Should I Watch..? 'Alien'

Updated on August 7, 2018
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a full-time carer and former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films for over ten years.

Poster for the film
Poster for the film | Source

What's the Big Deal?

Alien is a science-fiction horror film released in 1979 and was directed by Ridley Scott in only his second feature film. The film concerns the small crew of a deep space vessel encountering a vicious and deadly alien and stars Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm and Harry Dean Stanton. The film's subsequent success led to the creation of the Alien franchise (of which, this is the first film) with a number of sequels and prequels being released as well as merchandising and even cross-over movies with another movie-based character from space, the Predator. It was also a critical success and has become to be regarded as one of the best sci-fi films in history with the alien creature itself, designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, becoming one of the most recognizable villains of all time.

Unmissable

5 stars for Alien

What's It About?

The dormant crew of the commercial spaceship Nostromo are awakened by the on-board computer while still many light-years from Earth. The ship has detected a beacon of unknown origin from a nearby planet and company policy dictates that the crew, led by Captain Dallas, must investigate. The ship sustains damage on route to landing on the planet's surface so while engineering contractors Parker and Brett repair the damage, Dallas leads a small expedition onto the planet.

Before long, they discover the long-dead remains of an alien civilisation and a mysterious egg chamber buried deep beneath. As Kane takes a closer look, something emerges and latches itself onto his face. As Dallas and navigator Lambert hurry back to the ship with the injured Kane, warrant officer Ripley initially refuses them re-entry to the ship on quarantine grounds. But science officer Ash lets them on board - a decision which could have grave consequences for all the crew...

Trailer

Main Cast

Actor
Role
Tom Skerritt
Dallas
Sigourney Weaver
Ripley
John Hurt
Kane
Veronica Cartwright
Lambert
Harry Dean Stanton
Brett
Yaphet Kotto
Parker
Ian Holm
Ash
Bolaji Badejo
The Alien

Technical Info

Director
Ridley Scott
Screenplay
Dan O'Bannon *
Running Time
117 minutes
Release Date (UK)
30th September, 1979
Genre
Horror, Sci-Fi
Academy Award
Best Visual Effects
Academy Award Nomination
Best Set Direction
* based on a story by Dan O'Bannon & Ronald Shusett
The film would propel Weaver into Hollywood's A-list as well as shattering the stereotypes surrounding female characters
The film would propel Weaver into Hollywood's A-list as well as shattering the stereotypes surrounding female characters | Source

What's to like?

If one were to ignore the whole mythos that has since surrounded the characters, it's still staggering to watch Alien for what it is. And there is no doubt that it is a piece of work of sublime brilliance - Scott's cinematography and vision brings to mind both the epic grandeur of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the visceral horror of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with blood flying though the air, chests exploding and death being dispatched at almost any given moment. Scott understands that a good horror film is also about what you can't see as much as what you can, allowing the darker corners of the screen to be illuminated by the audience's imagination. And it's not just about the Xenomorph either - the face-hugger is also a source of morbid fascination and revulsion. It gives the film a sense of being well thought-out instead of simply being a slasher film in space.

Weaver delivers an astonishingly complete performance as Ripley, proving that women in films could be something more than just damsels-in-distress or cheap titillation. But the film offers more than just a bloody who's-next-to-die mystery - Alien subverts the usual conventions of the captain being heroic and most likely to survive while the dialogue between Parker and Brett as the two engineering guys more concerned with their pay than survival help illustrate a world far broader than what appears on screen. It's also a film that isn't afraid to leave questions hanging in the air like the remains of the so-called Space Jockey or the origin of the Xenomorph species. Even with the benefit of hindsight and numerous sequels and prequels filling in the gaps of our knowledge, the tension is palpable in every scene of Alien and helps to make this far better than its simple premise might suggest.

