Reviewed by Dennis Morton
Almost a quarter of a century after Ridley Scotts "Alien"
first hit the big screen and forever changed celluloid space
travel, Ive paid it another visit, thanks to the folks
who run the grand old Del Mar Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz.
The new "directors cut" is not significantly
different from the original. Whats changed the most is
me, and, I suspect, the rest of us who were mesmerized by the
If you havent seen the original and you value the surprise
factor in movies, best to lower the volume on your radio now,
because Ill be mentioning events youll want to encounter
with fresh eyes.
My critical faculties were fallow 24 years ago, and my appetite
for pure entertainment more voracious than now. I remember loving
this film. Ive replayed the famous, literally gut-splitting
scene over and over in my memory and imagination. And Ive
seen it referenced and revered and parodied almost as many times
in popular culture over the years. Theres no way the original
could live up to its reputation, and sadly, for me at least,
it doesnt. Nor could the climax retain its original impact
which, again, it doesnt. And the ground-breaking
portrait of the quotidian drabness of the long haul from earth
to job site and back again even that seems not quite
so dourly impressive.
If art is defined partly by its inexhaustibility, that is, that
you cant wear it out by repeated visits, then "Alien"
loses even more of its luster. But at the same time, Ive
the suspicion Im not being fair to it. It has, after all,
spawned a zillion imitators, and if the cliché is true,
thats at least high flattery.
If Im less impressed with the story, and its telling,
this time around, Im more impressed with Scotts
prescient portrait of an earth gone terribly wrong. The plot
boils down to putting in a long days work and on the way
home picking up the hitchhiker from hell. In the end, quick
thinking and a bit of luck salvages a frightening turn of events.
Its what the survivors are coming home to, though, thats
really frightening. The future, as envisioned by Scott, is an
unholy marriage of corporations and the state, a society in
which the lives of workers are expendable, but potential weapons
systems arent. "Alien" is set circa the 2030s.
Were on course for fulfilling Scotts prophecy way
ahead of time.
My second look at "Alien", almost a quarter of a century
later, is not intended to discourage anyone from taking another
look. Ive seen the "directors cut" twice,
and may see it one more time.
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.