Sometimes the Scariest Things Come from Within
Among iconic, memorable film moments, a baby alien bursting from John Hurt’s chest is close to the top of the list. And yet, yesterday morning, I hadn’t seen anything before or after that scene. Why would someone do that to such an acclaimed British actor? I would wonder. Did they put it in his food? Does that make him a father? Mazel tov, John Hurt! Last night, I decided the ignorance had to stop. As a film buff, I had to watch this classic sci-fi that has garnered so many fans and remakes. And as a feminist, I had to see Ellen Ripley in action.
In Alien, the crew of a civilian utilitarian space ship brings aboard a vicious extraterrestrial born of ‘Facehugger’ and John Hurt. It’s basically the scariest thing ever, with three sets of fangs, ginormous talons, and steel-corroding acid for blood. Knowing this going in, I expected something somewhat different that what I got.
The film was slower than I thought it would be. There was plenty running through the ship with flamethrowers and people dying bloodily, but there were also interludes of heavy conversation and typing on “Mother,” the ship’s computer and sole connection to their employer, “The Company.” It was also much more artistic than I expected, like in the first scene when the ship’s crew is slowly awaking from their sedation, and the set design and the actor’s movements make the process look oddly graceful. Likewise, the last scene shows Ripley in pod, under frosted glass, sleeping serenely.
I did not like the film on the first viewing because I was expecting a high concept alien movie (much like its more recent sequels), and I got a hybrid of highly artistic and high adrenaline. It makes me want to watch it again with this in mind, and it gives me infinitely more respect for director Ridley Scott. The ability to mesh two drastically different tones is rare.
Like I said, one of the major reasons I chose Alien for this week was to experience Ellen Ripley for myself, and I got exactly what I’d expected. Sigourney Weaver’s character broke stereotypes, changed the genre of science fiction and paved the way for Starbuck, Buffy, Katniss Everdeen, and Arya Stark, among others. She is tough, smart, and respected by her co-crewmembers. She shows fear throughout the movie, but also the courage to put that fear aside for the sake of the ship. Its no wonder why she has been known as one of the greatest female film characters the movie came out in 1979. I would continue my education with Aliens solely to see what happens to her.
All in all, Alien is one of the most unique films I’ve ever seen, and I don’t say that willy-nilly. The combination of Ridley Scott’s direction, Ripley’s all around badass-ness, and other story choices make it singular in its genre, especially at the time it was made. I’m am glad to have seen it and excited to watch it again, so I can appreciate it even more.
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