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02 February 2013 @ 08:32 pm
Review: ALIEN, part III of III  
Alien

Scene 65: In control, Ripley can hear Parker and Lambert in the background. She tries to coax Jonesy into not getting them all killed, rather than keeping her eye on the survival prize.

Kitty-kitty plays with Ripley, ratcheting up her nerves and wondering what is taking his friend, ALIEN, so long to get up there and kill her. With ALIEN somewhere else, Jonesy plays a bit more with Ripley by giving her a jump-scare. She reacts wonderfully. Jones enjoys her terror.

Jones allows himself to be cuddled, but then grows less pleased as he's unexpectedly dumped into the cat-carrier. It growls for ALIEN assistance.


Scene 66: But ALIEN being isn't able to help Jones, right now. It has made its way to where Lambert and Parker are making enough noise for four people.

We see a flashlight beaming on Lambert as a shadow comes into view. She doesn't take notice at first, until she spins to toss another bottle across the deck for stacking in a few minutes. She suddenly reacts with a look of undiluted terror.

Nearby Parker has also heard the ALIEN slithering and watches Lambert being menaced. The ALIEN is between them, making the flame thrower risky.


Scene 67: In control, Ripley hears the growing panic from Parker as he yells at Lambert to move out of the way.

Lambert, of course, is too afraid to do anything but stand there whimpering and waiting to be killed. Ripley is forced to hear all of this without being able to do anything to help.


Scene 68: In the hold, the ALIEN stands up over the frozen, crying Lambert and Parker pleads with her to make a run for it. Parker, unwilling to shoot the flame thrower at Lambert to get the ALIEN dives for it instead to try to give her time to get away. It is a foolishly brave thing to do and it gets him what foolishly brave men get: Dead.

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The ALIEN snatches him from the air with quick reflexes and drives its nails into his throat, all while Lambert remains fixed in place and screaming/whimpering.

We close in on the ALIEN stretching its jaws as Parker yells....

Throughout this, Ripley is dashing down corridors toward the hold with all of this over the intercom system, hoping she can get there in time.

We see the ALIEN take a chunk out of Parker as he uses his final breath to shout at Lambert to move. She doesn't. His heroics are wasted. I'm deeply saddened and angered.


Scene 69: The ALIEN calmly stalks back up to the frozen Lambert and winds its prehensile and hooked tail behind her and up between her legs as she huffs and gasps for air and whimpers and cries and doesn't run or fight back in any way.

Ripley continues hearing her last moments, now that Parker is silent.

We hear over the intercom as Lambert hyperventilates and then gives a last sudden scream.


Commentary: And this is one of the scenes I mentioned during my Scene 57 comments. The implication is clear that the ALIEN used its barbed tail to impale Lambert up through her vagina before killing her. WHY? There is no reason for this to be here, really. Yes, okay, it does play with the theme of the ALIEN's attacks starting with Kane being like rape, but we don't need it here and we especially don't need it when we have not seen Dallas, Brett or Parker in a situation implying the same sort of attack strategy. Lambert, being woman, naturally gets the pointed object of death shoved up her woman parts and that seems to be enough for Scott -- It isn't for me. This does feel like the entire attack is designed to hurt her for being a woman before killing her, rather than just puncturing her head with the inner jaw in the same way that Brett, Parker and presumably Dallas were killed. It's ... mean spirited toward her in a way not included in the attacks on the men, despite Kane's pregnancy/birth scene. I find this more pointed in a subtextual way that is more unpleasant than the story horror of being slaughtered by a monster in the dark, and I don't appreciate it. If we were going to include this continued subtext of sexual violence, then it should have included one of our male participants being menaced in this exact way. They'd already given us the oral rape of Kane, so why not the implication of anal rape of Brett if this is really where they were going to go?

I object to this attack on Lambert because I can't help but feel that the only reason that tail bit was in there was because she was the female victim.



Scene 70: Ripley drops the container holding Jones and continues with her flame unit to the storage area where she calls for Parker and Lambert, even though the odds are long that either of them would be in any condition to answer. She sees the aftermath of their deaths and retreats.


Scene 71: Running to the reactor room, Ripley engages the self-destruct sequence (and it's a realistically complicated affair -- no simple verbal commands for the ship to blow and kill everyone, here). With the sequence engaged, MOTHER issues warning sirens and flashing lights and a verbal warning that the crew have 10 minutes to eject before they're... well... ejected by other means. We're further warned that the ability to override the destruct sequence will expire in 5 minutes.

Ripley takes off through steam pipes venting coolant toward the shuttle [yeah -- the ship forces you to run a gamut through poisonous coolant gasses to make it to the shuttle after you've engaged its destruction; apparently some engineers felt it only fair she have the chance to kill you for killing her].

