Sunday, January 21, 2007

Movie Review: Alien 4 ½ Stars

Alien sets the standard for not only science fiction, but horror, fantasy and thriller films. While most effects-laden films of the late-Seventies seem dated at best, Battle Beyond The Stars at worst, the Alien special effects and production, costume and creature design are still impressive twenty years later. And the astounding score by Jerry Goldsmith is classic.

Ridley Scott, an acclaimed commercial director, brought a heretofore unmatched sense of style to the genre. With Dan O’Bannon’s taut script, he created a suspenseful, white knuckle thrill ride that’s far scarier than the slasher films, monster movies and Satanic bloodbaths popular at the time. The womblike, claustrophobic look and feel of the Nostromo cargo ship and the uncharted planetoid are based on the surrealistic designs of cult artist HR Giger as is the insectoid-reptilian alien itself. The visual effects would win an Academy Award for Giger and three other artists. Giger would later design other space creatures in his biomechanical style, most notably for the film Species.

The solid cast of respected character actors includes Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright and, of course, Sigourney Weaver as Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley. Weaver would return as the ballsy heroine in three more installments of the franchise, even nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for Aliens. Outside of the beastie itself, Sigourney Weaver is the key figure of the series and a rarity in films --a strong female hero with very real emotions and an actual identity.

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