Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Movie Miscellany - Alien

Since last week you got a low-budget wannabe sci-fi thriller, this week we go to the opposite end of the spectrum, the 1979 classic Alien.

This movie is most impressive to me for its longevity. Thirty years on the sets are still gorgeous - the ship has that awesome industrial aesthetic, true to what you might expect of a future giant transport ship. I'm especially impressed with how real the alien looks, particularly the horrible horseshoe-crab-esque face parasite stage in the alien life cycle.

Even more impressive, the film still freaks me out. It's nothing that haunts my dreams, but the gripping-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense is definitely still there - the alien hasn't degraded into a hokey 'oh, how cute, they tried to make something scary' monster. Extra bonus points for the sweet video jacket.

Despite its greatness, there are a couple plot particulars that bother me, generally revolving around the 'this problem could have been avoided in the first place' scenarios. First thing that drives me crazy is this obsession with bringing back extraterrestrial life. I know it's neat that you found a new life form, but why on earth would you want to bring back a parasite attaches itself to your face? *

Which brings up the second point. Why would you bother trying to save someone who has a parasite attached to their face? I know he's their friend and all that, and maybe I'm calloused from watching too many movies like this, but let me say now for the record: should anything attach itself to my face and cause me to fall into a coma, please put me out of my misery, I do not want to be saved.

More importantly, kill the scary mofo that's decided to attack me so it doesn't wreak more havoc. Because even if the alien does decide to stop eating my face, everyone knows I'll only be dying a more horrible violent death when the alien spawn rips itself from my belly. And should all judgment fail and the crazy beast is still kept on the ship, put it somewhere tightly locked! Or freeze it!

But I think the moral of this story is that Stephen Hawking's totally got it right when he says that we should not make ourselves known to other forms of intelligent life that exist. For one, these life forms would have evolved in a manner totally different from how life developed on earth, so the chances of our being able to communicate with said aliens would be slim to none.

Another very important point is that if there are aliens roaming the universe for other intelligent life, they probably not scouring the universe just for the sake of curiosity. As we learn more about space travel, we're learning that it's really costly in terms of time and resources. So if intelligent life is roaming the universe, they've likely consumed all the available resources on their planet and now need food and other such things that they would take from us.

Should also add that a civilization who's had an extra few hundred thousand or even millions of years of evolution past our own will be way better at killing us than we would be at defending ourselves.

I'll end by griping about one last, and rather tangential, irritation - self destruct sequences. I realize that when a ship, lab, etc. is self destructing, there is a state of urgency and you want to prompt people to hurry. But for the love of everything, I do not want to spend the last five minutes of my life in seizure-inducing strobe lighting and that god-awful honking siren. People of the future take heed, it is up to you to find a way to get people to act quickly in super threatening situations without prompting them to freak out.

* I remember from the sequels that it was supposed to be brought back to be weaponized, and I know android Ash had his orders and all, but come on! By the time we can travel through space I sincerely hope that we'll have learned well from all these sci-fi flicks that our attempts to control things we don't understand will go horribly, horribly wrong 100% of the time.

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