UPDATED (see below)
So I have just booked tickets online to see PROMETHEUS tomorrow night.
And it seems relevant to just give you all some insight as to how I got here. Although I have loved each and every ALIEN movie, we actually got off to a rocky start. The first time I watched “Alien” — the amazing beginning of this (now 5 movie) franchise — it happened to be the very first movie we rented at a video store to watch on our brand new “video playing machine”.
My dad had just brought home this glorious silver contraption. But ’cause we were stupidly poor, it was only rented— somewhat ironically — just so we could rent a whole bunch of other stuff to magically play on it.
Video recorders in those days cost quite a fortune — maybe at least a month’s pay to an average worker — so even though we just had this bad-boy on stolen time — this night was a BIG FUCKING DEAL.
To celebrate we had invited some friends of the family over – those stinky lepers without VCRs who could now gush and be so privileged to bask in our new glory.
And so we all suddenly found ourselves in a video store for the very first time.
While my dad was sorting out the membership I remember it being quite overwhelming. As I scanned the shelves up and down, over and over, I saw there were so many films I had never heard of and I remember wandering around thinking this might just be an Aladdin’s Cave.
See I decided then that maybe I could just pick anyone of these films and be somehow secure in the understanding that a movie, on video-tape, sandwiched in that beautiful plastic packaging, could not help itself but be good. It might not be GREAT, but it would be at the very least – worthwhile.
This was the thinking of my tiny, naive, 10-year-old brain which decided that a film that would have cost a gazillion dollars to make, and it would have been on the radar of so many smart minds (being paid a LOT of money) over there in that place called “America” — which was just like a massive MOVIE SET — and all movies were backed by the miracles of modern technology in film that made the lasers in Star Wars so real.
So when James, a member of our party who was about a year older than me and to whom I just naturally revered, despite the fact he was sans-VCR, started insisting we get this “horror” movie called Alien, well, I baulked. “Wha?” I said. Repeatedly. Horror was a genre of movies I felt the least possible affection for. I was already a delicate, delicate soul that could be struck down by tetanus at the drop of a hat — and probably had 50 types of cancer already that were just waiting to be exposed.
And plus I really did think seeing horror movies stripped your brain of any sense of reason and would ultimately turn me into a serial killer. A rather hopeless one at that.
James was desperately like, “The Alien just explodes out of this guy’s chest. Blood and guts everywhere. You HAVE to SEE this. It is going to be so cool!”
In those days there was no such term as “spoiler alert”. No one really cared or understood that he had perhaps compromised a big part of the film. In those days “plot twists” that radically re-defined a film, were pretty rare.
But the excitement of the evening and the consensus and the prospect of seeing the special effects wizardry that would render something exploding out of a man’s chest decided that this was what we saw.
And woah. I expected to HATE it. But instead I was transfixed.
I actually gave appropriate kudos to James after.
So fast-forward to modernity when I could truly appreciate this film. And it was actually the sequel — ALIENS — that changed everything. Undoubtedly it is in my top ten films of all time, and might even be up there towards the top.
It was so scary, so suspenseful — yet without much gore (until the end) or many visual cues of the alien. It was all such dramatic chaos and crucially – just like the first movie – with big gaps in the story you just had to fill in with your mind, always thinking the worst. It was a total mind-fuck.
I remember I was so obsessed with ALIENS I decided I to read the novelisation of the first film by Alan Dean Foster.
And looking at the special edition I think all that extra detail was cool to see, but just defeated the initial vibe of the initial cut which was just so mysterious. Every single character had no idea what was going on, just like the movie audience. The fog of war.
And so I own the special edition pack of all 4 films and the commentary is fucking amazing to listen to. Even James Cameron’s who comes across — as you might expect — as an absolute ego-maniac…but, admittedly, he does have some skills in movie making.
And in the commentary of the original ALIEN (not sure when it was recorded) Sigourney Weaver and Ridley Scott start talking about how much they would love to make a prequel and work out how that ship and the space-jockey “other” alien came to be there with a big hole in his chest. (And a lower hold full of face-hugger-eggs).
Well, it was entertaining, and absorbing…but ultimately I couldn’t help thinking you could drive a Nostromo through each and every one of the plot holes. It got quite annoying afterwards as I started wondering, “What was that all about?” and “What was that person thinking when they did that?” The religiosity of the film was at best creepy and at worst down right delusional.
I am not one of these people who watches a movie like it’s a documentary – but I do think you need the fundamentals of your plot to make sense. And I guess a movie as self-important as this — needs to pay more attention to details. Not insignificant details. Hmm.