Ripley makes it back to Jones' carrying case and proceeds toward the shuttle, scared to death that the ALIEN could be around any corner.

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Scene 72: And, she's right to be concerned. Between herself and the shuttle she does see the ALIEN which detects her peaking around the corner at it. She drops Jones and moves with excruciating slowness away from the corridor as we see the ALIEN slowly round into view!

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Commentary: This scene is wonderful too for the sudden startle and the tension as Ripley doesn't effing run nearly as fast as we are screaming at her too. Plus, we're seeing more of the ALIEN design now, and it looks remarkable and horrifying for being a man in a suit. They did a fantastic job of bringing this creation to life.


While Ripley is running for her life, the ALIEN communes with Jonesy.


Scene 73: Having had to retreat, Ripley makes her way back to the engine room to stop the auto-destruct sequence. But we can hear MOTHER counting down and with less than a minute to go, it doesn't seem like Ripley could have enough time left to call the whole thing off.

Which is correct... by about 5 seconds, she's too late. She insists to MOTHER that she's turned the engine coolant back on, but MOTHER ignores her. Ripley angrily calls her a bitch and trashes an engineering console before deciding the only thing left to do is return to the corridor toward the escape shuttle and hope that the ALIEN isn't there to butcher her.


Scene 74: Ripley does return to the corridor safely, where Jones is suspiciously fine in his carrier case and the ALIEN is nowhere to be found.

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She takes Jones and makes her way to the waiting shuttle... still far too nerve-wrackingly slowly despite the ALIEN danger considering that the ship is on a short countdown to oblivion.


Commentary: I always get a good laugh at the way Ripley tumbles Jonesy's carrier around in this scene. The cat is being tumbled about like he's in a dryer (or like he's not actually in the carrier at all for this scene).

But, what I want to comment on here is one of the alternate scenes that was to show us what happened to Dallas and Brett. As originally planned, neither of the men were killed immediately. Instead, Ripley was to find Dallas conscious but cocooned to a wall with Brett [an ideal we'll see in ALIENS]. As planned, Dallas would inform Ripley that the ALIEN is actually altering them into changing into eggs themselves to birth another facehugger, with Brett already nearly through the transformation. He would beg her to kill him, and she would with the flame thrower [we'll also see this 'beg for death, get burned' in ALIENS and ALIEN RESURRECTION]. I'm glad that this was dropped, as I like that we don't see what became of the bodies of Brett and Dallas -- presumably they were consumed for nourishment, but I'm also glad because it left the ALIEN's complete life cycle unexplored for ALIENS in which we get the awesome termite colony idea instead in which the ALIENS secrete resin and have a queen and feels like it makes more biological sense than it would have if this people-into-eggs idea had been carried through.



Scene 75: So, Ripley takes entirely too long to complete the shuttle prep and to finally blast off. But, she does so. And in a remarkably short amount of time for the distance she gains, the Nostromo goes boom in an overdone, overly inflated series of nuclear explosions that don't really look convincing for happening in outer space -- especially the wind noises and the buffeting of the shuttle from the blast... wind noises and buffeting in space. Yeah.

Now, we would expect the movie to be over and close to credits... but it doesn't. And the reason why is actually on screen in an easter egg that is easy to not note if you aren't looking for it. I LOVE THIS.

Ripley pulls Jones from the carrier case to cuddle. He spends his time looking around impatiently and mewing pissily at her before she puts him into one of the cryo-tubes waiting.

Ripley readies herself and the shuttle to place her and Jones in cryo-sleep and the scene is dragging out so long, we're sure that there is something we're missing and there will be a shock-ending. We're half right. There is something we've, and Ripley has missed. In fact, there is that easter egg that is on screen right now....

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Commentary: And, this is the second place where the misogyny is very plain and uncomfortable. There is absolutely zero reason that Ripley has to be wearing bikini brief underwear on a space mission in which she'll be spending an inordinate amount of time in cryo-sleep. That seems supremely impractical... but more... they've dared ask Sigourney Weaver to wear a pair that is clearly a size or two too small. It's disgusting pandering to the male viewpoint in a context in which it is nonsensical, blatant, and just plain tacky. I HATE seeing her debased with this wardrobe choice for no practical reason, and it is even more outrageous in a moment that I will bitch about then.

But, this scene is amazing in that the ALIEN is onscreen through this sequence, but if you're not really looking, it is easy to mistake it as being a part of the bulkhead -- which is of course, the point. But, I really respect them for not cheating. Bolaji Badejo is there right in front of your eyes. That is amazingly good set, camera and direction work going on.



