I watched "Alien" for the first time in many years. I've always had fondness for it because it was a really well done horror story.
But after the latest rewatch, I had a hard time figuring out just what made it so attractive to me at the time. Because I can't for the life of me find anything to like about it now except for the alien design and set design.
Somehow, Scott got away with filming some kind of extended acting school exercise with his cast and then splurged with his real star...the Nostromo ship. We are treated to extended shots of hallways, computers, windows with scenic space views. There are cute kitchens decorated with wobbling chickens. There is history in those walls. It is too bad I don't feel that from the cast. I never received the impression that any of the actual people in the film had a history with each other. They were strangers on a train.
I do have to cut some slack for Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton. Neither of the two actors looked serious about the film. They knew what they were given was just a bit bogus, so they hammed it up accordingly. Ultimately they were the only two "characters" that come across as human. The rest were low key, slow and robotic in their delivery and every line was stretched out to infinity. And what they spoke about was...nothing. I know that these "people" were supposed to be co-workers. I know that they supposedly know each other well. But couldn't we the audience been given some kind of catch up to the group dynamics? The actors knowing a bit of history about their characters is not the same as the audience knowing the characters. There is no fucking possible way an actor can convey unspoken backstory. There couldn't be any personal story?
1 - Unknown strangers wake up on a groovy ship.
2 - They eat, most of their banter is mumbled but we discover they are getting ready to disembark.
3 - They discover that they are nowhere near home and must investigate an S.O.S.
4 - They go discover that S.O.S
5 - They crash but still discuss that S.O.S.
6 - They are walking around looking for that S.O.S
7 - They experience an S.O.S
This goes on forever, trying to hide the fact that the story did not fucking start yet! The story starts when they haul their coworker along with the alien onto their ship. That is when the story starts. And what was that...almost halfway through the film?
You see, this is when the ridiculousness that is modern filmmaking began. At the point in time when Jaws, Star Wars and Alien were created. And each of those films had many good points. But they had just as many horrible and anti-artistic faults as well. Right now, we are celebrating all the anti-artistic aspects of those seminal films. We are getting no characters, no story, overly emphasized special effects and sequels galore.
Sure Alien is filled with eye candy. Long, loving shots of that fabulous set. Wonderful pacing of the Alien's terrorization of the crew. But that didn't add up to a whole film.
I don't know, I guess I'm just disillusioned with everything I once thought was good. Only to discover that it was just good enough and maybe not even that. Its all razzle dazzle and nothing inside.
Labels: acting, commentary, culture, filmmaking, reviews