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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).

 

The Predator – Teaser Trailer

What is it with the Alien and Predator franchises?

It almost feels like they’re being deliberately sabotaged (few other things can explain why Ridley Scott is so intent on undermining a series he himself helped to create) by some really bizarre decisions on the part of the people directing them, and it’s a pity.

In the case of the Predator, the problems started with 1990’s Predator 2 (the great idea of a Predator movie in the vein of Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop undermined by Stephen Hopkins paint-by-numbers direction and a weak script) and have pretty much continued to varying degrees since that time.

Though I had assumed that the Predator franchise had bottomed out with 2007’s Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem.

And apparently I was wrong because despite being co-written and directed by the undeniably talented Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3) the upcoming The Predator looks to continue the time-honored idea of mixing lots of bad ideas with one or two half-decent ones.

For instance, the idea that the predators are using the DNA from the creatures on the planets they visit to make themselves even deadlier?  Great idea and probably the best addition to the franchise in many Hunter’s moons.

The idea that a little kid discovers a model (!?) of a Predator craft that somehow manages to (apparently) control an actual Predator spacecraft!?

Dumb beyond belief (on the face of it, at any rate).

Then there’s the idea of the movie taking place in Small Town, U.S.A., an idea that didn’t do AVPR ANY favors, so why not do it again?

As I said earlier, Shane Black is a damn talented writer and director, but I get the feeling he’s screwed the pooch on this one.

Blade Runner 2049 – Trailer 2

The latest trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049–a pretty terrible title, by the way–a few hours ago and so far reminds me less of Ridley Scott’s original and more than Peter Hyams’ 2010 in that it appears to take the most important elements of the original (Harrison Ford, replicants, a neon-bright skyscraper, a whiff of conspiracy) and makes them more palatable for general audiences.

That was what 2010 did as well, namely taking Stanley Kubrick’s cold and analytical 2001: A Space Odyssey and preserving its themes and ideas, while recasting them in a way that–while still challenging–was more narratively traditional and just easier to like.

Alien: Covenant | Prologue: The Crossing – Trailer

I find this latest trailer for Ridley Scott’s upcoming Alien: Covenant particularly fascinating, though not necessarily for the reasons that I originally thought I would.

I found the idea that Shaw (Noomi Rapace) had initially reassembled David (Michael Fassbinder) somewhat troubling, especially when you take into account the chaos that he had a hand in initiating–never mind the de-facto murder of Halloway (Logan Marshall-Green) though it’s not apparent that Shaw realizes that David was behind that.

Though it actually makes sense that she would repair David because the likelihood is great that she could not pilot the ship alone, and besides the idea of traveling to an Alien–literally and figuratively–with a talking, disembodied head would probably NOT be a great idea.

Besides, Shaw has journeyed light-years across space on the strength of her faith; on the chance that she might meet the people who literally engineered the Human species.

Compared to the wonders she’d seen, and the terrors she’s survived, repairing David is almost a no-brainer.

Though what’s most interesting about the trailer is toward the end, when the ship arrives in the Engineer homeworld and David says: ‘Look on my works, you Mighty, and despair!’

That’s a line from Perry Bysshe Shelly’s Ozymandias and while it’s uncertain how David means it, seeing that the poem revolves around a found remnant of a fallen empire, it doesn’t look good for the Engineers.

Alien: Covenant – Meet Walter – Trailer

This is a fascinating trailer (and probably more interesting than any trailer has any right to be), so let’s start at the beginning.

First off, take a gander at this.  Why are they wearing these masks?  It certainly isn’t for reasons of protecting against the introduction of bacteria because they have so many large holes that they would defeat the purpose.

Though they do look especially cool.


And I think I might know a potential source that inspired them.  The ‘androids’ below are from an episode from Year Two of  Space:: 1999, One Moment of Humanity. 



Coincidence?  Maybe, maybe not.
Then there’s this which implies in the future AMD is not only doing WAY better than they currently are, but they may have even surpassed Intel, which is interesting for all sorts of reasons.

There there’s this, the logo of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.


Which remarkably similar to this…


Known as the Winged Sun, this iconic symbol from ancient Egypt is associated with divinity, royally and power and a fitting symbol for what is likely the most powerful corporation in the Alien universe.

And last but not least, there’s this…


From the trailer this looks like Walter (Michael Fassbender) is hanging with other synthetic people, but why are they all so…white?  It seems a rather odd omission when when you take into account that Ridley Scott himself has been accused of whitewashing (Exodus: Gods and Kings) and it would have certainly simple for him to include at least one person of color.

Ridley Scott Discovers Fountain of Youth is Made of People

While that title is a bit of hyperbole on my part it does capture Ridley Scott’s feeling about the Alien franchise pretty accurately because in 2014 he said that he was done with the Alien.

After all, Prometheus as originally written by Jon Spaiths was chock full of Alien goodness, though rewrites took care of those pesky xenomorphs (unless you count the proto-Alien, known as the Deacon, that appears at the end of the movie).

Flash-forward to early 2017, and Scott’s not only talking about Alien: Covenant, the sequel to Prometheus but that he’s so keen on the creature he was finished with just over two years prior that he’s willing to crank out sequels as long as people are willing to pay to see them.

And that’s an awesome thing because no one has a visual esthetic as keen as as Ridley Scott, though I am curious as to what changed his mind.

Part of me thugs that 20th Century Fox just pulled up with a massive truckload of money and dumped it at his door, but who knows.

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.

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