Everyone gets a rude shock, when Ripley's final prep work is interrupted by the ALIEN's arm casually reaching out from the bulkhead where it had been tucked in. It had made it onto the shuttle and was smart enough to hide in wait...!


Commentary: I LOVE this jump shock. But more, I like that it makes the ALIEN capable of thought. It recognized the warning blarings going on, it recognized where Ripley was trying to get, and it knew enough to hide there and wait for her. OR JONES TOLD IT ALL OF THIS DURING THEIR CHAT IN THE CORRIDOR -- BECAUSE CATS ARE EVIL AND ARE PLOTTING OUR DESTRUCTION -- one or the other.


Scene 76: With the suddenly and conveniently lethargic ALIEN not lost with the NOSTROMO, Ripley is left with a real problem. She runs to a space-suit closet and cowers within as she watches it shift and lounge around in the wall of the shuttle in her unfortunately tiny underwear.

Well, with an extended stay in the closet not being conducive to long term survival [let's ignore the unintended subtext that comes with MY giving a statement like that], Ripley slips into one of the survival suits as she plots on what she can do to not get killed (despite Jones' obvious intent in helping the ALIEN).


Commentary: And, man... the camera shot... the one that really, really pisses me off. This is so egregiously disgusting and obvious that I cannot believe a talented director like Ridley Scott included it and he should feel ashamed lo, these many years later for it. The camera angle (and no, I will not screen cap it) is near floor level angled upward on Ripley, as in her teeny undies, she lifts her leg nice and high to slip into the space suit, giving us crotch view. We don't see anything other than her underwear thankfully [this isn't Zombie Lake after all, and Ridley isn't quite Jean Rollin -- thank you, Good Lord] but it is still a supremely sleazy shot to put in this movie. It's bad enough as it is that we've already gotten plenty of buttcrack and erect nipples through her tee but now we get to check out her hair mound as well. Nice Act There, Ridley. By which I mean, EW- YOU FUCKING PERVERT - QUIT MAKING ME PARTICIPATE IN YOUR SLEEZE; this after all, hasn't been that sort of picture for the most part. And Sigourney deserved far more respect as an actress than this.


So, Ripley puts on the space suit, arms herself with a bolt gun and reenters the main shuttle space. She buckles herself into a pilot seat and flips a few more switches in an attempt to freeze the ALIEN.


Commentary: I love the touch of Ripley chanting to herself over and over during this excellently tense confrontation.


When she begins releasing coolant into the pilot area, the ALIEN gets upset and flops out onto the floor. Ripley hyperventilates and spins in her chair away from the ALIEN, continuing to chant her little song to herself and we start getting a drop in our stomachs as we see Lambert all over again... and Ripley had been holding it together so well until now.

But as we know the ALIEN is coming up behind her, we see reflected in her helmet some lights going on as she presses more keys on the panel in front of her. With the tension nearly unbearable, Ripley -- without turning in her seat -- looks up and behind her as much as she's able and THE ALIEN IS RIGHT THERE!!

She Screams, I Nearly Do!

She hits a last button, and we see the shuttle door open to space. Air pressure lifts the creature and propels it out of the door, but the damned thing grabs the walls and begins to pull itself back inside! Ripley fires her bolt gun, which is the type used to fire three-pronged rock climbing hooks so even though the hook sinks into the creature, as it flies out of the door, it yanks the line and the gun from her hand. At the same time, the door recloses to repressurize the interior.

But, the ALIEN is still NOT DEAD and is tethered to the shuttle. It uses its prehensile tail to grab a hold of one of the shuttle engines and crawls up into it to seek a way to reenter the shuttle's interior. But Ripley has been gazing out of the door window and can see what it is up to.

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She hits the shuttle engines and the thing is finally dispatched in a rain of plasma and acid blood [though the effect could have been done much better -- they should have had it clearly blasted apart or vaporized rather than playing camera/editing games with the sequence].


Scene 77: Ripley records a final report about the fate of her crewmates and the Nostromo and slips into cryosleep with evil-Jones, who goes unpunished. We don't know if she's even found [well, pre-ALIENS we didn't know]....


Commentary: So, the last thing to discuss is the alternate plans for the ending of ALIEN. Thank Goodness it was also dropped, because Ripley is AWESOME. But, the idea originally was that the ALIEN was in fact intelligent [making it more sensible that it would know what the alert meant and to stow away aboard the shuttle]. It was going to be successful in killing Ripley aboard the shuttle and then we would hear Ripley's voice calling for assistance, but the ALIEN would be sitting in the pilot's chair mimicking her to call more victims to it, and one would think, making its way to civilization.

