Monday, March 6, 2017

ALIEN (1979) The Best Movie Ever Made

Originally published on the Internet Movie Database as

It is impossible for me to write an objective review of ALIEN simply because I believe it is not just the best motion picture film ever made, but is a pinnacle of artistic expression that owes its debt to pretty much everything that came before it. The story was a cultural funnel into which it all flowed. The only thing it can be correctly compared to might be the original 1977 release of STAR WARS even though its objectives could not have been more different. It is the most thorough and convincing portrayal of the future ever committed to celluloid. Certainly more convincing than 2001: A SPACE ODDITY, which is too sterile and gleaming. The future will not look like a dentist's office.

The future will be ugly, loud and busy. It will be a retrofitted mess of the past, present and futuristic forms. Like a city which adapts to changing times by modernizing certain parts while still facilitating its old function with its crumbling old infrastructure. If you're curious to see what the future of commercial space travel may look like watch this film. Humans will come and go, we may be tooling about on space craft, we may be crossing vast distances of space, and yes: It stands to reason we will encounter life forms startlingly different than ourselves. Unless we are very lucky it is almost inevitable that like other creatures on this planet they will react to us with fear, hostility or aggression for primal reasons related to territoriality or survival. It is doubtful we will have much in common.

You would have gone back for Jones too. Anyone would have, and that's 
exactly why he is in the movie. Good keeety.

We won't meet these alien life forms by looking for them. We will come across them as we go about our human ways, pressing deeper into the universe while going about our mundane business on the surfaces of worlds never meant to accommodate warm blooded protein and sugar consuming bipedal air breathers. I doubt the aliens we do find will look like HR Giger's creations, but at least in Giger we finally had an artist's vision for a life form that is suitable for the vastness of space. It is infinitely adaptable, roughly taking the form of whatever creature it gestates inside of and born ready-made to thrive in whatever the host's native environment may be. It's a weapon — natural or engineered, doesn't matter — a DNA replicating machine which mimics its host creature so it may corrupt and devour it more efficiently. 

Yeah that's right. Get a real close look at that, dumbass. If it wasn't for this genius
the movie would be over and Jones the Cat could go curl up for ten months.

Here it takes the bastardized form of a man and effortlessly eliminates five human adults inside of 48 hours. It would have infected whatever biosphere it was introduced into, skillfully devouring, replicating, spawning and breeding until a critical mass is reached and all other forms of life in that biosphere would be eliminated in a survival of the fittest test with one inevitable outcome. The only way that its threat would be believable and frightening is if the fictional universe the story takes place in is 100% convincing. ALIEN's is, boasting the most effective production design in the history of cinema, bested only by NASA's Apollo moon landing program. 

We believe in the universe it is set, the people who inhabit it, and the hardware they use to perform the tasks required by their mode of existence. If we were not thoroughly convinced the entire premise would fall like a house of cards. Ridley Scott, Dan O'cannon, Ron Shussett, Ron Cobb, Christopher Foss, H.R. Giger, John Mollo, Roger Dickens, Les Dilley, Brian Johnson, Jerry Goldsmith, Terry Rawlins, and the cast chosen to enact the story all collaborated seamlessly to produce a completely convincing facade telling a tightly plotted story about humans stumbling across an alien life form. Through duplicity and against protocol, the organism is allowed to infect the human biosphere within the Nostromo, and they inevitably discover that the only way to contain the outbreak to their ship is to destroy it. It is a perfect metaphor for the necessary evils of modern life.

The one scene from the movie that actually freaked me out. Good spewage, Hoss.

The film was successful and its dominance of the horror/action movie market spawned an outbreak of similarly themed films, some of which came close to replicating ALIEN's impact on our culture, but none really being able to introduce anything very useful to the premise. Queens laying eggs dumbs the creature down to familiar Terrestrial life patterns. I would prefer to think that the universe holds many surprises about how life thrives that aren't anything like the patterns we are comfortable with. The bug hunt in the first sequel is well done, but whatever success its offspring may have enjoyed all relate back to the singular vision and urgency behind the artistic quest that this film set out to resolve.

My ALIEN collection, dating back to 1979. I was 12 years old when the film came out
and did not even get to see it until an edited ABC broadcast in 1983. By then I already 
knew it by heart from these books. Big one in the middle tells the story in Fotonovel
form with stills of the movie. Would listen to the soundtrack casette & read along.
Missing is the 14 inch Kenner Alien action figure which mom gave away when I  went
off to college  ;[ 

It does so in ways that go beyond the impact of individual scenes. Every film of its kind made since has been influenced by ALIEN in one way or another, and that influence will continue for as long as humans make films. Nobody will ever be able to "undo" its contributions, negate them from our society's palette. You can mix in Predators or A list casts with super-real computer effects, but it will always come back to this film and the startling possibilities it suggested. If it hadn't been done so well we wouldn't still be talking about it, proof that they really did get it right We have only just begun to explore what forms the possibilities suggested by ALIEN may take, and someone someday will get it just as right in their own era's equivalent. 

I hope I'm around to see that happen, maybe even have a hand in making it. Who knows.


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