Alien

Director: Ridley Scott

1979

Alien Ridley ScottI really don’t agree with the majority of what Angela Errigo says about Alien. I first watched Alien while doing my media studies A-Level as part of a comparison into strong women in science fiction or the depiction of women in science fiction (I can’t remember exactly what one) and was bored the first time I watched it, let alone the multiple times over in order to fully analyze the film. My opinion hasn’t changed very much.

“Defying the Star Wars (1977) craze, Ridley Scott resurrected the cheap genre of scary monsters from space, introduced it to exquisite, high-budget visuals, and created an arresting, nerve-wracking, adult-oriented science-fiction horror film.” (643, Angela Errigo, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) I find Alien dull and it’s now a very dated film with cheap special effects that make it feel more like a B-Movie than the fare of Hollywood. Aside from the actual alien I wouldn’t consider the visuals ‘high-budget’ And it’s about as far from nerve-wracking as you can get – instead of capturing (and more importantly, holding) my attention I find Alien a bit of a snooze-fest. The film takes forever to get going and when it finally does most of the action is hard to see thanks to the dimly lit corridors of the ship.

I get the whole idea that suggestion is always scarier than actually seeing something but Alien really makes the audience work at filling in and piecing together the narrative. Aside from the fact that Alien takes place on a spaceship it is very much a horror film conforming to all the genre specific conventions, especially being set in a secluded location (after all “In space no one can hear you scream”) and the power being cut resulting in the afore-mentioned dim corridors.

“[…] the sparingly glimpsed alien designed by artist H. R. Gieger, its terrible beauty given a startling grace by statuesque Masai dancer Bolaji Badejo.” (643) About the only comment Errigo made that I agree with is that the alien is truly a marvel of artistic creation and collaboration. Gieger’s design is beautiful in its own terrible way and has rightly become one of horror’s most iconic monsters.

“Weaver became a star and icon overnight as gutsy survivor Ripley, making her stand in skimpy vest and panties. She was actually set to film the ending naked, emphasizing the frailty of the human against the perfect killing machine, but 20th Century Fox forbade it, anxious to secure an R rating.” (643) Now my real issue with Alien (besides it being tear-inducingly boring!) is the above quote. Let’s just take a moment to think of the massive inequality summed up by this quote. It’s rare that I get on my feminist high-horse (mainly because vehement feminists only really serve to give women a bad name) but this really, really gets on my nerves. And it’s not just Alien but the whole genre especially and the entire industry to a lesser extent. Women are massively objectified and expected to be okay doing things that would never have been considered of their male counterparts.

Was it really necessary and integral to the plot for Ripley to make her last stand in only her underwear? It would have been interesting to know if that scene would have been the same when Ripley was originally meant to be a man or only added in once the decision to make Ripley female had happened. Would he also have been naked in order to ’emphasize the frailty of the human against the perfect killing machine’? I rather think not and not just because apparently 20th Century Fox didn’t want any nudity. It’s a glaringly obvious inequality in Hollywood’s expectations of its actors and actresses, especially in a time when actresses are becoming increasingly vocal about the subject, and for me takes away from the supposed strength Ripley is meant to embody.