Flicks With Nicki – ‘Alien’ (1979)
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Eighteen years ago my friend Mamie was pregnant, and I offered to throw her baby shower. The theme was “Alien.” Not generic space aliens, but Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic “Alien.”
There was an image of the iconic broken pod with green goo oozing out on the invitation. I referred to Mamie as the host. The pregnancy was her gestational period. I couldn’t wait for the little parasite to burst into the world. That baby is now a first year student at Stanford University. And in 18 years, I’ve never been asked to host a baby shower again.
“Alien” celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. If you’re a fan of science fiction, you should’ve seen it by now. The premise is based on simple horror movie principles. An isolated group of humans finds out that they are being hunted by an unknown beast. When it comes to alien invasions, we’re all going to die. The question is usually when and how. But in the case of “Alien” the bigger question is why.
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We meet the ship first. It is a huge gray lumbering beast. We are told it is carrying 20 million tons of mineral ore. It is pregnant with cargo. The interior corridors are black, like a network of muscles and fossilized bone. In a white room, the crew emerges from stasis. They rise, almost naked, from white pods. They open their eyes like babies. They move slowly without much purpose. They eventually gather to eat, smoke, and laugh. The computer is called Mother. She has all the answers. She only speaks to the Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt). He looks like the hero of the movie. He looks like a survivor.
They realize that they are still months away from Earth and woken up early because of a signal from a nearby planet. Three of the crew venture out to explore. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is suspicious of the distress call and discovers it is not a cry for help, but a warning to stay away. Too late.
Warning signs look like:
– A crashed spaceship from ancient times
– An alien skeleton with ribcage area exploded out (big foreshadowing)
– A football field of unhatched pods.
Kane (John Hurt) accidentally falls into the pods field, but then very purposely shines his light and pokes at one. Karma in this movie has about a 24 hour incubation period.
The rest of the movie is Ripley trying to bring logic to an illogical situation. We soon realize there is reason why the alien is important. Ash (Ian Holm) is the science officer who explains that it’s the perfect organism whose “structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.” Wait, what? So it’s not going to wake up slowly and blink at us with oversized eyes?
I’m lucky that I first saw “Alien” at a young age. I didn’t know who would survive. The turn of events was entirely surprising to me. At some point I stared at Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) in amazement. Captain Dallas wasn’t the only hero. We learn the true villain might not be the monster, but the people who want to harness its structural perfection and hostility.
I’m lucky that I’ve seen “Alien” many times over the years. I like the gender neutrality of the entire film. Any character could be played by another person and the movie would not be changed. Besides the word “mother” there is no other reference to gender in the film. The ship is a mother, the computer is a mother, Kane is a mother. Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) is a mother to the cat. We know above all, you must save the cat. Jonesy deserves a chance of happiness.
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We see all types of monsters. We see facehuggers (the softshell crab that attaches itself to Kane and impregnates him) and xenomorphs (the alien). We see Ash. We see what is done in the name of science and the absence of humanity. We learn about the company and the expendability of life.
I love the strange atmosphere of the ship. There is light and dark. They use fire to keep the monster away. The camera runs as Ripley runs. We breathe as she breathes. We hold our breath when she does. The movie tagline says, “In space no one can hear you scream.” But on a space cargo ship, there are many screams.
Sigourney Weaver changed my perspective on the underdog who becomes a great hero. It is a movie that still frightens me. It is a movie that still thrills me. I’ve been pregnant. I’ve given birth. I’ve had lifeforms burst from my abdomen. There are often strange aliens who run around my house and hug my face. There are so many reasons why I love this movie. The fact that it reminds me so much of motherhood is one of them. That’s really scary. Grade A+.
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