by Jerome de Groot
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Ridley Scott’s seminal film is reissued for the post-CGI generation—who needs Jar Jar Binks when you’ve got the Alien?
After the countless sequels, platform games, comic/ movie tie-ins vs. Predator (no contest), board games, academic treatises, homage, parody, subgenres and general cultural impact, time to reassess Alien on its own terms as a movie. On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the film a director’s cut has been released and my God, does it still kick ass. I saw this through half-open fingers when I was 14 and it scared the bejeezus out of me. Hell, I read the novelisation of the film when I was 12 and found myself checking my stomach before I went to sleep at night…
The films taken together are a hell of a quartet, but Ridley Scott’s original shocker is, quite literally, the Mummy of them all. It is something to do with the eerieness of the setting, or the durability and shock quality of the central invasion metaphors; perhaps the sudden erupting violence, the poise of Sigourney Weaver, the intelligence of the script; or maybe just the instant-iconic status of that central, chest-blowing scene (which looks a little cheesy now, if scary still), that make Alien one of the most impressive films ever made—horror, science fiction, mystery, irrespective of genre the movie is just great.
The changes are minimal, relating mainly to pacing and detail, rather than rewriting the text in the way that Scott’s director’s cut of Bladerunner did. In fact, comparison with that more cerebral and critically more celebrated film is apt. Alien has never attained the high cultural cache that Bladerunner’s meditation on humanity did, but its debates and concerns are clearly as culturally important, and the film is evidently more influential. The terror of invasion, of alien life, of insemination, of corporate irresponsibility, of woman, medical horror, hybrid weapons technology, dark fears and the unknown are all packaged into a lean, tight movie that wears its intellectual ideas lightly. Maybe it is H. R. Giger’s amazing conceptualisation and design, or the taught, edgy but quality cast, or the simple organisational brilliance of the plot and film, but it seems to me that Alien will become increasingly recognised for the masterpiece that it is.
Go see, and be terrified again. They still can’t hear you.
Jerome de Groot would quite happily hang out with Sigourney Weaver.
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