Alien is a one of my all-time favorite movies. In the 1979 classic starring Tom Skerrit and Sigourney Weaver, the alien is capable of huge transformation throughout its life cycle, starting as a “face hugger” and turning into a more traditional monster; people on a remote and isolated outpost are terrorized; one by one, despite their best efforts, they meet their doom. What could be colder and more isolating than outer space? I consider this as more horror than science fiction, though really it’s a lovely merge of the two.
Then there’s the sticky (hah hah) topic of the face-hugger and what it really represents. A lot has been written about the role of rape and gender in the Alien franchise:
- Representations of The Body in Alien (academic article, a little dense)
It’s all true. The symbolism basically knocks you over the head, but it’s fresh, new symbolism, so that’s okay. Fantastically weird sets and alien designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger really make you feel like you’re in an alien (hah hah) environment.
There’s a delicious sense of everyman in the characters. This first of the series is sometimes called “Truckers in Space”. Everyone is there for a commission; they aren’t your typical action heroes chosen for amazing technical abilities or heroism. Everyone is relatable as a normal Joe/Jane, just out there to finish a job and collect their money. The second installation in the series, Aliens, would be “Soldiers in Space”. I think Alien is the better movie because the characters are more subtle and believable.
At merely seven characters–nine if you consider the ship (Mother) and the alien–it’s an amazingly slim cast, but all of them play an important part. Sigourney Weaver kills it as the feminist heroine, taking control and surviving when nobody else can sort their asses from their elbows. I even like Veronica Cartwright, who played the hysterical woman. She played other hysterical women in other movies later in her career, notably, The Witches of Eastwick.
My boyfriend thought the movie was slow. That’s how movies were made before the instant gratification/jump-cut era took hold. Movies had details and subtlety.
Finally, an analysis I really loved, all about the fonts in Alien: