Liz Tells Frank Stuff She Forgot About “Alien” and “Aliens”
As I’m sure you’re aware, this summer Ridley Scott returns to the first franchise to give him power over nerd boners — Prometheus, the kinda-sorta-prequel to the Alien series, is almost here! From everything I’ve seen and heard, it looks pretty good! And I certainly fancy (in the British way) a large chunk of its cast. (Accents, Frank!) And also, blah blah more groundbreaking science fiction horror blah blah.
But here’s the thing — we’ve officially hit the point, as connossieurs of pop culture, where we should 100 percent definitely start avoiding any and all promotional materials related to the film. Yes, maybe even some of the awesome viral video stuff.
Because we are entering SPOILER COUNTRY, that dangerous time period when even rewatching a teaser trailer could leave you with memories that, halfway through the first screening, will haunt your viewing experience: “This character can’t die, because I haven’t seen them do that thing they did in the trailer!” you’ll think to yourself. A dangerous path, especially given that according to reports from others, things like the international trailer give away the whole fucking farm.
Here’s how to avoid temptation, Frank — rewatch the first two Alien movies! I had the pleasure of doing so this weekend at a friend-of-a-friend’s house (thanks again, Jason and Tyler!) and I was pleasantly surprised by the things I’d forgotten about these movies.
First off — no matter what happens, the first thing I always think of with these movies is this — gurl:
GURL! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOUR HAIR.
Admittedly, Frank, I have a personal bias, which is to say that I hate hairstyles from the late 70s to early 90s more than the Tea Party hates Obama (to my credit, though, I don’t blame 80s hair on Muslims). Either way, though, I think we can agree that this is all very bad.
What is good, though, is that there is Jonesy the cat! I like Jonesy the cat. Mostly because the little fucker survives the first movie and gets left behind during the second, so in theory it lived a very happy life being a SPACE CAT, which is pretty awesome. If I ever went to space, I’d like to have a cat along. I’d even risk my life to save it from the alien! Maybe.
Another great thing about watching these two movies back to back is spotting the differences. Much like the Harry Potter films, the Alien franchise is one of those rare examples of multiple directors working within the same universe, and bringing their own unique spin to the material. (Obligatory “Chris Columbus’s auteur style consisted of sucking hardcore” slam here.) And it really is striking, to see how unique the two films are, especially in their approaches to building suspense and character.
Things come easy to Cameron; the situation is painted in broader strokes. But while Alien is the slower, harder-to-watch movie (despite being like twenty minutes shorter than the Aliens special edition we watched), it made me scream out loud. Twice. Aliens is a helluva ride. But Alien is a far smarter, trickier concotion. Also, it’s SCARY AS FUCK.
Also, Frank, these movies are super gross! Like, good luck wanting raw oysters after seeing this:
It’s real in a way that Star Trek aliens aren’t, which is probably where a lot of the terror comes from — even though the alien in Alien is so obviously a dude in a suit. (Later Alien movies included more puppetry, which is way the fuck better.)
The Alien franchise, I’d also forgotten, has a wildly inconsistent record with regard to robots. In the first movie, it’s super-racist against them.
In the second, robots are your friends!
And in Resurrection, you maybe want to bang them?
I want to leave Resurrection largely out of this, because looking back over my life, I realize now that I have probably spent at least 24 hours debating its relative quality with various people. An entire day of my life, spent on a movie that I really only like because even Joss Whedon’s nascent efforts to create a team of space pirates were enough to charm me.
Anyways, I digress. Here, Frank, is the primary thing that I’d forgotten — no, here is the primary thing I’d never really understood, until I watched these two movies back-to-back. It’s about Sigourney Weaver — or, as she’s referred to when mentioned in the same breathless context as Scully, Buffy and other sci-fi heroines: Ripley.
What basically happens in Alien: In the space of a day, six members of a space truck’s crew are brutally murdered due to alien or alien-related or being-a-evil-robot-related causes. The seventh survives in part thanks to some amount of luck, but also through being good at her job, and a high level of intelligence — qualities she demonstrates repeatedly over a period of 24 hours before going into hibernation for nearly 60 years.
Her experience with the creature, at this point, consists of largely of second-hand accounts and the screams of her crewmates over one day. She only encounters the Xenomorph once or twice face-to-face (because, it’s worth saying again, she is one smart and lucky cookie).
However, when she wakes up in Aliens: She is the closest thing humanity has to an expert on this creature! She is treated as such! And all based on a comparatively brief encounter with just one of the fuckers.
The thing is, though, she is an expert. Not just because of her experience, though, but because she’s smart and she pays attention — qualities that save her and others over and over again in Aliens.
It isn’t until you have the opportunity to contrast her relatively humble beginnings, as the third officer aboard a cargo ship, with her new status in Aliens as… Well. HBIC probably sums it up. She ends Alien as a prototypical “final girl,” but by the end of Aliens she’s a superhero.
But not any ordinary superhero — because her power comes entirely from within. She’s not actually super-powered in any way, but she’s proof that you can get pretty far in life if you’re smart, and you pay attention. Which is a surprisingly feminist message from a series of films where the baby bad guys kill the host during birth.
Really, it’s a shame little girls should in no way be allowed to watch these movies until their teen years. Who knows how we’d all have ended up, if we had Ripley to look up to, instead of She-Ra.