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sábado, 1 de abril de 2017

Alien (1979)

I remember I watched Alien when I was a kid. I don't know for sure if it was rented from the video store (old man!) or if it was on TV (if not on demand, old man the same way!)

One day it was there and it got my attention. I sat and watched, you know, space, aliens, things that are interesting to everyone (yes, everyone, ok?). I haven't kept in my memory much of the story itself or any other detail of the movie as a movie. In my memory only "the experience" remained. I remember I watched, I remember the fear, the thrill and the disgust for the liquid from the android's head.

Some days ago I watched the movie again just for the fun, just because it is a movie that is always on the lists of better movies of all time and specially because I like to spend my time on this planet learning abou the world of fake stories registered in film (cinema!). Besides, it is always interesting to revisit and know with today's head (big head) something I only knew with my kid head (still big but also with Dumbo flap ears).

Putting in a simple way, Alien is a thriller with elements of terror and sci-fi that talks about survivor facing something unknown. It is a movie that came out in 1979 and tells a story in a not so far future inside a mining space ship in space (!).

The director is Ridley Scott, to me a director that knows how to execute cinema concepts like art direction, lighting, scene composition, casting and so on, but is a director that relies heavily on a good script to make a movie that is fun to watch. Some of his movies can be simply boring and uninteresting, despite having all the technical things done great. To me, this technical execution without the "story telling" just doesn't work. It is funny how the other way around, at least to me, works.

However, considering this movie in particular, the great script is there and then the combination with his technical talent suns to be something special. In fact, remembering now his movies, I think I can say this one is possibly one of his best works, together with Black Hawk Down, in my (big headed) opinion.

I liked how the plot construction helps do create the mood, presenting new elements little by little, changing the stage where the story is told and what are the rules and possibilities in place. First there is a story line focused on the relationships of the crew, then the mystery of why they were woke up, them they exploring this reason and then the consequences and then the survivor. It is, as if the movie had this small movies and moments changing the game, playing with the head of the person watching that never really fell safe and in control of the rules of the story being told.

Putting in a different context, let's say, video games, I think the best example I can think, ironically or not, considering that is a game very much inspired by this movie, would be Super Metroid for the SNES. At each new area discovered the world goes expanding and the player experience is changed and changed by the point that by the end of the game the genre of the game itself changes. It reminds me that I do need to write about Super Metroid here sometime in the future.

Another thing that the story has (wich was written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, I must say) that helps to drive this uneasyness feeling is that it does not define clearly if we have a main character. The movie gives you hints here and there to make you think we have a main character, however, as people start to die, the idea of "this is the hero and no matter what happens the hero will save itself"goes away. Today this effect is lost a little because the Alien movies are famous so, even if you never watched a movie from the series you may know which character is going to live by the end. Yet, it is fun to see how it is developed on the movie and how the end and this effect may have sounded fresh back when the movie was released.

Considering the visual side, I like the cyber punk vibe, the technology that looks outdated to our standards, but at the same time, can convince it is advanced and tough enough to be in space.

The world around the story is very interesting also, in fact it is not explained fully, it is just described in more simple lines here and there in the way the characters talk. Even so, we can see a dystopian future where the big corporations are in charge of the world. There is very clear the idea that the company that hired them is not reliable and don't care about them up to the point to demand things like "If you don't do this thing here that may kill you, you won't receive any payment when you come back to Earth, as it is stated on the contract you signed before you go".

Not only in artistic works of entertainment, it is always curious when, while looking at something of the past, we find ideas, concepts and other things that we have today and in some way or another may have started right there, on that specific piece.

Along with that, when we see these ideas in a more primitive state we can realize a context and a whole set of ideas that not necessarily were carried along to everything that that piece influenced.

In other words, it is as if, from all the ideas that where there, just a few of then were picked to be developed and collected to the future. Then, when we look again to this pieces from the past that had big influences, we can identify the concepts we already know from our time, but we can also see much more, in fact we can see enough to give to that old thing a new meaning, an updated tune, capable to generate inspirations that were not generated at its time.

It is funny how it works also the historical events, book and videogames.

If you like thrillers, you may have a good time with this movie. In fact, if you by chance is a functional lier (writer), it may be specially interesting to you just to check this way to present the story changing and moving. Even if the movie have some problems here and there about pacing and outdated special effects, it hold up very well despite its age and even if  this is a story you already know being told in a way you may feel quite familiar.

Something old is not always old.