I can only imagine that it would have looked pretty funny, rather than scary and that it would have totally ruined any chances of the franchise we got [YMMV on if that would have been ultimately good or ill -- I'm ready to forgive A LOT just because ALIENS may be my absolute favorite movie]. I can easily imagine the ALIEN though, holding Jonesy while sending out its distress call and stroking the cat as he kitty-smiles evilly back with glee at his handywork.



The Good: Let's start with the soundtrack, which is beautiful and haunting and is also well used and not used throughout.

The acting is uniformly good, although Sigourney herself is a bit awkward at some points. Tom Skerritt and Veronica Cartwright especially are strong [even though both are playing weak characters].

The set design for this factory ship in space is fantastically realized. It feels like a place where rough men and women are working in a dirty job and for the time was pretty radical coming off of Star Trek and Star Wars where ships were clean and elegant and sleek. NOSTROMO is not sleek, or clean... it's a very working class vessel.

I like the abrasive relationships onboard. These are people who are stuck working together, they're not a bunch of friends taking a cruise and it shows in their comments, short temperedness when things start going wrong, and petty bickering back and forth. But they're not taken to extremes that makes you wonder why they're onboard at all -- you can tell that they know their jobs and they do them well enough and that is what is important.

I also really love the set for the LV-426 and for the Space Jockey's odd horseshoe shaped crashed vessel.

I am happy with how Ash is handled character wise, because he's so odd and his decisions seem so flawed that it comes across as bad writing, until it is revealed that he's in on a conspiracy to retrieve the alien lifeform and bring it back to base and that he's an android to boot. Suddenly all of the awkward writing and acting in the previous scenes make complete sense with this new information. That was really cleverly carried out.

Obviously, the shock of Kane's death was immense and well played. But adding to this, the picture wasn't all about the shock moments -- many of the scenes after the ALIEN is discovered were extremely tense and scary and the directing, camera work, set design and lighting come together wonderfully to make that happen. This movie is so much better than the basic description of "a haunted house story on a space ship".

The ending sequence is fantastic (with that "The Bad" thing I must point out alas). It is scary as all hell and shocking when you realize the ALIEN is onboard the shuttle, right next to Ripley and she doesn't know it.

Most of the special effects are amazingly done.


The Bad: But. We have problems. Or, at least I do. One of which is some of the scenes are slow for no payoff, which is different than scenes which are in order to stress out the viewer. I can admit there are plenty of scenes that could have been trimmed without losing a thing.

Although the special effects are grand for the most part, there are three exceptions: One is the ALIEN spawn zipping across the dining room table which just looks guffaw-worthy. The second is the uncomfortable juxtaposition between the fake Ash head and Ian Holm in which the prop looks really horrible in comparison. And, finally that Nostromo-blowing-up-four-times was overdone and completely unworth the attention.

The objectification of Sigourney really makes me angry. I cannot see her in those tiny panties without feeling embarrassed. There are films where you'd expect this sort of horseshit, like Roger Corman flicks or teen slashers but this is not one of those films. It was classy-horror, if you will, and then it gets sleezy on you out of left field. Ick.


Other Thoughts: There are some editing weirdnesses as mentioned and some script weaknesses that aren't quite covered with the acting. Jones is a case in point, as we spend much too much time in a life and death situation following a search for the stupid cat. There are also the number of times when the crew is trying to locate and capture a small alien being, but keep leaving the doors wide open in rooms it may be located. And then you have Lambert and Parker making as much noise as is possible when they're supposed to be afraid of running into the ALIEN.

I'm also uncomfortable with some of the sexual violence innuendo for the reasons outlined. There are certain points in the story where you can buy the imagery because of Kane's being impregnated via what amounts to oral rape, but there are also bits where it seems like it was being pushed beyond that comparison into punishing the women for having va-jay-jays and was inappropriate. This is especially badly handled because they had to include that bit with Ripley in her too small panties.

I'm so grateful for some dropped scenes and ideas: Ripley and Dallas having sex as a way to relieve boredom or stress, Dallas and Brett turning into eggs, and the ALIEN triumphing and mimicking Ripley in the end all deserved to be left behind for what we got instead. It would have been nice if we'd had also dropped the ship's mascot, but ah well.


The Score: I love this movie, but it isn't perfect. There was a time when I preferred ALIEN to ALIENS, the sequel, because it was more focused on horror rather than the action-y 80's marines but I now think that movie is damned near perfect which puts this original into a weaker position. Many of the drawbacks are probably related to the time in which it was made like the slow pacing and expanses of time in which nothing nerve-wracking is actually occurring.

Still: 4.50 out of 5 stars -- recommended!


--end--

Next Review: The X-Files' "Conduit"