Sunday, May 18, 2008

Movie Review: Alien (Director’s Cut)

I haven’t written a move review in quite some time. I think I will throw one in here, just for a little variety. WARNING: Here be spoilers! (However, I can't imagine anyone not having seen this film by now. If you haven't and yet, are upset by the fact that you read anything that gives away how the film ends, I figure that's your problem...)

"Alien” is one of my favorite science fiction films. It is hard to believe that it was originally released almost 30 years ago (1979). The plot itself has some holes in it that I don’t particularly care for. For example, if “The Company” knew there was an alien there already and they wanted a specimen so badly, why didn’t they send out a real group of commandos to get what they wanted? Why send out a bunch of miners who had absolutely no idea what was going on? More than likely, things were going to go badly for everyone involved, since the Company lost a very expensive spaceship and they didn’t get the alien either. And, by the way, just how did the Company know there was an alien out there, anyway? There’s also the whole thing about space travel (really loooonng distances) and the effect of “time stretching”, for lack of a better word. Any spaceship sent that far out into space would have to be traveling near or at the speed of light to make things commercially worthwhile for the people involved. However, that would still cause the two different systems (Earth and the spaceship) to run on different time scales, which would cause all sorts of problems that aren’t really addressed in the film.

However, those plot problems aside, I love the film for the atmosphere. The ship is dark and grimy, the crew is a bunch of non-descript people who are in need of a shave. The whole approach to the film is one of foreboding and suspense. It’s a superb film in those respects. The monster in the film is one of the best ever, in that it is extremely organic looking and has absolutely no aspects of what we think of as "humanity" at all. Most of the film is creepy to the extreme, and there are several just out and out shocking moments, like the one captured in the picture above. It’s a great film and I have watched it many times.

I finally had the chance to see Ridley Scott’s “Director’s Cut” version. I was very much interested, as I was hoping to see the sequence where Ripley finds Dallas in the bowels of the ship, pasted up on the wall waiting to be implanted. As we know from the second film, “Aliens”, you actually need a queen to lay the eggs that produce the facehugger aliens that will implant the larval alien. This version did indeed have that sequence in there, and it, no doubt, would have been pretty shocking on the first viewing when I didn’t know what was coming. And it didn’t contradict anything that happened the second film and also sort of set the stage for what was to come later.

There were also some other good sequences that were not included in the original release. Some were very quick, such as the three crewmembers standing along side the landing gear struts of the lander before they set off to find the source of the radio transmission that showed how very large even the lander ship is, not to say anything about the rest of the ship still in orbit. There were some interesting sequences not in the original film showing the crew trying to pinpoint the source of the radio transmissions that are about to change their lives forever. There were also a couple that I could see why were not included in the original release, such as a the crew screaming at each other after Ripley had refused to let Dallas and the others in after Cain had been attacked in the alien ship but Ash had opened the door anyway. Some of that seemed very out of character.

That brings me to my main compliant of this “Director’s Cut”. The intent here seems to be just to release a “different version” of the film. It wasn’t better and it, in many places, it was definitely not as good as the original. In fact, the main purpose of the film seemed to be just as a vehicle to include all the footage that originally ended up on the cutting room floor. Those shots, I must admit, were very interesting to see. It was very odd to see all the characters I have come to know all of a sudden doing things I have never seen before. But, it was not a superior film. It definitely was not in the same league as the Director’s Cut of “Blade Runner", which was also directed by Ridley Scott. With and without a narrator does make a difference to the film. This one, well, I could have done without it. I favor the original version much more than this one. I would have thought, since Ridley Scott got to put his stamp on the final cut (my understanding is that most directors in Hollywood, unless they are really big shots, do not get to edit the final film), he would have taken the opportunity to do address some things that he didn’t like in the original version. And there were some scenes that were cut from the original version that I have no idea why they weren't included. My guess is that Scott wanted to keep the film under two hours and had to lose something from the original for everything that was added. This film just seemed, like I said earlier, to be an excuse to put in a bunch of things we hadn’t seen before.

I’ll give it a B minus.

(And, as a bonus film review comment here, I will just say that I cannot state how much I absolutely hated the third film in the series, Alien(3). Detested it. The filmmakers spent so much time making you care about the characters of Newt and Hicks in the second film, and then, the first thing that happens in the third film is they kill those characters off! "Oh, well, we didn’t need them anyway, and we need to have a reason to have a third film." Screw that. You don’t go killing a 12-year-old little girl that we have so much emotional energy invested in from the second film. I don't care if Carrie Henn was already grown up and out of the acting profession by the time the third film was made. Find a way, dammit! Screw you, Vincent Ward and David Fincher.)

No comments: