When you are an original fan like me, when it comes to this built world, it is hard to keep an unbiased perspective. I will preface that by saying I have seen all the Alien films in the theater, some more than once. With the original film, I only knew about it by rumor when it hit the big screen. It was an epiphany nonetheless and I like to think it made the kind of impact in 1979 that Hitchcock did in his day! It definitely keeps company in the pantheon of legends like Star Wars, Blade Runner and Lord of the Rings.
So, in the interest of giving this ‘prequel’ its due I have avoided much of the marketing (other than a few basic trailers) and tried to keep my expectations in check. I was only slightly influenced by my esteemed film friend The Curmudgeon Turk texting me a slightly cryptic ‘Holy Shit,’ upon his exit of a late opening night show.
But I digress. Let me say up front: is this film a perfect movie or even a perfect Alien movie? No, it is not. Is it an undeniable slice of this built world? Absolutely! And like that two word exclamation above suggests, you have to love how Sci-Fi done well blows the mind. Great film isn’t always film that answers every question, but ultimately leaves you to ponder a bit to yourself as well.
From the opening vistas, archeological dig and the DNA experiments gone wrong to the solitary David prowling the empty but gorgeous Prometheus ship, I am deep-end immersed in the visual splendor that is Ridley’s vision right from the start. As the crew is brought out of Cryo and we learn of the players in our drama, it’s much easier to give an ‘ahh’ of appreciation that this time around this won’t be an accidental encounter; we are hunting alien to find out who they are and how we are related. As this well heeled Weyland/Yutani expedition plays out we find that their artificial human David – portrayed brilliantly by Michael Fassbender – is every bit as untrustworthy as they always were in the early films. I can still hear Bishop from aliens exclaiming, “Well, that explains it then. The A2s always were a bit twitchy. That could never happen now with our behavioral inhibitors.” When the archeologist couple that discovered our connection to the far off spot in space are subjected to David’s heinous ‘corporate dictated’ betrayal, it underscores that a big part of the monster we face is the company and, ironically, it always has been.
As things unfold and David – with his own agenda – finds way more interesting things than the scouting party after exploring this temporary alien facility on his own, we come to understand a little of the situation of the alien party and can speculate on how they may have ended up on this barren LV-223. Of course when playing with DNA like they were, anything is possible and experiments are best done away from home. Particularly when dealing with species or ecosystem eradicators. As I pause at the tender moments between archeologists Charlie and Elizabeth, I take a breath and marvel that I haven’t been pulled this deeply into a film in a long long time.
While not initially impressed with Naomi Rapace as Elizabeth, when she goes through her ordeal she shows some Ripley toughness and while she meets up with old man Peter Weyland and handlers, we realize she is the first one on the ship to understand the gravity of the situation and it is now her self-appointed job to make sure nothing goes home! When she makes the Captain aware and they make the pact that they obviously have to make, we’re off to meet the sole survivor.
As the rest of the film plays out and the survivor obviously isn’t friendly, the end game is afoot. When Elizabeth cues the captain as the Alien ship takes flight, he does what he has to and like all great heroism, no one will know what they save this day.
As Elizabeh makes it back to the escape pod with a surprise waiting, the film is nearly undone. For many it will be undone, but for me it is not. It is the only major misstep in the entire film. But it’s a big one and though I understand Hollywood’s desire for more than one climatic end set piece for its action, action, action mantra, this one was flagrantly wrong! SPOILER: SEE ALTERNATE ENDING BELOW if you want to know how it should have ended.
With the ending as it should have been done, this could very well have been another Ridley masterpiece! (do you hear your cue for the directors cut, Ridley?) As it stands, it’s still a great film that mostly maintains such coherent, consistent details as a prequel to its progenitor of 33 years ago that I have to, as Ripley once did, hold you to my bosom as we fall into the dark abyss together.
Eternally, Flaws and All
THE END AS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN:
Elizabeth madly pulls supplies from the crashed pod and as David breaks in on suit comm. And tells her she needs to get out of there, she stops and ponders.
Elizabeth; David What is it?
David; I would guess that it is what you excised via surgery, but much, much larger.
Elizabeth; I need this Pod to survive.
Elizabeth: So what do I do?
David: Let it out and hide. You are going to have another visitor eventually.
Elizabeth looks for a control panel in one of the airlocks and keys open all the bays on manual.
Elizabeth (hushed): David you will have to be my eyes.
David: I know.
As she squats down in a storage locker we hear her panting and waiting and we see the very large face hugger climb its way out of the ship and start toward the wrecked Alien ship partly there the Alien comes out of a hatch the hugger senses it and bolts to the ship frantically. As the alien darts back inside we see from close to David’s perspective the Alien climbing back into the command chair to start powering up a part of the ship trying to close entry points. We cut to the hugger inside climbing toward the command area through the passages with that classic alien preternatural speed. As the alien starts to close the chair armor the hugger leaps up on top and jolts the tube down its throat. When the hugger falls off the headgear slips into place with the alien in the chair unconscious.
When we cut to Elizabeth and David leaving the ship there is a quick silent and familiar scene of the alien still in his cockpit seat the only difference is there is no hole … yet.