Sunday, May 27, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Alien (1979) ****

R, 117 min.
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Starring: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Bolaji Badejo

I’m wondering if a movie like “Alien” could ever be made again. 20th Century Fox greenlit the project in 1978 because after the success of “Star Wars” every studio had to have a space movie in production. However, “Alien” is about as far from “Star Wars” as it is from “The Great Gatsby”. Its horror foundations wouldn’t be enough to get it made today either, because there is so much more than a horror movie going on here.

We get all the space terminology like “vectors” and “sectors”, and a computer named “Mother” that dictates orders to the crew of the mining ship the Nostromo, but that crew is nothing like the Buck Rogers space travelers we’re used to. They’re blue-collar working stiffs. They discuss bonuses and benefits and getting the job done so they can go home. They bicker amongst themselves and enjoy a good meal, even when it’s not so good. These are people we see every day, at the mercy of their lives, the people they work for, and just about everything but their own free will. That’s the space story director Ridley Scott wanted to tell, not one of heroics and good versus evil. Does that sound like something that would sell today?

Next month Scott returns to the science fiction genre for the first time since his follow up to “Alien”, another movie that couldn’t be made today the way he made it, “Blade Runner”. “Prometheus” was kept under pretty secretive wraps until just the last few weeks. It was unsure as to whether it was a prequel to “Alien” or a story that just took place in a similar universe. Since the trailers were finally released, it’s become fairly clear that it is an outright prequel to the “Alien” saga.

With the industry changed as it has in the past thirty years, however, I still wonder whether Scott can deliver a film that in any way resembles his original “Alien”. Scott, himself, has changed immensely as a filmmaker. While the themes of “Alien” are as relevant today as they were when the 70s made way for the 80s, I wonder if Scott is interested in exploring the same themes or is he going to take the story in an entirely different direction. Not to mention the fact that when James Cameron made the sequel “Aliens” in 1986, he drastically redefined the way we saw Scott’s future universe. “Prometheus” is the film I am most excited for this summer and the one I worry most will be a disappointment. 

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