This was the film that introduced the world to Ellen Ripley. The
only real debate about the series is about which of the first two
movies was the best of the lot.
A cargo ship is sent down to a planet to investigate an unusual
Cast, Crew, and Other Info
Complete cast and crew information is available from the Internet Movie
Highlights include direction by Ridley Scott, alien design by
H.R. Giger, musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, and a cast that
Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, and Tom Skerritt.
Tom Skerritt’s realistic captain. Most starship captains in these
movies are either total idiots or indestructible superhumans. This
guy seemed like a man just doing a job. It was the captain’s lead
that really sets off the social understanding we get in the movie;
these people aren’t explorers, and they’re not out to make first
contact. They are to the future what truck drivers are to the
What the heck did that thing eat to get so big all of a sudden?
is conserved, but people seem to forget that when writing movie
How original is a monster movie in space? The slow
build of Dracula, Frankenstein,
and other Universal studios classics was well known by this time.
The setting and pacing put a new twist on things, though; the only
character who knows about the monster in advance wants to
and when the monster finally does show up, we learn that
weapons can’t be used without putting the attacker at risk. The
eliminates accidental, unlikely encounters without involving an
invasion. It’s actually fairly groundbreaking. I give it 4 out of 6.
The effects are dated today, but not as bad as most
sci-fi. As long as computers or rapid robotics aren’t involved, it
still looks good. In some cases, such as the reveal of the alien in
the air duct, the movements of the alien seem deliberately
presumably to hide limitations in what the person could do while
the suit. I give it 4 out of 6.
The story is pretty simplistic. The two hour running
not required to cover these events, although it does set the
quite well. Apart from the sudden and unexplained growth spurt,
a carefully assembled tale, complete with the government
It had some nice ideas, but it’s not the story that really makes the
movie. It’s just complicated enough to get the job done. I give it
out of 6.
The acting was varied, even from a single actor.
example, Ripley’s breakdown after visiting Mother in
her tension when planning with Ash, Lambert, and Parker is very
played. One of the main problems is that most characters have
dimension. I give it 4 out of 6.
The emotional response this produces were limited
venue. Even watching on a large screen with the lights off
give this the same impact it would have on the big screen, as it
meant to be seen. You really need to be pulled into the
in any horror flick, and the home venue just doesn’t do it right.
I’ll probably see it in October just to see it done right for once. I
give the home theater experience 3 out of 6.
The production shows the slow, deliberate pacing
common in 1970s sci-fi that studios don’t seem to think the
has patience for anymore. (I doubt this script would be filmed in
more than 90 minutes these days.) The set design and musical
are very well done, and the alien’s “facehugger” stage nicely
the final bipedal shape of the thing. (Let’s face it, if it had a
different head and no tale, it would be as humanoid as most Star
aliens.) I give it 5 out of 6.
Overall, it plays like a movie made in the 1970s, but
not automatically a bad thing. It’s a well made film that stands up
better than most of its contemporaries. I give it 4 out of 6.
In total, Alien receives 28 out of 42.
As far as I understand it, the thing that “hatches” is an hybrid…it has
some human DNA (notice in alien 3 how it looks more like a dog than in
the first 2).
And as far as the Facehugger goes, take off the tail and the mouth and
the thing is basically 2 human hands held together…so as non-bipedal
as it is, it too has a distinctive human look to it.
Of course, it scares the HELL out of arachnophobes! : )
Yep. That’s part of the whole “xenomorph” thing. Basically, to change into that which is unlike you. This is why I wonder about some of the complaints that having different varieties of Aliens were one of the problems with the movies. Of course, I’m one of the people that actually liked Alien 3. 4 I could take or leave, but I thought it at least advanced the story – and I’m interested in how 5 & 6 turn out. probably not in the theater as my wife hated 4, but at least on HBO/Skinemax.
Xenomorph means “foreign shape” (greek, “morph” n. “shape”). So calling it a “xenomorph” merely means it’s not the same shape as you, not that it becomes your shape…
Only 4 addressed the “borrowed DNA” issue, and kind of scantily at that. Just an excuse to give Ripley powers and mess with alien reproduction. The science on it is pretty inconsistant, and probably shouldn’t be taken as canon.
Not perhaps the most timely movie review ;-) but still some very good points.
The only real debate about the series is about which of the first two movies was the best of the lot.
The first two are both fantastic, but they are not really that comparable. Alien = “small” suspense/thriller type horror film. Aliens = “big” military action film. Both great in their own ways.
You’re absolutely right about Tom Skerritt. I didn’t find the rest of the cast “1-dimensional” so much as typical for a movie with a group cast. Aliens is the same way: some characters (Ripley, Hicks, Bishop) get deluxe characterization, some are pretty one-note (Hudson, Apone, Vasquez), and some are really just names (Spunkmeyer, Drake). You can’t flesh them all out without distracting from the protagonist(s). However, in both movies, the groups overall were very believable. As a crew, the Alien cast were convincing, even if Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton did nothing but complain for the whole film.