Fun Facts

  • Badejo was working as a graphic artist when he was discovered by one of the casting directors in a pub. Being 7 feet 1 tall, Badejo was perfect to play the alien and was sent to Tai Chi and mime classes to slow his movements down properly. They also constructed a swing for him on set as he couldn't sit down in a chair once he was in the costume.
  • Scott was careful to never show the alien in full, often keeping the creature obscured in darkness to dispel the notion of the part being played by a man in a suit. In total, the beast has just four minutes of screen-time and is usually shot in profile.
  • The original script had a clause stating that all the characters were unisex, meaning that either male or female actors could be cast in the same role. However, neither O'Bannon or Shusett ever considered Ripley being a woman.

What's not to like?

Probably the most conventional character in the film is Lambert, played with enough gusto by Veronica Cartwright. Once the story begins properly, she kinda fades into the background and becomes your typical shrieking woman in horror films such as this. Somehow, I expected a bit more but then again, what else could the character be besides Weaver's ballsy heroine in order to stand out? Other than this, there isn't much else one could fault. Effects are surprisingly good given the film's age and budget while the alien creature itself looks far more menacing than a bloke in a suit. Scott's use of camera trickery and model-work is second-to-none - remember the vast, sprawling vision of LA with its flying police cars in Blade Runner - and despite the odd shot that would benefit from modern input, the film is a surprisingly solid watch even today. The sets are also fantastic, feeling suitably claustrophobic and industrial.

If I were being ultra-critical then perhaps the soundtrack could benefit from an update but in truth, it's so unobtrusive that you possibly might not miss it were it removed altogether. Lastly, I also felt that the character of Ash was thrown in as a last-minute addition and didn't feel as well thought out as the others were. Nothing wrong with Holm's performance but I found myself questioning why such a character would be among such a group.

The film has a look and style all of its own, exemplified by the creature itself and the otherworldly sets
The film has a look and style all of its own, exemplified by the creature itself and the otherworldly sets | Source

Should I Watch It?

Science fiction and horror have long been bedfellows but rarely as successfully as Alien, a film that capitalised on the success of Star Wars but showing us a version of the future that was brutal, bloody and grim. Gripping and tense throughout, it has come to define sci-fi horror ever since but has rarely been bettered. It's impossible to ignore and just as impossible to forget - this is one film that really does keep you on the edge of your seat and never lets up for a minute.

Great For: slasher fans, sci-fi lovers, fans of the franchise.

Not So Great For: the squeamish, younger viewers, film-makers obsessed with shooting everything in CG.

What Else Should I Watch?

In case you feel like I'm overblowing the film somewhat by declaring it the best sci-fi horror film out there, may I present the contenders? Nonsense like Event Horizon may mimic the scares in Alien but not the tension, story-telling or genuine terror. There are literally hundreds of other alien films from the 1950's adaptation of The War Of The Worlds, the allegorical Invasion Of The Body Snatchers to the jungle warfare of Predator and the soft-porn silliness of Species - another film utilising the strange imagination of H.R. Giger to design its titular character. Depending on what you're looking for, there are very few I can think of to match the fear this film generates.

Unless one looks to the inevitable sequels. Aliens sees heavily-armed marines going into battle against hundreds of alien creatures and offers a very different take on the situation. You are still not sure of the final outcome and it still has plenty of moments to make you jump but personally, I prefer the first film's simplicity and claustrophobia. Over time, sadly, the fear gets increasingly distilled - Alien 3 isn't a bad movie as such but not really comparable to the first two films while Alien: Resurrection has Winona Ryder playing a space pirate, which says it all.

© 2017 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Benjamin Cox profile imageAUTHOR

      Benjamin Cox 

      19 months ago from Hampshire, UK

      I'm continually amazed and disappointed at the increasing number of sequels churned out for our entertainment. I'd rather have quality over quantity any day of the week and I suspect that most cinema-goers would as well.

    • profile image

      Pat Mills 

      19 months ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      I agree that this is the best entry in the Alien series. In addition to the points you mentioned, I thought the invincibility of the creature itself added to the terror and the tension. After the prequel from a few years ago, I have officially lost interest in the series. I don't always mind film series that last for generations, but I think filmmakers do this too often these days.

      Happy New Year to you.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)