Yes. Lovely. Just lovely. I was actually mildly skeptical for a little while that Ridley Scott could return and do something stellar with the franchise after the years of terrible Alien-related films that sunk the series deep. But I’m gladly wrong (and how!) now that I see the circle being completed with elements left out of the final film (but seen in storyboards and production art). I feel like sitting outside a theater and waiting, but I’m too old (and too smart) to be that crazy. Nevertheless, this looks like one I’ll line up for with a huge grin on my face when it’s released. Me and this franchise go way back, even before the original hit the screen…
I can remember seeing ALIEN back in 1979 on its first run and being terrified, yet amazed. I’d seen commercials for the film on television and recall seeing the theatrical trailer and desperately wanting to see this “new” take on the sci-fi and horror genres as soon as it was released. It took a few days after the film was out, but I finally did it. It was a Wednesday at Loews Astor Plaza in Times Square, I took a day off from school (oops), managed to get in despite being under 18 and I was a lifelong fan after that. I think I saw the film about a dozen more times either with friends or by myself and I was completely obsessed with every detail on screen.I picked up the novelization and the Heavy Metal comic (with that wonderful Walt Simonson art), ‘making of’ book, calendar, Cinefantastique magazine and anything I could get my hands on about the film.
As I was a huge Jerry Goldsmith fan, I’d actually bought the soundtrack LP a few days before the film’s release and had listened to it endlessly. I was a bit shocked that most of the music on the LP wasn’t in the film and had been replaced with redone themes, some classical tracks or in a few places, effective pieces of music from Goldsmith’s score for the 1962 Fox film Freud. All this was at Scott’s direction and while I was disappointed not to hear more music, the pieces that made in in were superb. “The Landing” theme manages to be haunting and almost romantic as the Nostromo makes its rocky trip down to the doomed planet’s surface and most of the other snippets of music felt just as effective.
When the film eventually hit video, I bought it without hesitation and of course, I was one of those kooks who stayed out late to catch ALIENS on day one. The theater me and about six friends went to was sold out for the entire day except the midnight show, so we bought our tickets, took a long dinner break at a nearby diner and made it back before the late show line had started. I recall the line moving into the theater with about 20 minutes left in the film and since you could hear the sound booming from the theater, some of us actually had to plug our ears so we wouldn’t hear any dialog reveals. Needless to say, James Cameron’s vision blew us all away, although I felt the film was a bit “lesser” in a few areas Scott nailed flawlessly.
Flash forward a few years: most of those friends are gone off to do their things and I’m in a theater watching the ALIEN 3 trailer. I was impressed by some shots from the Alien’s POV, but shocked to see a bald Ripley and even more shocked to hear she was stuck in a place filled with angry convicts, an Alien and NO weapons. Eeek. Even though I’d never heard of the director, David Fincher, I figured Fox knew what they were doing by choosing him to helm the third entry. As the months to the release rolled onward, I also recall reading about set troubles and stuff like no script or expensive sets being built before there was a completed story and so forth and so on. I think I was working the day of the release, but the reviews weren’t too kind from what I recall. Still, I wanted to see the film because I HAD to know the whys and hows and what became of Ripley at the end.
Not surprisingly, I loved and hated the film. Fincher’s direction was fantastic and his use of lighting, sound and music were amazing I felt. The performances were solid (save for a few quirks here and there) and while disturbing, the ending seemed “right” for the film’s dark, depressing tone. Unfortunately, a LOT of things felt thrown together and unfinished (the early CG effects, for example) and the story seemed like it was part of a larger narrative that was chopped into bits and hastily reassembled to get it out the door on a specific date. It took the Assembly Cut of the film from Alien Quadrilogy to make me fully appreciate what Fincher went through and also to see a clearer vision of what he intended. It’s still a flawed film, but it’s my second favorite of the series these days.
As for Alien Resurrection, I loved much of it, but that’s actually worth a post on its own one of these days. Anyway, PROMETHEUS. June 8, 2012. I’m going back to watching the first four films once a month again.