Wednesday, November 14, 2007

alien (1979)

I think my earliest memory of anything having to do with the movie Alien was my older cousin having the giant action figure toy thing for the H.R. Giger designed creature in the film. I remember being at some mall and him pointing out to my 6-year-old (and obviously too young to see the film) self that he had that collectible at home. Flash forward a few years, after the diffusion of cable television throughout suburbia, and I remember my neighbor Doug pointing the ad for the film out to me in one of those tiny cable television program guides (remember those glossy little booklets? I always liked the way the paper smelled). Then he ruined the chest-bursting scene for me and told me all about it in detail. I'm pretty sure he was eating pizza at the time when he first saw that scene, so I knew NOT to be when I finally watched it. I was probably around 9 or 10 years old when I finally saw it for the first time, and I remember that the dialog seemed really complex to me, but that the monster was really scary and there was a creepy mood to it. I hadn't seen the original in many years and I've always thought that the first sequel Aliens (1986) was a superior film, probably because 1)I saw it in the theater 2)I was a little older and understood the dialog this time, and well, the dialog in the second is less technical and a lot funnier 3)It's more action-packed and let's face it, I was 13 when I saw it and I was definitely the target audience for that one. Aliens is a better popcorn movie, but Alien is a much better film. That's the skill of Ridley Scott over the Hollywood flashiness of James Cameron in action (pun intended!). Flash forward many years. I recently Tivo-ed the first three films in the series and watched them in a marathon session a few Fridays ago. I must reconfigure my stance on which film is the superior one: definitely the first film. The original is one of my favorite films of all films ever, and I watch a LOT of movies. I've watched it at least four or five times in the past few weeks and it's becoming an obsession of sorts. It's just simply a finely-crafted screenplay and the execution of that screenplay is near perfect. I keep going back and paying more and more attention to the details of the score, soundtrack, audio editing, and the lighting. I especially love the out of synch dual countdowns when the Narcissus separates from the Nostromo to check out the distress signal coming from the Space Jockey's vessel which had crashed or something on an unexplored moon orbiting some planet. The use and processing of the sounds and sound effects still hold up to this day, which is unusual for a science fiction film, not only that, though... most aspects of the film still hold up today and there's not much that's "dated" or "out of date" about the film, save for the portrayal of the computer video screens (can you say "Apple II"?! How about "Basic" programming language? Ha!). Revisit Alien if you haven't seen it in a while. It may surprise you, too.

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