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Monday, 28 May 2012

Alien Week: Day One

In space no one can hear you scream- but are they screams of joy?
Ridley Scott's Alien franchise has certainly acquired an iconic status the likes of which barely any other science-fiction saga bar perhaps Star Wars has ever hoped to attain. This week, we'll be looking at just whether all of the praise heaped upon this legendary cult series is deserved, with reviews of each and every one of its instalments up to and including the new movie Prometheus. First up, then, it's time for a two-part review of the two classic originals- do they match up to the following that they have since gathered?
ALIEN: Easily the most strongly regarded entry of the entire franchise, Alien certainly knows what it intends to do right from the outset, and that's install downright fear into its viewers. That fear lies in the revelation of the unknown, of what shadows really crawl in the dark, and what those shadows can do if provoked. It's a shame, then, that once the cat is quite literally out of the bag, the vast majority of the impact of seeing Alien Xenomorphs rage on the USS Sulaco in the wake of now-famed stars like Sigourney Weaver and John Hurt wears off pretty quickly. The infamous chest-bursting scene that was always subject to such controversy is really not as violent as everyone might suggest, even if it is implemented in a far more effective way than it is in the sequels. Although there are a few moments where the tension and scale of the piece really do ramp up thanks to Weaver's acting and the occassionally impressive special effects, overall everything about Alien feels more than a little over-hyped.
ALIENS: We then head back to the planet LV-426 as the Weyland-Yutani corporation encourage Weaver's character Ripley to return to the surface for further investigation and supposed genocide of her arch-enemies. As you'd imagine, everything goes pear-shaped again, making for a deeply predictable 'film shooter' experience that does little to surprise other than introducing the admittedly likable Alien Queen. Certainly, the rag-tag bunch of Colonial Marines that aid Ripley in her vicious battle against the Xenomorphs provide no sense of empathy with the viewer or indeed any reason to actually be cared about when they meet their inevitable end. That's perhaps the biggest shortcoming of Aliens and its two sequels- try as they might to throw in grand setpieces and narrative ploys, the writing team appear to start losing their edge in terms of genuine surprises and character connection. This isn't a bad film by any stretch of the imagination (my oh my, are those still to come), but Aliens leaves a lot to be desired considering its alleged brilliance, turning out to be a far more mundane and overcooked affair than many fans would have you believe.

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