Continuing my theme of watching movies I’ve never seen before, but perhaps should have, I’m on to the one that inspired this series of articles – Alien.
Before I get to the review though, what I find interesting about movies from this era – like this, The Terminator, Robocop, Mad Max and many others – is that they became cult classics in spite of having 18 Classifications.
Nowadays that just wouldn’t happen; it would seem that in the eyes of Hollywood, blockbuster movies are to be enjoyed by all the family and not just adults.
Whether that’s a good or bad thing is for you to decide. Personally, I don’t think The Terminator or Alien would have been half as successful if they toned down the more adult parts for the benefit of kids, and I think that whether it’s because of that or because there’s just so many blockbusters these days, there just aren’t many memorable ones being made anymore. Thirty years from now, there will still be dedicated followings and theme park rides dedicated to Alien and the Terminator, but you won’t hear anyone talking about Hercules or The Maze Runner.
Anyway, on to the review…
Alien Review: What’s This One About?
It’s the one that’s a knock-off of the Doctor Who story, The Ark in Space
A robot version of Bilbo Baggins tricks some people into picking up an Alien, and it all goes wrong.
Alien Review: How Does It Hold Up?
When I told friends on Facebook I’d be watching this, there were a few comments from people saying that Alien holds up really well. And they are correct in some respects.
From a visual and directorial standpoint, Alien is a mostly excellent film. The sets are incredibly detailed, the model shots – much like those used in Star Wars – still look great because they are physical props rather than CGI, and the full form Alien looks terrific thanks to the way it was shot.
The way some parts of the ship are brightly lit and futuristic while others are dark and moodily shot will never not hold up.
The only parts that struggle to look good now are the effects of the mini alien emerging from John Hurt’s stomach (which I couldn’t take seriously because of the Red Dwarf episode, Polymorph) and the decapitated head of robot Ash.
Still, compared to other films made in 1979, this still looks great today.
Alien Review: But Is It Entertaining?
But how does it fare from an entertainment point of view?
Well this is where I think it struggles a bit.
Though it was well acted, from my own personal point of view, survival horror doesn’t hold much appeal. It’s all very samey, and you know exactly how it’s going to end up. Alien is no exception.
And yes, I appreciate that this is possibly – if not probably – one of the first of this genre and therefore marking it down because I’ve seen other films that have copied it isn’t particularly fair, but that’s just the way it is.
It’s moody and atmospheric, but it’s just not that exciting to watch. I fell asleep the first time I put it on, and when I went back to watch the rest last night, my attention did wander a little – certainly more than it did during The Terminator.
So it wasn’t all that entertaining.
And people who put their lives at risk to save their pets just piss me off.
What I took away from it most was how significant it has been to film and television culture over the last 35 years. There are so many aspects of it – from the scene in the air vents to the way the Alien moves around – that are still used regularly to this day. You’ve only got to look at Doctor Who as a prime example. Yes, Alien was influenced by the 1975 story, The Ark in Space – or at least that’s the rumour from people who put two and two together – but modern-day episodes like 2013’s Cold War just openly and unashamedly use the same type of scenes without even trying to be different.
And there are dozens if not hundreds of similar examples.
So that’s what I took from it most; perhaps it wasn’t the most thrilling movie going, but it deserves its place in Hollywood lore for its importance in influencing a lot of other more entertaining stuff since.
I doubt I’d watch it again though.
Other Movies I’ve Caught Up On