Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Prometheus and the Alien Legacy

By: Alex "The Savant" Heisman

In eager anticipation for the release of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, the prequel to his seminal 1979 masterpiece Alien, and the video recording about the movie from The Good-Looking One and I, it’s worth taking a quick look back at the Alien quadrilogy and the subsequent defining legacy.

When Alien quietly premiered at the end of May in 1979, it was intended to be just another B-grade science-fiction monster movie. As extremely positive word of mouth began to ripple outwards from the few who initially saw it, more and more patrons flocked to the theater to see what all the fuss was about. Although actor John Hurt was a previously minted Oscar nominee from the year before, the cast of seven was led by largely unknowns in the industry- most importantly, Sigourney Weaver as Lt. Ellen Ripley in a performance that launched her massive career. Alien shifted the function of the genre in a whole new direction as it proved that anyone, no matter his or her station in the film, was expendable and that danger lurked down every darkened hallway of the starship Nostromo.

Seven years later, James Cameron took the reigns of the franchise and created a sequel, Aliens, that is just as good, if not better, than the original. Once again, Ripley finds herself battling the alien creatures with the help of some new, fan-favorite characters in the quadrilogy such as the friendly android Bishop and the unassuming Corporal Hicks. Ripley also finds herself taking care of a young, orphaned girl whose parents were slaughtered by the alien race. In one of her most fully realized performances, Sigourney Weaver became one of the very few actresses in a horror film ever nominated for an acting Academy Award. In analyzing the relatively weak competition that year, it’s a wonder she didn’t win.

Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection are really only worth mentioning because I’m obligated to as they’re part of the saga. Neither movie is very good and both actually diminish the importance and impact of the franchise. Aside from driving the chronicles of Ellen Ripley further towards the critical final battle between human and alien, Alien 3 is most notable for being the directorial debut of respected filmmaker David Fincher while Alien: Resurrection quite blandly features Winona Ryder (Remember her? She used to act!). There is also an infamous and severely divisive moment towards the end of Alien 3 that alters the course of the character of Ellen Ripley and her journey that still remains a hot point of contention 20 years later.

As the days inch closer towards the dawning of the future of the Alien franchise with the release of Prometheus many questions are raised. Two MASSIVE questions left unanswered since the release of Alien 33 years ago are “What’s the deal with the crashed ship the crew explores?” and “What, indeed, is the purpose of the legendary Space Jockey?” The trailer for the film teases very brief shots of what promises to be answers to these questions, as well as many others. Notably, Prometheus will be heavily featured in the annals of film history as having one of the best marketing campaigns ever employed. Aside from Ridley Scott, the director of the original Alien film, returning to direct this prequel, literally nothing about the plot is known outside of its basic connection to the Alien franchise. Maybe Guy Pearce, appearing as Peter Weyland- co-founder of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation that ordered the Nostromo to investigate the mysterious signal emitted from the downed ship in the first place, can answer our questions in just a few days…

This is Alex “The Savant” Heisman, last survivor of the starship Nostromo, signing off.

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