Tuesday, October 20, 2009


(1979) ****1/2
Many years in the future, the crew of the Nostromo, a commercial mining spaceship, awake out of their hibernation sleep many months before they are supposed to because the computer that runs the ship has a job for them. There’s a distress signal, that, once investigated leads to a small creature, attaching itself to the face of one of the crew members, and leaving him in a coma. Eventually, the creature falls off, the crewmember wakes up, and all appears to be fine – until of course, he gets a small stomach ache at dinner.

Three sequels, two Alien v. Predator spinoffs, and an upcoming “reboot” have all come from this original film. The sequels became more sci-fi, while the AVP spinoffs are more horror. This film is a straight-up monster movie. The crew gets picked off one by one as they search the ship trying to find the alien. The climax comes just as 29-year-old Sigourney Weaver strips down to her low-cut 1970s panties, thinking that all is finally safe.
I’d like to give this one five stars since it was such a trailblazer for horror movies and sci-fi movies for the next 20 years. However, because the sequel, Aliens, is so much better, and because so much of the film is dated, I have to leave it at 4.5. Example: futuristic, giant spaceship, automated computer, hibernation chambers, and yet – every computer screen is still black with green type. Apparently, the Apple 2e was the operating system for the spaceship.

Anyway, great movie, very dated.


Jordan said...

I don't find Alien dated, and I prefer it to Aliens, but I realize I may not be in the minority. David Fincher held up Alien as an example of "perfect filmmaking," and I basically agree with that.

Here's my insanely positive review of Alien from two years ago. (The review has an additional link to my Nostromo gallery of screengrabs showcasing the amazing, incredible set design.

JPX said...

I prefer Alien for many reasons and I still get chills when I watch it. Alien is one of the few films that really transports me into the world of science fiction.

Okay, I'm not making any sense but my next patient is here and I can't explain myself. Damnit.

Trevor (Tami's friend) said...

I'm probably biased, as I watched Aliens as a kid probably half a dozen times before I ever saw Alien. They're both fantastic.

Whirlygirl said...

I re-watched Alien a couple of weeks ago. It had been a while since my last viewing. I can say with certainty that I did not find it dated or inferior to Aliens; however, my company lessened my experience this time around. My roommate had never seen it. Mistakenly, I thought she’d enjoy it, but her constant text messaging throughout the film, and comment during the closing credits that she didn’t understand it said otherwise. Apparently, Alien is not for everyone, though, I have a difficult time understanding why.

Jordan, I just read your Alien review. BRAVO! Now that’s what I call a review.

Landshark said...

"...but her constant text messaging throughout the film, and comment during the closing credits that she didn’t understand it..."

Wait. Is your roommate one of my students?

Jordan said...

I once watched a movie (admittedly, a Star Trek movie) with two friends who frequently watched movies with each other, although I had only watched movies with one of the two.

The instant the movie started, I discovered that the other friend (the one I'd never watched a movie with) was going to loudly, continuously crack wise -- not even in an MST3K style, but in a "kids in the theater" style, just basically making noise. The guy was singing "Production Designer Herman Zimmerman" along with the theme music during the opening titles, and he never stopped. Apparently this was his method for watching a movie with friends: to sit there and never shut up the whole time.

At a certain point (shortly after the opening titles ended) I managed to select what I believed to be the appropriate friendly tone to tell him to stop talking. He was all "Oh, I didn't realize we were in church!"/"I didn't realize Star Trek was so important to you" etc. etc. But he shut up.

Later he said something about how he actually appreciated the movie far more than he'd expected. I retorted with something like, "Yeah, 'cause you watched it!" Maybe I changed his tune. I doubt it, though; he was obnoxious and one of those people who thinks he's really witty.

Catfreeek said...

I love both films but have a preference for the first. It blew me away! I saw it at the theater when it first came out and there was nothing like it ever before. Perhaps that makes me biased as well.

AC said...

until last year i preferred aliens, but after reading jordan's review re-watched both for the thon, and darned if jordan wasn't right.

HandsomeStan said...

I have a review upcoming that addresses a very similar situation to Jordan's along with some exciting subtext. Just biding my time here...

Between Alien and Aliens, it's a lot like comparing Rocky to Rocky III: the original stands completely on its own as a brilliant film, but once you sequel-ize you have to evaluate the original in the context of how good the sequels were as an overall complement.

By this argument, Rocky III is the best Rocky movie there was. Clubber Lang is seriously fucking awesome, and Rocky has to question his whole career and sense of himself up to that point. Trained by his former arch-enemy, deep soul-searching, complete shifts in character development and direction...overall, well done. The "Star Trek VI" of the Rocky franchise.

In any event, "Alien," to me, was always an almost purely horror movie, with sci-fi as the backdrop. "Aliens" was an almost purely action movie, with sci-fi as the backdrop.

For the record when I first saw each of them, "Alien" SCARED the shit out of me, while "Aliens" ENTERTAINED the shit out of me.

Game over, man.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

Jordan that is friggin' hysterical. We've never met and yet I can picture your dismay so vividly.

Octopunk said...

On the flip side I once watched Star Wars with a bunch of talented improv comedians and they cracked GREAT jokes and not too often.

Right after "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." faded out, one guy said quickly "oh, what'd that say?"

I love Alien and Aliens but I love the first one more. I also think Ridley Scott was very good back then at making sci-fi that doesn't ever look dated (Blade Runner being the premiere example).

And where the future has outstripped those movies, I like to pretend that clunky 20th century tech style came back in style in the intervening years.