Unlike many of the kids in my second grade class, my parents wouldn’t take me to see “Alien” when it was released in 1979 – and with good reason. It’s a scary, scary movie. (I was, after all, the kid who literally didn’t sleep for a week after seeing “Invasion of the Boby Snatchers” only a year or two before.) So, while I always heard the rumors of how incredibly scary the film was, I wasn’t able to see it until the advent of home video recorders.
Trust me. This wasn’t the best way to experience the movie.
While I grew to appreciate “Alien” over the years, I never experienced its full effect until about seven or eight years ago at a science fiction movie marathon. From that point on, I was hooked on the fact that some movies just need to be seen on the big screen.
Most people over 30 had the chance to see “Alien” in the theaters on its original release. But there’s a whole generation that missed out on this. And even for us big kids who have seen it before on nothing larger than a 25-inch television, the return to the big screen is a real treat.
Now, this is a five star film, not necessarily because of the director’s cut. In fact, the actual additions and extra shots are incredibly secondary. This is a five star film because it is one of the most perfect science fiction thrillers of all time.
This perfection comes from its simplicity. The cast is small, and their relationships are uncomplicated. With the entire film taking place on a ship in space (with no tempting flashbacks or godawful dream sequences), it gives the audience the perspective of being isolated with them. And the often imitated, but never equaled, alien design will forever be the legacy of H.R. Giger.
“Alien” is one of those rare, timeless movies. With brilliant set design that is both intricately complex and extremely simple, “Alien” looks as if it could have been shot 24 months ago instead of 24 years ago. With the exception of a few technology anachronisms (such as the shape of keyboards and the style of monitors), there’s nothing that gives away the fact that it was originally released in 1979. The only other film – another science fiction thriller – that achieves this timelessness is John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” which was released in 1982 and is betrayed by only two shots of antiquated computers.
“Alien” was also one of those fortunate movies that was produced in the era long before computer animation. Even its third and fourth sequel couldn’t resist CGI aliens. Admittedly, aliens built in a computer can move smoother and look cooler, and the original is still just a tall guy in a suit. But “Alien” is so much more visceral and organic than “Alien 3” and “Alien Resurrection.” Seeing the original again on the big screen only serves as a reminder that just because you can do something doesn’t mean it should be done.
If you’re going to see this just for the added scenes, don’t bother. There are very few of them, and most have already been released on the 20th anniversary DVD a few years back. Although, I must admit that some of them – like Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) bitch-slapping Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) because she wasn’t going to allow the away team back on the ship) makes a lot more sense cut into the picture than as a stand-alone deleted scene on a DVD menu.
There are some strange decisions to not fix obvious errors, like an annoying jump cut before Ripley talks to Ash’s head (Ian Holm), but they are forgivable. The real gem of this release is the chance to hear the remastered soundtrack in a THX-certified theater. Parker (Yaphet Kotto) has some hilarious background lines that you can never hear on your television at home.
The reaction to “Alien” 24 years after its original release does have its differences, however. For example, in the infamous chest-bursting scene, instead of reeling in shock and horror, the audience broke out laughing. Not that the scene is funny, per se. (It is still quite disturbing, in fact.) It’s just that scene has become such a landmark of popular culture. And, I’m sure most of the folks in the theater with me kept waiting for the alien baby to put on a top hat, grab a cane and start singing, “Hello, my baby! Hello, my honey! Hello, my rag-time gal!”
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