like the one featured in this movie.

Though I am assuming that they producers are going less for hard-core science fiction more than an enhanced reality, like in the case of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, which coupled a realistic premise with a not-quite-realistic action.

I am also wondering how it is that there’s a dust storm on Mars?  There’s no air, nor an atmosphere for it to exist in, so what’s blowing the sand about?  I am not a scientist of any sort, but it reads a bit odd (according to Universetoday, there’s actually air on Mars, though I assume that it’s just it’s too thin to breathe.

It’s fascinating in that its storms are caused primarily by sunlight, which causes the air to move, lifting dust from the Martian surface into the air.

Tomorrowland – Trailer 3

Looking at the latest trailer for Brad Bird‘s Tomorrowland, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) and Frank Walker (George Clooney) are either running from robots, or I’m watching the trailer for  what’s quite possibly the most violent Disney movie ever made.

In fact, there’s a scene that’s eerily reminiscent of another movie that probably won’t be confused with anything from The House of Mouse

Which is why I’m reasonably comfortable in saying that those are robots chasing them, not humans (you can get away with destroying robots in movies because their representation in Hollywood hasn’t yet evolved to the levels of other traditionally maligned groups).

I am also trying not to feel a bit dismayed that Damon Lindelhof is involved with the movie, since he had way too much to do with how mediocre Prometheus ended up being.