Thursday, 24 October 2013

Film Review - Alien (1979)

Alien (1979) is another classic and iconic Sci-Fi film, that was directed by Ridley Scott. It is probably best known for its infamous gory scene with the baby alien exploding from one of the crew member's stomach. From which a lot of the cast had no idea was about to happen apart from the actor acting it, making their reactions genuine. Alien is also a famous film for its symbolic visuals and special effects, at a time when there was no real mainstream computer graphics or fancy special effects. What this film has done with the little resources in technology it had access to was incredible. "Watching a highly detailed ship land on an alien planet, observing the crew investigate the alien structures, or watching a slime filled monster descend from the rafters, with the knowlege that this was all done by hand not with bits and bytes is simply remarkable." - Christopher Armstead.

Just like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien has great visuals, as mentioned, but it does this without sacrificing narrative, which arguably plays out to be more entertaining than 2001: A Space Odyssey. Alien is a story about a space crew who are supposed to be on their back to earth after collecting a large amount of ore, but pick up a weird transmission from a nearby planet and so to investigate only to discover something they wish they hadn't. In this discovery, Kane, one of the crew members explores a cave finding a series of strange eggs, before one opens and attaches itself to his face. Kane is taken back to the main ship where he is examined by the doctors, still with this creature on his face, soon after the creature disappears and Kane seems fine until the creature makes an appearance again exploding from his stomach before running off. The crew can't find the alien and it eventually grows into a huge monster that kills off the helpless crew members one by one. Along the way the last three crew members discover that crew member Ash, is a robot that was sent to bring this superior life form back to earth for analysis, with the rest of the crew being expendable, much like the link with 2001: A Space Odyssey with the super computer, turning evil. 


Alien is also one of the first films to feature a strong female protagonist lead in Ripley, a massive change from Ann in King Kong. Unlike Ann, Ripley is a strong female whose role slowly becomes more important as the movie goes on and her natural survival instincts causes her to be the last survivor of the Alien. Most impressively being smart and cautious when setting the ship to self destruct in an attempt to kill the Alien, getting everything ready on her own while avoiding the Alien at the same time. This idea of a strong female lead satisfies feminists throughout the majority of the film until the end. Just when Ripley thinks she has killed the Alien, it appears in her only room on the escape shuttle although she deftly manages to kill it once and for all using her smarts, and with a little luck. But this scene is not entirely kindly accepted by feminists as they argue that due to the fact that Ripley is shown in her underwear for the start of the scene, taking away the build up of this strong female lead and once again making her a weak female. However most audiences can come to a consensus that they don't see this as exploitation of women, instead they see it as a symbol that represents her vulnerability at that time to the Alien. 

There are some Freud theories with Alien, and its strong psycho sexual nightmarish symbolism throughout the film. There are theories of rape imagery with the scene when Ash is aggressively choking Ripley with some rolled up newspaper, and there is the idea that the entire ship represents sexual symbolism with the very wet atmospheric environments, though these are just connections and theories. "The female lead is the victim of a foe that favours phallic thrusting attacks be they with its toothed tongue or its tail (he latter being truly sexualised in its suggested attack on Lambert). - Alexander Barahona

In terms of Alien's atmosphere and environment in general, the Alien and horror elements are very apparent throughout the film. The sets of the alien planet are dark, gritty, gloomy, foggy and creepy, and the structures are massive, yet give a claustrophobic vibe, perfect for making it's intruders feel corned and vulnerable. There is a noticeable difference in the environment in which the humans live in and the environment the Alien's live in. the human's spaceship at first is really tidy, polished and clean but as the movie progresses and the presence of the Alien on ship prolongs, the environment and feel of the crew's living spaces changes with it. The longer the Alien is on the ship the more wet, slimy and dark the spaceship appears to be, as a representation that the Alien is slowly taking over and making the space ship its home, killing anyone on its growing territory. This adds a really creative and original take on the power and dominance of the Alien.

All in all this film is an amazing spectacle for all viewers, with its massive environments, original ideas, and incredible design. The Alien appearance itself is a milestone is what someone with an idea and creativity can do, it looks so realistic and its movements and characteristics are also so smooth and perfect, considering there was no computer graphics involved. The sets are memorable and although there are classic horror-clichés, like some of the crew members lack of common sense, when danger is nearby, example being one of the crew members chasing a cat until he reaches a dead end, and has no escape. There wouldn't be these clichés if it were not for this film, as there are so many horror clichés nowadays because everyone copies the same ideas from older films like Alien in order to get a sense of suspense and danger, that audiences love. Alien also took an ambitious idea of having a strong female lead, which is something that wasn't seen as often at the time this film was released and instead of making her a sex symbol, like a lot of films, instead they deliberately made her appear less feminine and somewhat asexual, in order to make audiences see her as a heroine or is as strong as any male lead hero. Alien was so influential and captivating to audiences that there were several films made afterwards in order to carry on the hype in this franchise. "Alien has proved to be one of the most influential science-fiction movies of the past 30 years, and it's also one of the most entertaining. It's smart, graphic, gloomy and dark." - Scott Weinberg (1999)

Armstead, C Alien [Online] At: (Accessed on 24.10.13)
Barahona, A Alien (1979) [Online] At: (Accessed on 24.10.13)
Weinberg, S Alien [Online] At: (Accessed on 24.10.13)

Fig.1 Alien (1979) [Poster Art] At: (Accessed on 24.10.13)
Fig.2 Chestburster [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 24.10.13)
Fig.3 Alien [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 24.10.13)
Fig.4 Alien Design [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 24.10.13)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rhianna!
    I am going to comment on this post, but the comments go for the previous 2 reviews too - '2001' and 'King Kong'.

    Firstly, I really enjoyed reading all three reviews; you have put a lot of thought into the underlying themes in all three films, so well done! Yours is the first 'Alien' review that I have read that has touched on Freud, so that's a bonus point to you too! :D

    It is also great that you are making connections between the films, such as the comparisons you make between the female leads in 'Alien' and in 'Kong'.

    Your bibliography referencing is spot-on; just be aware that within the text, your quotes need to be in italics, followed by the reference of the author's surname and the date of publication, both in round brackets. So for example, (Weinburg, 1999).

    Also, make sure that all film titles are in italics; it makes it clearer to your reader when you are talking about the film, rather than the character. For example, in your 'King Kong' review, you write something like 'King Kong was released...' when talking about the film release, but to the reader it sounds as though the beast himself was released :)