Tuesday, May 04, 2010


It's the four-movie Aliens marathon! I draw the line at anything with "...versus Predator" in the title.

Alien: Low-budget, British (in style, crew and cast if not in funding and distribution) and, although it wasn't exactly original in all of this, certainly bringing to a mainstream audience the idea of science fiction film focusing on working-class characters in a gender-egalitarian blue-collar environment, worrying about their wages rather than pushing back the frontiers of space. Subtextually it's all about male fear of female reproduction, as the alien rapes and impregnates a man, and the resultant offspring picks off all but one, female, crewmember, who then defeats it; this message is also made clear in the damaged android Ash's attack on Ripley, as his forcing a rolled-up porn magazine into her mouth both mimicks the alien's impregnation of Kane earlier and simulates oral rape. Meanwhile, Ripley's pet cat roams the station hissing at the alien, an ambulatory phallus ultimately outwitted by an ambulatory pussy. I'll stop now before this gets even further, pardon the expression, out of hand, other than to wonder why directors seem so keen for John Hurt to get his kit off in movies of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Aliens: Bigger budget, just as enjoyable and groundbreaking, but this time substituting family metaphors for the sex (perhaps not insignificantly?). Ripley forms a blended family of woman (herself), man (Cpl Hicks), child (Newt) and android (Bishop), and the alien is this time thwarted by a working-class single mother. All of this is also rather reminiscent of Cameron's Terminator films, which also feature a family of woman, child, absent/incapacitated father, and android of questionable loyalties, plus heroic working-class single mother seeing off catastrophe despite the establishment not believing her, plus evil corporate types. The portrayal of military culture certainly references Vietnam movies, but I'm very dubious about the critics who say the whole movie is a Vietnam metaphor, as that would make the alien the Viet Cong and a lot of things really don't read correctly about that parallel.

Alien3: If you possibly can, watch the DVD cut of this one, which is the closest thing we have to the director's original intent, and much, much better than the theatrical release. Thematically it takes the series into religious territory, as the action focuses on an abandoned penal colony whose inmates have found solace in apocalyptic Christianity; the arrival of Ripley and the alien (Newt, Hicks and [sort of, but it's complicated] Bishop, all dying between movies) introduces both temptation and, metaphorically and literally, sin into the community. The ending, where the alien is destroyed in a fiery pit and Ripley sacrifices herself to save the community by leaping after it, is a parallel to both the account of Jesus' self-sacrifice and the Apocalypse of St John. Brilliant performances by Charles Dance and Brian Glover, but the award has to go to Paul McGann, literally unrecognisable as the filthy and insane Golic.

Alien Resurrection: Again watched the "director's cut," though it wasn't much of an improvement on the original. To be fair, there are some good ideas in it; the story refocuses the original's fear of female reproduction into a fear of artificially assisted reproduction (cloning, IVF, genetic modification etc.), Whedon's script contains a lot of funny lines, and the crew of the Betty are a test run for the crew of the Serenity, with a proto-Mal, proto-Zoe, proto-Jayne and proto-River all visibly emerging. I would say the main problem lies in two areas: 1) the direction, which takes a funny script and makes it bland and humourless, with Ripley being more monotonous than scary (to be fair to the director, he couldn't speak any English at the point when he did this film, and also didn't actually want to do it), and 2) Winona Ryder. Call has the potential to be one of the great supporting characters which have up till this film been a real strength of the series (e.g. Newt, Bishop, Dallas, Clemens, Andrews...), but Ryder's performance is so flat that the character is lifeless, unenlivened even by the rather crass attempt at a lesbian subtext between Call and Ripley. Interesting as a curiosity but should never have been made.

Oh, and:


Movie count for 2010: 52