I had the immense pleasure of getting to see Ridley Scott’s return to the “Alien” franchise over the weekend as part of my wedding anniversary celebration. As usual, when dealing with that franchise, I was left with a lot of things to think about – unlike “Star Trek” and for the most part, “Star Wars”.
To me, the appeal of “Alien – Aliens3” is in the unseen – what... you don’t see, a certain openness to interpretation, and the various socio-political issues and digs that are part of the subtext along with various mythical/epic themes: Alien-Aliens deals with everything from motherhood to corporate greed, and well, ecology (Invasive species, anybody?)
The fourth Alien movie, well, quite frankly, I’m still up in the air about that one:
Do I put it in with my collection of John Pierre Jeunot DVDs?
Do I file it with my Alien/Alien vs. Predator DVDs?
Or do I risk breaking up my Blue-Ray “Aliens Quadrology” set by giving in to my first impulse and using it as a coaster for my morning coffee, thus supporting Joss Wheedon’s complaint of “They fucked up my movie!”?
And yes, I have NO PROBLEM with the Hish being part of the Alien universe – to me, they add to the depth, the mystery in the entire franchise – as long as they are handled correctly – so get off my ass about that one, too.
Overall, the newest chapter, was visually stunning, with the added, delicious bonus of a lot of the material originally designed by H.R. Geiger for “Alien” but left out for purposes of budget and plot preservation, FINALLY being used, particularly the mural in the main temple? WMD factory? If I have the time and scratch, I’ll go back and see the 3-D version before it moves on. You also have the overall cinematography, barren magnificence displayed like a jewel on a velvet cushion, along with Easter eggs for fans of the original movie as well as Geiger. I bring up the mural as it was supposedly cut from the first movie because it gave EVERYTHING to come away – study it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
As to the Engineers, they’re open to interpretation as to intentions, but I thought it was really cool that the original Engineer corpse discovered in Alien was as I suspected: that tapir like face was really a breathing apparatus concealing a humanoid face beneath, and that the overall bizarre exoskeleton was really a bio-modeled space suit overlaying a humanoid physique.
The Engineers themselves are allegedly a genetic match to Earth humans – but to look at them, welllllllllll – is this what we will become if we don’t kill ourselves off over the next million years or so, OR, seeing as they appear to be master bio-engineers, are we looking at humans that have been fiddled with chemically/physically AFTER birth, and that if one of us was given the same treatment, would we look just like them?
I say this because they apparently have the ability to literally rip apart a body at the genetic level with the ingestion of an unknown liquid (see the first opening minutes and you’ll know what I’m talking about) – sending strands of DNA into an environment like a dandelion sends seeds into the air to start the life-cycle all over. I’m wondering if they don’t take a series of treatments to prepare their bodies for eventual constructive destruction, leaving off the final dosage for whenever it’s time to “seed” a hospitable environment with DNA for future terraforming – their translucent white flesh, lack of hair, and dark eyes being an indicator that they’ve undertaken the treatment and are ready for the next stage if needed.
As to their uniform appearance, who knows.
I am also wondering seriously if what you see in the abandoned/dead facility that the ship Prometheus lands near isn’t the remains of a cult dedicated to spreading their genetics throughout the universe. Granted, we’re dealing with an unknown culture here, but their bald heads, uniform appearance, apparently single sex population and near-religious arrangements of EVERYTHING fairly screams MONASTARY to me.
So, if we are their creations, why was the one survivor, once revived from his 2,000 year sleep homicidal, and why is the ship he was sleeping on apparently headed for Earth with a payload of what appears to all purposes to be WMDs of a particularly nasty biological approach?
Then there’s the xenomorphs, in various forms, from the aforementioned mural to the almost ritually arranged chamber of the great big giant head with it’s canisters that look suspiciously like xenomorph egg cases waiting to unleash nasty surprises onto anybody stupid enough to mess with them. If you look at the mural, which is just about as close to a riff on the Sistine Chapel as you can get, it details the life cycle of the xenomorph, even showing stages/forms we haven’t seen yet, and the victims are ENGINEERS – who appear to be DELIBERATELY allowing themselves to be infected by facehuggers.
Hmmmmm… is it a warning to not mess with the xenomorphs, or is this some sort of ritual interaction – if you have the right circumstances and biochemistry available, is the horrific interaction between host and parasite actually benevolent??? If the victim has the right drugs in his/her system and a system of self control, could they migrate their conciousness INTO the future xenomorph, gaining a new body that’s virtually indestructible – able to control it so that it can interact with humans/Engineers without hurting anyone? Maybe even shaping the final form to their needs as it develops within their body cavities? Is what we’ve seen in the previous movies what happens when the controls are off and the xenomorph is allowed to do what it pleases?
Who knows – and anyway, if that’s the case, why do we find a huge pile of very, VERY dead engineers with punched in skulls and outwardly burst body cavities up against a sealed door as if they’d fled in a panic only to find the enemy within as well as in hot pursuit. Where did the final form that came out of them go?
And then there’s the bit of vile slime that David the synthetic finds when first exploring the temple – that’s NOT the same glop that’s in the jars – it looks suspiciously like xenomorph secretions – and had they explored further with or without the ‘bots, they might have found where the outbreak had happened initially, and the nest had been built.
Seeing as the moon that all this has been found on ISN’T the same as the one that the Nostromo landed on decades later (I suspect it’s in the same system or at least a nearby one.) is the ship/Engineer pilot found there, part of what appears to have been a major catastrophe? Was he the one pilot of the many ships found underneath the temple who got away, only to crash-land when what he was carrying burst out of his chest, effectively putting an end to what may have been a convoy of death heading Earth’s way? (If nothing else, the warning signal the ship gives off still makes sense – warding off salvage/rescue crews from entering a potentially disasterous crash scene where the rescuers become victims, possibly taking the contagion WITH them to their home planet – were the Engineers offed by their own hubris? Their own godlike arrogance? It might just serve them right, if what we’ve seen in their installation is any indication.)
So what caused the initial outbreak anyway? Ridley ain’t talkin’ and I likes it dat way.
Aside from the, “Why the Hell would Weyland Industries have hired these numb-nuts, anyway?” moment I had when introduced to the Biologist and the Geologist – the overall casting was non-distracting, and the dynamics between the hidden Peter Weyland, an elderly king afraid to die who holds up the natural order of things as he staves off the inevitable, his favorite “perfect” son who isn’t a son, David the synthetic (biblical implications here), and his natural daugher, Meredith Vickers who lets her resentment show through the cracks in her corporate bitch’s armor is interesting, as is the disturbing dynamic between Elizabeth Shaw, archaeologist and David, who eavesdrops on her dreams when she’s in stasis, among other things. David is interesting as the creation who would just as soon see his creator dead so he may do as he pleases, serving the old goon faithfully even as he models himself off of Lawrence of Arabia. Is this perhaps, as did Lawrence, David realizes that everything about him is a lie as did Lawrence? (Lawrence’s old man ran off with a servant, abandoning his legal wife, and lived a very respectable life with the servant and their children – Lawrence being one of them. Lawrence had no idea that everything about his life was a lie until he hit adolescence and learned the truth – which shook his sense of identity for the rest of his life – yes, he was fucked up.)
Anyway, I won’t go into the religious symbolism or the themes of self sacrifice that run through the entire film – there’s plenty of that being done by others more qualified than I. I will say, that if you’re looking for squishy “Saw” style horror, save your money. If you are a fan of the Alien franchise, go ahead, enjoy it – but also be ready to think – otherwise you’ll miss most of the fun!