Film Review: Ridley Scott's "Alien" (1979)

Figure 1. Alien Movie Poster

One can only think of how much suspense and jump scares a film can offer when considering Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (1979). For what is considered to be a classic, “Alien” (1979) simply excites you with the creature in the dark out to kill the crew one by one. This film has been noted to share a few similarities with the movie “Jaws”.

The plot line is as follows. A crew of seven astronauts are travelling through the never-ending abyss that is space. As they arise from their slumber from what looks to be like large incubators, we then have the experience of getting to know the crew members over breakfast. From the beginning of the film, all the way through, the camera angles are usually set at eye-level, or just below. This technique is used to allow us to create an attachment with the characters, creating an atmosphere as if to say that the audience member was part of the crew. Even at the beginning of the film, before we meet the crew, we are panning through the ships corridors, as if exploring it for ourselves. 
Figure 2. Main Cast

With the design of this film, it’s more about the production value rather than the narrative. This is partly evidenced through the sometimes muffled audio of the speech dialogue played out by the characters, giving a sense of accuracy to what it could potentially be like if being placed in that situation. The production value is also noticeable within the design of the ship itself, as the artist who designed these elaborate interiors actually had a career in the commercial industry. As Alexander Barahona had said, “This clever design serves a distinct purpose, on the one hand it awes us with a level of technology beyond our understanding, yet on the other it offers a very relatable environment, allowing greater empathy with the crew’s terror while awakening primal fears such as nyctophobia claustrophobia in the viewer.” (Barahona, date unknown).

As the film progresses, the crew then receive a distress signal from out-of-nowhere, to which they stumble upon a barren wasteland of a planet, with what appears to be raging sandstorms and an abandoned space craft. A few brave souls venture on into the unknown of this industrial cavern and happen upon a large nest of eggs. In this scene, John Hurt’s character accidentally knocks one of the eggs, resulting in it hatching and the creature inside latching onto his face. He is then brought back to the ship, and thus commences the famous scene of the creature exploding out from his stomach and let loose onto the ship.

Figure 3. Young Alien bursting out of John Hurt's stomach

As Derek Malcolm said, “Hurt has said that it was more a matter of reacting than acting, and one can well understand what he means. His own performance makes one miss it when it's gone.” (Malcolm, 2009). The special effects displayed within this feature are quite remarkable, and seem timeless. As Roger Ebert stated, “"Alien" uses a tricky device to keep the alien fresh throughout the movie: It evolves the nature and appearance of the creature, so we never know quite what it looks like or what it can do.” (Ebert, 2009).

Unfortunately, as the legacy films cannot live up to the expectations the original has set, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (1979) is certainly a dark tale any film goer should experience. As Vincent Canby well put, “It’s an old-fashioned scare movie about something that is not only implacably evil but prone to jumping out at you when (the movie hopes) you least expect it.” (Canby, 1979)

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Bibliography:

Barahona, A. (n/a) ‘Review: Alien (1979)’ (n/a) In: http://www.thatfilmguy.net/ (n/a) [online] At: http://www.thatfilmguy.net/alien-1979/ (Accessed on 04.11.14)

Malcolm, D. (2009) ‘Derek Malcolm's Alien review from 1979’ (2009) In: http://www.theguardian.com/ 13.10.09 [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/oct/13/derek-malcolm-alien-review (Accessed on 04.11.14)

Ebert, R. (2009) ‘Reviews: Alien’ In: http://www.rogerebert.com/ 09.09.09 [online] At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/alien-2009 (Accessed on 04.11.14)


Canby, V. (1979) ‘MOVIE REVIEW: Alien (1979) - Screen: 'Alien 'Brings Chills From the Far Galaxy:A Gothic Set in Space’ (1979) In: http://www.nytimes.com/ 25.05.79 [online] At: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=950CEED61439E732A25756C2A9639C946890D6CF (Accessed on 04.11.14)

Illustrations:

Figure 1. Alien Movie Poster (1979) [Poster] At: http://photos.bravenet.com/272/478/925/3/B44EA24058.jpg

Figure 2. Main Cast (1979) [Photo] At: https://riversofgrue.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/alien_ridley_scott_horror-9.jpg

Figure 3. Young Alien bursting out of John Hurt's stomach (1979) [Movie Still] At: http://www.filmsquish.com/guts/files/images/alien_xl_05.jpg

Comments

  1. Another thorough review Chelsea, well done :)
    I'm not quite sure about the last paragraph - it doesn't quite make sense...

    'Unfortunately, as the legacy films cannot live up to the expectations the original has set, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (1979) is certainly a dark tale any film goer should experience.' Just something not quite right there...

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