Alien As An X File
There’s an aspect to Alien / Aliens that I’ve always felt was kind of hinted at but never really addressed – that it in fact is a conspiracy story. Somehow I got the feeling that some corporate/military entity on Earth ALREADY KNEW of the Alien’s existance and sent the Nostromo on a doomed mission to get (yet another?) sample with Ashe effectively tagging along as a spy. Why else would the crew NOT KNOW he was an android?
Re: Alien As An X File
In 3 the conspiracy is clearly revealed when at the end
the corporation sends Bishop’s creator to collect the alien growing inside of Ripley. He basically admits to the corporation’s long fascination with the species, and its desire to exploit it commercially.
I liked 3; I liked 4 too. The thing is, I see each movie as a different director/writer’s take on the Alien mythology/universe. 3 explored Ripley’s psychology. It was gorgeously filmed, dark, and moody. 4 was a quick knockoff with no pretensions. It was the mad slasher of the four movies. It looked like a comic book, with bright colors and quick editing. Alien for those with short attention spans. :)
I don’t take the Alien story arc as seriously as I might take the story arc of Star Wars. Alien(s) wasn’t ever meant to be a multi-film series, so it’s not going to have the kind of progression and development you’d see in a planned series.
Re: Alien As An X File
Alien is kind of unique in sci-fi in that it models the actual time delays between spaceflights realistically. The total time span of the four Alien movies is longer than there has been a United States. By the time Alien 3 kicks off any “conspiracy” has been going on for more than a century. My question is did the Corporation know about the Alien before the Nostromo contact, and /or did it secretly engineer the colonization target of Alien 2 to get a team in place to recover samples? There were several scenes cut from Alien 2 that would have addressed this, as I understand it.
Context, context, context…
An emotional response of 3/6 because it was reviewed on a home system instead of a theater? My emotional response to Alien, when I saw it in the theater, was a full 6/6.
Once again we see a review judged by modern-day standards, as opposed to the context in which it was released. Other examples are removing points from comic book reviews because the comics are not printed using modern technology–despite the fact that they were originally printed decades ago.
This attitude, in my opinion, skews the rating in favor of the modern. In the Hulk discussion, someone pointed out that Alien, which is a classic, received a similar rating to Hulk, which will most likely NOT be a classic. I would like to see how a bureau42 review of the original Star Wars movie would go. At the time, the effects were cutting-edge and amazing, yet now (25 years later), they are dated and almost hokey.
Is it proper, therefore, to review a book/comic/movie in the modern context? I say “No.” For technical details, we should review it in the context in which it was released. The emotional response of a movie should not be lowered because it was viewed on a home theater system. The graphic quality of a comic book reprint should not be lowered because it was originally created when modern technology did not exist.
Re: Context, context, context…
I see your point – HOWEVER. a) this rating system is *NOT*, repeat, *NOT* the kind of rating system that is used to determine “is a movie a classic”. in 10 years, 15 years, etc., when we review the hulk again on a home theater system, (ya, right, I know, but bear with me) it’ll get a rating where it deserves on ITS OWN SCALE AT THE TIME. The point is, we’re not assigning artistic merit to these works. they have that (or don’t) in whatever measure you personally assign to them. what we’re doing is throwing out there some kind of idea as to what we thought when we saw them. your gripe is frustrating because there is no way to fix this problem given our current ratings scale. If you want to fix it, send us an e-mail, engage us in conversation about what might be better things to rate based upon. Emotional response is a really hard one here. If someone’s seen a movie half a dozen times, it’s probably best not to even consider your current emotional response…in my opinion, it’s a lousy category to rate with. But it’s what we’ve got at the moment to work with. Perhaps it’s a good idea to rate “modern” comic books separately from reprints? where do we draw the line? should we consider that “last year, many inkers went through messy divorces, and so we should cut them some slack”? Where do you draw the line? once again – (as I know you’ve posted these sorts of things before) – instead of just viciously attacking the review for things you see as “biased”, work with us to iron these things out. And remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect review. In the end, I think the worst thing you can say about these reveiws is that they present a unique viewpoint on things that many other people have forgotten about.
Re: Context, context, context…
It was not my intention to be vicious, and I apologize if I came across in that manner. I was a bit frustrated, however, because I do not remember getting any responses to my previous posts on the matter. Maybe that came through in my writing. Essentially I did not feel I was being heard.
Well, now I know you’ve heard me. And I’m glad you’ve posted the “Rating Categories” topic.
I enjoy Bureau42, which is why I made those posts in the first place. I do not wish to create any hard feelings, and I hope that this post will help alleviate any that may have come about as a result of my complaining.
Re: Context, context, context…
I was less than two years old when this came out. There’s no way I
can accurately rate a movie as it would have been perceived in 1979.
I admit that the Originality and Emotional Response categories depend
heavily on the reviewer’s life experiences, but I’m not exactly sure how
to deal with that. The only thing I can come up with is to drop them and
put a double or triple weighting on the Overall category, which is the
most important of the bunch. The best I can do for now is to just try and
make sure that my biases are clear in the reviews, so that people will
be able to gauge how closely my opinions will match theirs.
It may also be worth doing an “Ask the Bureau” on this.