Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall, Guy Pearce
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Alien is a perfect movie.
There’s no way to get around it. From stem to stern it just is. These kind of movies (the perfect ones) cannot be planned and, while a lot of hard work goes into them they are not the result of hard work. I know that is an odd sounding statement but the fact of the matter is there are many films that were harder to make than Alien and only a handful of those even approached the impact that Ridley Scott’s masterpiece had on audiences around the world.
No, movies like Alien are the result of the kind of random circumstances under which alchemy takes place. The right director, the right script, the right cast, the right work ethic, and just enough adversity to keep people’s feet to the fire without being so suffocating that it stifles creativity. These aren’t the kind of conditions that can be created, they can only be striven for and that’s the point. Perfection should never be attainable, at least not consciously. It should be something you realize you attained years afterwards with a feeling of remorse, wishing you had known then just how cool what you were doing was.
Then in Aliens they did it again.
Not since Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back has genre fiction had such a potent one two punch. Even with Raiders of the lost Arc Vs. Temple of Doom there’s a general consensus that the first one was the best. But with Alien vs. Aliens, each film has their camp and each camp has their points.
But, sadly, it’s all Aliens‘s fault. if Aliens had failed then the series would have died, or at the very least remained dormant for decades until the half assed remake got made sometime around last Wednesday. But when Aliens showed that not only could a sequel work but a sequel could feel like an equal then, well, suddenly another film was necessary. And when that other film didn’t work another one was necessary to clean up the mess of the last film. And then, well, by then even if the movies weren’t any good they had to keep making them simply due to the cinematic version of reflex memory “we haven’t made an Alien movie for a while. What can we do with them this time?”
And it turned into a complete fucking mess. Even if you pretend that the third and fourth movie didn’t take place, you’ve still got the god damned Aliens vs. Predator series which could have been like The Avengers but ended up being The stupid mother fucking Cash Grab that you actually lined up for at midnight. Congrats for that. No one cared anymore. The Alien creature wasn’t scary and a new generation of film goers only knew it existed because the generation before them couldn’t let go.
Then, suddenly, the news came. Ridley Scott. Ridley…mother fucking…Scott was making a film called Prometheus and he swore it wasn’t a prequel to Alien. But the fact that he swore it wasn’t a prequel to Alien before anyone had asked the question “Hey, is that a prequel to Alien?” gave us all hope that the film was, in fact, a prequel to Alien. Then the first couple images came out and the filmmakers still said “This is not a prequel to Alien“ despite the fact that they were showing images from the ship from Alien. Which ship? The one that started it all. The one that the crew of the Nostromo discovered, where the eggs were, where the space jockey was, and where the imagery of H.R. Giger went from stoner coffee tables to the general consciousness.
We were hopeful, but it was still such an abstract concept that we weren’t ready to say we were excited about it. After all, when’s the last time Ridley Scott made a truly excellent movie? I’m sorry, he’s a legend and all and you’d be hard pressed to find someone with a more impressive resume than him but his last few outings (Body of Lies, Robin Hood) haven’t exactly been inspiring.
Then the trailer came.
Have you ever gone to an art gallery thinking you’d get nothing out of it and then realized that A: you understand art and B: you want to be smothered in it until you don’t know which way is up? That was how I felt when I saw the Prometheus teaser trailer. I watched that visual masterpiece so many times that even my laptop was putting together theories on what the premise was. The music, the lack of voice over, the god damned visuals.
There’s a reason that about eight hundred other movies now have Prometheus style trailers on youtube. I can’t think of a trailer that made me feel so much…hope. And it also left absolutely no doubt, no matter what Sir Ridley and his friends were saying, this WAS a prequel to Alien. And Ridley was going to save his series.
