Monday, May 28, 2012

A Tribute to Great Films: Alien and Aliens

The past few months I have paid tribute to three different television shows, Murder She Wrote, Friday Night Lights, and The Golden Girls.  Each tribute coincided with my re-watching each series. This month I have decided to pay tribute to two spectacular sci-fi/thriller films Alien and Aliens.  

My friend Eric got the idea when we went to see Men in Black III on friday and saw the trailer for Prometheus.  When many fans had heard about Prometheus their minds jumped to the conclusion that it was a prequel.  Ridley Scott who directed the first film and is directing Prometheus has stated openly that Prometheus "carries the DNA of Alien" and "Prometheus is an original piece of science fiction" about "biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and the origins of the destruction of man." Sounds epic.

Scott started the ball rolling within the quadrangle of Aliens films.  The brilliant thing about the all of the films (but in this case the first two films)  is that while they center around the same story the stylistic undertone of the direction changes the feel for each film.  The original film Alien was released in 1979, and was also re-released in 2003 with material that was found and not part of the original film.  I saw this film for the first time in theatres during the re-release.  No film had scared me as much as this film did in the theatre.  Sitting in the pitch black multiplex at 10 pm at night with a small crowd, the experience was worth it, and why I love going to the movies. I refused to scream out in terror.  Yet as the films tagline reads "No one can hear you scream in space."

As the mining ship Nostromo touches down on unknown planet for a distress call the terror builds and the audience is catapulted into following this crew as alien life form board their ship.  As the films intensity builds Jerry Goldsmith's score carries the suspense to a whole new level.  The music combined with Roger Christian and Leslie Dilley's art stark art direction, and Ridley's Scott's well paced directions creates this beautifully ominous tone.  There is no doubt that Scott's direction is brilliant, but he also assembled an impressive cast.

The cast of the film is impressive but the film, and this series centered around the new comer Sigourney Weaver.  Weaver's Ripley is an embodiment of something different; she is a feminist icon action hero who kicks ass instead of playing the victim.  Like Jaime Lee Curtis who was dubbed the scream queen, Sigourney Weaver is the queen of sci-fi films. While Ripley is a bit quieter in the first film, mainly because the films pacing is a bit more like an old school thriller where the pacing is a build up.  The sequel to Alien, entitled Aliens jumps right into the action.

After I had finished the first film I knew I had to rent the sequel (blockbuster still existed).  Aliens (1986) is a different film from the original, mainly because it was directed by James Cameron instead of Ridley Scott.  Cameron was a huge fan of the original and pitched the concept of doing a sequel to 20th Century FOX.  While Cameron was contemplating the tone for this film he was also working on The Terminator (1984).  The sequel was released so much later for two reasons, the first was that 20th Century FOX did not believe in a low budget film warranting a sequel (that has changed these days) and Cameron needed to prove himself, The Terminator was his staging ground.  The Terminator was a monster hit, and well reviewed, and Cameron's new script impressed 20th Century FOX and thus Aliens was born.

Cameron's script for Aliens had a much different tone.  The first film lead me on this terrifying journey, and was an all out thriller, while Cameron made the sequel more of an action film.  Ripley is brought back with a militaristic squad to the planet where Nostromo landed.  The team became a rogue squad battling and fighting for their lives against more than just one alien this time. There was incredible anticipation for this film because the original was so liked and the Ripley character was an incredible female character. Cameron knows how to blend the concept of the original with his own version of the story; he seamlessly blends the plot from the first film with his own while making this an incredibly great film.

Many people cite this as a sequel better than the original, but to me that's a Sophie's choice.  While two films are about the same character, and are part of a series the direction by these two master craftsmen makes them hard to compare.  Each film fits within a different genre.  The first film is an old school thriller, and while the second film has those elements Cameron makes his sequel more action packed, which works too.  Aliens was nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Actress, I think the first film deserved just as many accolades.  Both of these films are incredible pieces of work. and have only built up my excitement for Ridley Scott to come back to this world.

The slight edge may go to Aliens and the scene below "Get Away from her you bitch."

No comments: