Watching Alien, At Last

(Recommended by SI readers Araj and Dr.Lawrence Kutner)

After many false starts, we’re finally getting around to watching Alien, the three-decade-old Hollywood space classic.

Alien is #47 on the IMDB Top 250 films list and also included in Yahoo’s list of 100 Must Watch Movies Before You Kick the Bucket.

The DVD we got from Netflix gave us two options for the movie: Director’s Cut and Theatrical Release.

We opted for the Director’s Cut (157 minutes), which came out 25-years after the movie first debuted.

As Alien director Ridley Scott explains before the beginning of the movie, the Director’s Cut version includes previously unshown scenes and some adjustments to the original movie.

Alien has been described by SI reader Araj as ‘neither technically nor narratively as brilliant as Cameron’s Aliens.’

Apparently, this movie was a big hit in its day for its then-novel idea of the dreadful or should it be dreaded ‘Alien.’

We have already watched about 20 minutes or so of the movie.

Commercial towing spaceship Nostromo with its seven-member crew is on a course toward Earth with 20 million tons of mineral ore when they descend on a planetoid to investigate a strange transmission.

The bumpy landing has caused some damage to the spaceship. As repairs are being carried out to the spaceship, three crew members get down on the planetoid to look around.

You may expect us to update this post after we complete the movie.

Were we impressed with Alien?

No big deal, folks. We really didn’t have any of those wow moments.

There was neither great drama nor any snazzy special effects.

Was the movie alright?

Yes, just like a thousand other OK movies. Given all the hype associated with this film we expected so much more.

The movie is basically about how the crew members of Nostromo deal and die (all except one) while trying to get rid of an alien creature that has come on board the spaceship by attaching itself to the face of one of the crew when he had gone outside to investigate a planetoid for some strange transmission.

There’s little memorable heroic action or notable acting. In fact, the script gives little room for any noteworthy acting.

The fight between the Alien and the crew is a completely one-sided affair, almost till the very end.

Even the climax in the shuttle after it detaches from the main spaceship was a letdown.

Of course, you’d argue that this movie was made in 1979, long before the era of computer graphics dawned.

Still, was this all they could deliver?

In a few days, we’ll watch James Cameron’s Aliens and see how Mr.Titanic fared with the sequel.

15 Responses to "Watching Alien, At Last"

  1. Vetti Jijaji   October 26, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    obviously didn’t stand the test of time Responds:

    We don’t think so.

    But a lot of people still think highly of it….as evidenced by its presence in the Top 100 Yahoo list or IMDB Top 250. Guess other movies of that era were far worse.

    Offtopic: Watching the Right wing Goebbels Channel on TV. God, what a load of horseshit they unload (particularly Hannity).

  2. kurf   October 27, 2009 at 3:23 am

    hey just wondering when r u going to review The halloween? Responds:

    If all goes well, we should be getting Halloween tomorrow (i.e Wed). If we get it on Wed, we’ll watch and review it the same day.

  3. ratnakar   October 27, 2009 at 7:54 am

    “Guess other movies of that era were far worse.”

    U referring to the 70’s , which had some of the best movies IMO.

    Alien might not really work, because its more slow paced. The terror here is more due to the claustrophobia rather than any snazzy effects.

    Aliens yeah, is different, its more like a high adrenaline Video game. So depends on your choice.

    I mean unless you really like movies that are slow, and not action packed, don’t think you wud like Alien much. Responds:

    Not just the ‘slowness’ that got us. Also, the lack of tension bothered us. When there’s an alien in your spaceship, we’d expect great alarm in the vicinity. That never came through for us.

    Will watch Aliens soon.

  4. ratnakar   October 27, 2009 at 7:56 am

    @ SI: “If all goes well, we should be getting Halloween tomorrow (i.e Wed).”

    Hmm think it over, most of the 70’s flicks don’t have snazzy special effects, and look quite raw, tacky compared to today’s CGI Heavy flicks. So if you are going in with that angle, you sure will be disappointed. Responds:

    We’re getting Halloween and Arya (Telugu) tomorrow.

    No marks for guessing which one will most likely turn out better.

  5. ratnakar   October 27, 2009 at 8:08 am

    “Were getting Halloween and Arya (Telugu) tomorrow.”

    Arya is a “Boy Meets Girl, She Loves Some One Else, But End of Movie She Loves Boy” Kinda stuff, so if you like that kinda stuff, the latter will be the better one. πŸ˜‰ Responds:

    You write: But End of Movie She Loves Boy” Kinda stuff, so if you like that kinda stuff, the latter will be the better one

    No, we are not into mushy love stories.

    Reason we are getting it is that release of Arya 2 is imminent and apparently Arya was a big hit.

    We want to see what the Arya-llabaloo is all about.

  6. ratnakar   October 27, 2009 at 8:34 am

    “and apparently Arya was a big hit.”

    Yeah it was unfortunately, most of those retard flicks do well, pushing down the quality further. Honestly quality of majority of the Telugu movies nowadays is rubbish. Responds:

    (from the doctor’s office)

    In Incredible India, the chances of success of a movie is inversely proportional to its quality.

  7. Vetti Jijaji   October 27, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I’d watch Halloween .. just for the scene when Lynda asks “See anything you like?” Responds:

    (from the doctor’s office)

    Hopefully, we’ll watch that scene tomorrow.

  8. vjcool   October 28, 2009 at 8:42 am

    @SI In Incredible India, the chances of success of a movie is inversely proportional to its quality.

    That’s true. A friend of mine recommended ‘Kuruthi Punal’ the Kamal Hassan starrer (remake of Dhrokaal *ing Naseer and Om Puri) and said the film is good but refused to accompany to the theatre because the hero gets killed. ‘Anjali was just ok, because the girl dies…

    I’ve not watched Dhrokaal (maybe will get a DVD)so can’t say how much translated well to tamil.

    Kuruthi Punal is really worth a watch.

    and ‘Anjali’.. its a homage to E.T. and a good one at it Responds:

    Kuruthipunal looks interesting. Just checked it out on Wiki but Arjun is a hopeless actor.

    Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t carry it.

  9. araj   October 28, 2009 at 9:22 am

    You wrote: “…Guess other movies of that era were far worse….”

    I don’t really know. But certainly many older movies that are usually rated as all-time-greats are not even, what you call, good movies let alone deserve to be called ‘classics’. One fine example is, Hitchcock’s Psycho. The theme and the execution of Psycho is so sophomoric that i am amazed why was the film even such a roaring hit in the first place aside from being called one of the greatest (Psycho figures in almost all all-time-great lists and I dare say there isn’t even a single scene in Psycho that is worth watching twice).

    Talking of overrated films, another film that leaps to my mind is ‘The Exorcist'(though it is far better than Psycho). If I am ever asked to make a The-100-Most-over-hyped-Films’ Ever list, you can be damn sure of finding ‘Psycho’ and ‘The Exorcist’ in my list.

    But why were these films so popular back then? I think, in case of certain films like Psycho, which are hailed as ‘the best’, more than the plot, pacing, the technical razzmatazz or whatever you usually attribute to a film’s great success, the compelling factor, perhaps, is the film’s overall proclivity to pique the audiences’ fascination for a new ‘idea’, which was in its infancy or adolescence in the days the film was made. If it was naive characterization of Norman Bates, whose psychology timorously hints at Freud’s Oedipus complex in Psycho (though, Bates’ character was originally inspired from the real life serial killer Ed Gein, I suspect, Hitchcock tinged it with a Freudian element to make it more attractive), which was relatively a ‘young theory’ those days, at least in the film world, it was the never-before-explored concept of ‘possession’ that enamored the audience in ‘The Exorcist’ (From a cinematic point of view, Exorcist was also intensely atmospheric for most of the time, a quality that usually marks a great film apart. But the film simply collapses under it’s own pressure as it ‘hurries’ to the end). Ditto for the Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, which immensely benefited from general public’s predilection for UFOs, which are still considered ‘true representatives’ of alien intelligence.

    Quite a long time back, I watched Tom Hanks-Denzel Washington starrer Philadelphia (which won Hanks an Oscar, I guess). The film was made back in those days, when AIDS was newly introduced to the world and socializing with AIDS patients considered a taboo. The film is actually about a attorney, who loses his job because he is diagnosed with AIDS and how the justice was done to him in the end before he succumbed to the disease. Though I felt the movie to be quite good when I watched it, in retrospective, though I wouldn’t say it is a bad film (especially since people say it is inspired from a true story), I feel the impact of all the major elements of the movie, say homosexuality, homophobia, AIDS discrimination, prejudice against gays etc., was immensely exaggerated in the minds of the audience owing to the relative newness of those ideas back then, so much so that director dared to exploit the attention of the audience he garnered from depicting those ‘fresh social phenomenon’ to evoke a hackneyed universal sentiment for human love and lack of it, which is actually unrelated to such things as AIDS, homosexuality and a man’s fight for justice.

    In the movies, where a new idea/theory/phenomenon is the predominant theme, the filmmaker, eminently overzealous to share his ‘idea’, tends to weave contrived possibilities out of chief motif of the film, which either makes a major character or the tone of the film itself acutely dramatic. The synthetic drama thus so created quickly becomes so infectious that it usually catapults the movie to achieve a cult-status. However, paradoxically, as the ‘new idea’ loses it’s sheen, now measured and trimmed to the reality over the time, the very drama that made it a hit long back, looks so puerile that it begins to look false at best and laughable at worst in the present (Norman Bates perfectly mimicking his mother’s voice in Psycho, for example. It’s quite silly). Sometimes, the attempt to evoke fascination through ‘new ideas/forms’ tends to be rather subtle than overt, and worse, without even the filmmaker being aware of it. A fine example of this is our very own Hindi movies of 60s, where the male protagonist invariably turns out in a three-piece suit with his hair rigorously gelled and combed straight back, wielding a cigar, spouting nonsense about ‘Indian values’ and singing effortlessly over a piano. Whether the makers of these Hindi films knew it or not, such poor mimicry of an ‘English gentleman’, was very much a result of their fascination for and preoccupation with the then brand new ‘British lifestyle’.

    Quite amazingly, apart from movies, we can very much see a human’s propensity to get carried away by new ideas in general on a sociological level, especially in religious matters. Large scale conversions of Hindus to Christianity in India, where the good old boring Bible is often presented as a fascinating idea by shrill hypocritical missionaries or even the obsession of a foreigner with ‘all-liberating Hinduism with it’s myriad schools of philosophy’ for that matter are some examples of it. Movies or not, it’s always the new ideas that sell. Responds:

    1. This business of the ‘new idea/phenomenon’ selling or piquing interest doesn’t seem to hold good for India though. Be it movies or religion, India rigidly eschews the new for the old.

    As the French priest and traveler Abbe Dubois wrote some two centuries back bemoaning his lack of significant success in converting the natives to Christianity: attachment of the people of India to their religion and customs is invincible

    In the Indian movie context, new doesn’t sell well be it in Bollywood or in its lesser known siblings Kollywood, Tollywood et al.

    A lot of the junk gushing out of these augean-woods have the same old love as the leitmotif with minor changes in the surrounding ugly trappings like a watch left behind in the belly or some such rubbish. As if there isn’t anything else happening around us in the cosmos.

    New, of course, tends to sell well with the Western audiences.

    2. Even assuming that New ideas in movies resonate better with western audiences in the era in which they are released, it’s odd that the several decades old not-so-great movies still make it to the various Top 250 IMDB or Top 100 Yahoo list.

    3. There’s always a risk in watching and judging a movie decades after it came out, particularly if you are watching it for the first time 25 years later like we did with Alien. The old gloss has disappeared, the novelty of a ‘new’ theme has long faded, fascination with the then-reigning actors/stars is gone, attitudes have changed significantly and film-making technologies have evolved. The point is most movies may be intended only for a particular era. Of course, there are exceptions like Casablanca, On the Waterfront or Forrest Gump but they are few and far between.

    4. Have seen both Exorcist and Philadelphia.

    Can’t remember much of Exorcist but for one puking scene but Philadelphia, which we saw recently, is a decent movie.

    Except for the scenes with his gay lover Miguel, which seemed too contrived, Philadelphia is a movie we’d consider watching again.

  10. Vetti Jijaji   October 28, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    araj, I’d very much like to see your list of top 100 movies.

    For Psycho 61 out of 62 RT reviews are positive.. Just because it was universally liked, you seem to have outrageous expectations.. There needs to be a cap on expectations
    The Exorcist doesn’t share the same level of enthusiasm among critics. But I think it is a terrific movie..
    For the record, I didn’t think Casablanca was great..

    which won Hanks an Oscar, I guess is a typical(over-cynical) arajism. Anyone who takes the time to write a 1000 word essay(diatribe?) against some of the most popular movies/movie personalities would not have “guess” that Hanks won the Oscar.

    BTW, what do think about Roger Ebert.. he has given 0 stars for Wolf Creek.. that seems extreme.

    SI – your deadline for reviewing Wolf Creek and Cloverfield is approaching.. πŸ˜‰
    Psycho is on netflix instant play, why don’t you get it over with, please!!

    Interesting tidbit that you probably already know.. Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis is the daughter of Psycho’s Janet Leigh… arguably two of the greatest horror movies ever.

    Watched Transformers 2 for some loud action and Megan’s cleavage.. disappointed on both counts even though I had low expectations.. Responds:

    Will do Wolf’s Creek soon.

    Watched a few minutes (up to the point where they buy the old car and go off some place, sleep on the beach…) and returned the DVD.

    Will give Wolf’s Creek another shot next week.

    Right now, watching Halloween.

  11. sganeshkumar1989   July 5, 2010 at 9:25 am

    //In a few days, we’ll watch James Cameron’s Aliens and see how Mr.Titanic fared with the sequel.//
    James Cameron won’t disappoint you!Aliens is the most scariest,deadly and perhaps the best Sci-fi thriller made by an American!(The best sci-fi film ever is of-course the Fritz Lang masterpiece Metropolis(1927).)
    And try renting the Definitive version of DVD.It was a pleasure to watch it in a Digitally remastered version,I was very much impressed by the way the menu itself was designed. :O :great:
    The first DVD has 2 versions-the theatrical version(131 min.);the special edition(148 min.)-in terms of contents it won’t make much difference,but the scary impact is felt more in this extended edition,as it’s more digitally remastered.
    The second DVD is about the making of the film-pre production work,post-production and production of the movie.
    In The 15-min. segment of the production work,stunt co-ordinator,producer,special effects director and the actors discuss how they came up with the weird futuristic weapons,the fire effects,the extras behind the aliens and you get to know the kind of perfectionist James Cameron is! Responds:

    Netflix only has the Collector’s Edition (137-minutes) on DVD and the Instant Play version.

    • sganeshkumar1989   July 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm

      ok,watch that version instead.I bet you won’t be disappointed Responds:

      Will do.

      • vjcool   July 10, 2010 at 10:30 pm

        Its up there with T2 – Judgment Day, wouldn’t disappoint Responds:

        Aliens is now available on Netflix Instant Play. Will watch soon.

        • sganeshkumar1989   July 30, 2010 at 9:56 am

          Waiting for your review!


          Waiting for Godot. πŸ˜‰

          • sganeshkumar1989   August 1, 2010 at 9:21 am



            May the force Rajini be with you. πŸ˜‰

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