But there was still the nagging doubt. it couldn’t be this simple. Everything leading up to this movie was promising perfection but, as we’ve established, perfection cannot be manufactured. It happens when it wants to, sometimes due to effort, some times due to luck, never because of a specific invitation. And so, while we all drooled we all still felt that tinge of worry. Yes, we will see this film, but we’ve touched too many hot stoves to take your word for it. And the more amazing it all seemed, the more visuals came out, the more worried we became. It got to the point where you could probably hear fanboys chanting from space…
Please don’t suck please don’t suck please don’t suck.
I saw this movie right before a long shift at work. It was an early screening and a fairly uncrowded one. I brought a lunch as I’m want to do (no one’s kicked me out of a theatre for eating a peanut butter sandwich during the previews yet) and I settled in. And despite all my worries I was smiling ear to ear. I was about to watch a new Alien movie directed by Ridley Scott. I was going to do this in a theatre. It was happening. The world was an okay place.
So how did it go?
Well, sadly my issues with the film are absolutely identical to everyone else’s. Yes, it’s a visual masterpiece, but there’s just too many plot holes and unanswered questions to call it a great film. And honestly, the further I get away from it the less impressed with it I am.
MASSIVE SPOILERS: YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!
A ship is sent into deep space to explore what looks like an invitation from an Alien race. It is assumed that this race is the one responsible for creating human beings. There is no reason for this assumption. The movie needs it to happen so it does.
The scientists arrive and discover the first ever evidence of another race. They discover actual Alien bodies. They discover these bodies have human DNA. They discover that the Aliens were under attack from the very weapons they were creating (weapons that would eventually become our ever familiar chest bursting buddies). However, one of the scientist is totally depressed. Why? Because he wanted to talk to the aliens and he can’t, seeing as how their dead and all. Um…seriously? You’ve just made the greatest scientific discovery since the wheel and you’re still not happy? Or right, you’re not allowed to be happy because the movie needs you to be sad so you are.
There’s an android that is quasi evil and, when he finds some Alien DNA he poisons a human with it. He does this as if he knows what it does, despite the fact that it’s revealed later that he had no clue what it did, or what it was, or, well, anything. But still, for that portion of the movie he seemed to know all. Why? because the movie needed him to do that so he did it.
Also the aliens apparently wanted to destroy humanity. The humanity that they created. Ridley Scott has explained in an interview why it was that this race wanted to kill us after having created us. It is because we had strayed morally and they made the decision to correct their mistake. Hey, that’s interesting. You know what would have been more interesting? Making that even remotely apparent in the movie!!!! You see there is not a single moment in which a reason is given for this alien race to hate us. Again, there’s not even a moment when it’s proven that they made us. The only reasoning seems to be that they need to be threatening in order to…well…you’re probably catching on now. The movie needed them to be threatening so they were.
But despite my reservations I can’t say “don’t see this movie.” There’s just too much amazing stuff in this for me to say circle around it. I’m not just talking about amazing visuals, or performances, or dialogue or scary scenes. I’m talking about the whole package. This has almost all the necessary elements of a good movie. Even now as I think of all the frustrating narrative flaws I’m also thinking about Noomi Repace’s character having to perform surgery on herself to remove an unexpected visitor, or Charlize Theron and Idris Elba having one of the more entertaining on screen flirtations I’ve seen in a while, or Michael Fassbender’s android cringing almost imperceptibly as his creator explains that he has no soul. I can’t say this is a bad movie, it’s just an incredibly frustrating good one.
So where does that leave me and my love for Alien? Well, here’s where I’m at. Prometheus is an incredibly flawed film that deserves an audience.
This is not the prequel to Alien.
And it’s not a non-prequel because Ridley said so or because of slight changes to the continuity. This is not a prequel because it’s my damned blog and I say that it’s not a prequel. There are two Alien movies, the original and Aliens. Anything else is just fan fiction with a budget. Thanks to Prometheus I have accepted this as a fact.
Jeez, maybe that means that Ridley did save his series. Just not in the way we expected.
That’s all for now, tune in soon for a massive bout of catch up with review of Hysteria, Marley, and Madagascar 3.