Geek Rant: Alien reboot?

Ranting against the idea of reboots and remakes of classic films is nothing new. It’s a risky endeavor that Hollywood takes on again and again – more often than not with poor results. But they keep on making them and people keep on seeing them, hoping to recapture the lightening in the bottle of the original.

Most of the time, I just abstain. From both seeing whatever remake and from participating in the discussion thereof. But this one I just cannot let go of. They have invaded my personal top 5 movies of all time.

I can’t tell you how old I was when I first saw “Alien”. Under age 8 because my family was still in our original house. I remember sitting on the cool tile floor in the Florida room and my father covering my eyes during the scariest parts. All the same, even without seeing a good portion of the movie, I was mesmerized. “Alien” is an achievement of film, a science fiction masterpiece that transcends science fiction by taking the classic premise of a haunted house and putting it in the cold vacuum of space. From the mystery of the “Space Jockey” found on LV-426, to Ash’s ultimate betrayal, the movie jolts you from one thrilling moment to the next, pausing only to agonizingly linger in a sense of desperation so thick it makes you sweat. And all of that doesn’t even scratch the surface, or even bring into consideration the beauty or horror in the design of the “Alien” (Xenomorph) itself. But, come on, it’s Giger. It’s gorgeous and monstrous and unforgettable. It is a nightmare made flesh.

With an original as spectacular as what Ridley Scott gave us, it was a difficult task to take on a sequel, with a new director and mostly new cast. But James Cameron delivered “Aliens” – a film that is more than up to the challenge of following in the footsteps of “Alien”. Yet, on the surface, it seems like a cheap idea. Instead of one xenomorph, the characters are up against a colony. Instead of being on a ship, they spend most of the time back on LV-426. And instead of a small crew of 7 blue collars, there’s the Colonial Marines. But where Ridley gave us eerie elegance sliced through with thrills, Cameron gave us grimy realism on the edges of absolute horror. And at the heart (safely ensconced in a 14′ steel power loader) is maternal instinct. Both Ripley’s for the orphaned Newt as well as the Alien Queen’s for all the soldiers beneath her. There are also themes of overcoming prejuidice, the betrayal of that which is supposed to protect us, profound loss, and the tension between the masculine and the feminine. Where “Alien” was an icey claw up your back, “Aliens” grabbed you by the throat and throttled you.

Even more, one of the most amazing things about both of these superb films, is how completely they hold up today. Using little more than rubber suits, camera tricks, puppets, props on strings and animatronics, it all looks just as good as the shiniest CGI (and better than then CGI that emerged in Alien3) used today – and feels a lot more visceral and organic in several scenes.

“Alien3” is the weakest of the bunch for me – but I don’t fault David Fincher for that. There were multiple scripts – even well into production there wasn’t a final script decided upon. And it was a production beset with troubles – from the Cinematographer Alex Thomson being replaced by Jordan Cronenweth after two weeks of filming, when Jordan Cronenweth fell ill, to daily studio interference. Interference that (depending on who’s version you believe) either led to Fincher walking out on the production before editing, or being cut out of the production by the studio. Given the extras on the 9 disc Quadrilogy Collection (which I watch, in its entirety, at least twice a year. Yes, all 9 discs. It’s heaven.), I’m betting it was the latter. As one of the SFX crew said – they didn’t so much wrap production as get told they were done. And then the studio took over everything. And even still, there are strengths to be found in “Alien3“. From the idea of a planet inhabitted by monastic like criminals to what the xenmorph would look like if birthed from a non-human organism, there are seevral interesting concepts. I wonder how much better it could have been if the studio had just backed off.

“Alien: Resurrection” is one that bothers a lot of people. I am not one of them. I think it is a beautiful film, drenched in the perfect amount of light, with impeccable costuming and a score that is still one of my very favorites. I am not bothered one bit by how Ripley was brought back into the time line and placed alongside the xenomorphs again. It makes sense to me that the goverment agency that traveled all the way to Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161 in “Alien3” to try and get the impregnated Ripley in their grip would use the tissue samples left behind during her treatment in Fury’s sick bay after her escape pod crashed there, and attempt to clone her. I liked how the Ripley we finally meet is version 8 and I think the melding of her genetic make up with that of the Xenomorph added a sense of dark humor that Ripley needed after being dead and now not quite human. The scene in the Auriga gym between Ripley and the crew of the Betty is pitch perfect and remains one of my favorite moments of the franchise. Plus….SWIMMING ALIENS (which, bit of trivia, they built the largest water tank stage for – so big that it took nearly a week just to fill it with water)!

Between then lines of these 4 movies, a shorthand was formed. Iconography was formed. Not just in the Xenomorph, face hugger and chest burster – but in Ripley. Arguably, the first modern, well written, tough as sin yet not a symbol for anima-as-animus-stand-in, female character to grace our film screens. And Sigourney Weaver portrayed her, every step of the way, perfectly.

As such, the idea here hurts my soul. Especially with  the idea of introducing a “new Ripley”.

So please, I beg of you Fox – don’t. Just don’t.

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