I still remember seeing the trailer for Alien in the theater as a kid. “In space no one can hear you scream.” Of course we heard them all scream since they were in a pressurized ship, but that is beside the point. It became a franchise that captured our imagination, and kept 20th Century Fox afloat.
The movies boasted some amazing directors at the beginning of their careers. It was the beginning of Ridley Scott’s amazing career. While Terminator had been filmed, it had not yet been released when James Cameron started working on Aliens. David Fincher is an amazing director, even if this wasn’t anywhere close to his best work.
I watched all of the movies this winter while my family was on vacation. Someone lent me the boxed set. As a result I watched all the director’s cuts and lots of the special features.
What could they do next? They really didn’t want to do another sequel. Ridley Scott was fascinated by the idea of a prequel, to explore the origins of the alien. Sounded good to me. I really wanted to see it in the theater, but just didn’t get around to it. The reviews were quite mixed. The movie was quite interesting, in my opinion.
I watched it the other night after recording it on one of those premium channel free previews. It was better than I thought it would be.
It began in an unlikely place and at an unknown time. An alien is left stranded by a gorgeous waterfall. He then drinks something and soon his body is disintegrating. Okay, you think, what is that all about? But they show you the DNA strand to give you some hints.
Fast forward to the future, as a little girl asks her father about heaven. She has a faith in things unseen. Her family are Christians. Fast forward again and she is an archeologist who discovers a message from the past inviting them to join other beings on another planet. She and her partner make an agreement with the Weyland Corporation to seek the answer to our origins in deep space.
I can see why the story might seem confusing at first. Eventually they shed light on what is really going on. On the planet they discover an alien ship that contains a bunch of mystery containers. There doesn’t seem to be any life on the planet, but they, of course, are mistaken.
The first great secret is solved. The DNA of a deceased alien matches human DNA. They are putting forward the oddly common theory that earth was “seeded” by aliens. Elizabeth Shaw (the new Ripley played by Noomi Rapace) doesn’t seem to see all the implications for her faith.
At the same time, her partner Holloway was infected by a life form thanks to the scheming android David. In the ensuing chaos of his transformation, she is “contaminated”. Distraught and confused David takes her cross because it is “contaminated.” Seems to mean more than just covered in blood and exposure to contaminants. It is though her faith is now contaminated.
Unknown to her, those odd lifeforms were transformed from to her when she and Holloway made love one last time. She’s got a “fetus” that appears 3 months old, which is impossible. She uses an automated surgical machine to remove it, a squid looking thing, from her abdomen. The rest of the movie has her running around, fighting and jumping with staples in her stomach from a C-section. This seemed far fetched despite the painkillers she’s got.
Now she learns that Mr. Weyland himself (played by a heavily made up and unrecognizable Guy Pearce) was on the ship. He wants to meet the one living alien who is sleeping an a cryogenic chamber remarkably similar to the one on Prometheus. This was not their home planet, but essentially a military R&D facility. The bio-weapons they discovered on board are intended to go to earth.
Some have noted that this movie is about having a creator who wants to destroy you. There is no larger context for this in the film. In Christianity, there is the context of the Fall into sin. But long before that horrifying judgment, there is the redemption by the Creator to return people, and creation, back into fellowship with Himself.
Since God is not really on the radar of the movie apart from myth, it doesn’t quite make sense that the aliens now want to destroy earth. They are like crazy kids who experiment unethically. The movie doesn’t really try to answer this question. That would get in the way as the rather large Engineer kills everyone but Shaw.
The recently operated upon Shaw contacts what is left of the crew of the Prometheus to ram the ship as it takes off so it cannot reach Earth. The alien himself survives and hunts her. She is able to time the encounter so the now enormous creature that came out of her body fights the Engineer. Here we see the origin of the alien similar to the one we met so many years ago, as the creature plants an egg in the Engineer. Yes, it gets hard to keep track of the aliens here.
Shaw, with the help of the decapitated android, flies another alien craft in search of their home planet and an explanation. But she has retrieved her cross, symbolically regaining her faith, from the android.
There is so much going on at a variety of levels. There is the story of her nearly contentless faith. There is the story of humanity’s origin and possible destruction. You have, as usual, the evil Weyland corporation seeking to benefit from the bioweapons. Also, as usual, you have the female hero in a largely male world.
There is plenty to connect the movie to the rest of the series. It does set it up well when the alien bursts through the Engineer’s chest. (The Nostromo landed on another planet, where a different Engineer/Space Jockey has crashed 2,000 years earlier after being infected.)
There is enough discontinuity to make the movie seem fresh. They aren’t being chased by the ultimate killing machine. They are being hunted in a different way. It doesn’t quite match the suspense of Alien as they explore the alien ship. And it is not as terrifying as Aliens. It is more like the last 2 movies in that the characters, apart from Shaw, are not really developed. I suppose that might be okay since everyone dies.
If this movie stood alone, it wouldn’t nearly be as interesting. Part of the fun is trying to sort out how it connects to the popular series. On one hand I can understand why some people weren’t satisfied. On the other hand, I can see why some are intrigued. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.
The question is, will we see Shaw again as she seeks to find out why the aliens seeded Earth?