Geek Roundtable: Alien 1979 and Aliens 1986

Cinematic brilliance of Ridley Scott, followed by the laughably awesome James Cameron

We went to a midnight theatre screening of Ridley Scott‘s Alien (1979), and completely used it as an excuse to geek out over the entire Alien Franchise.


Reznik – One of my favourite parts, and this was accentuated by the big screen, was the ship itself. I love the Nostromo. It’s pristine plastic ‘living room/kitchenette/dining area’ and the MotherWomb transitions into literally the bowels of the ship as they hunt for the alien. Sphincters on the crawlspaces, random bits of machinery poking out everywhere and a circulatory system of steaming pipes and wires. Thought it went really well with the ‘pilot’ on the alien ship literally being fused to and a part of his ship.

Speaking of which, It could just be me, but this time around I felt that they were all dreadfully unsurprised by both the alien spaceship and its pilot (other than the sheer size of it), and by a new alien species. I had previously been under the notion that when mankind goes into space, the first ET it encounters has drippy extra teeth and thinks facerape is okay on the first date. Are there other aliens in Alien?

This new friend’s facerape (of a *man* no less), the birthing through the chest, and the entire life-cycle process reveals more about O’Bannon’s issues with sex than anything else. Add to that Ridley Scott’s reflection of that on the whole first flick, with the design and influence of HR Giger of all people. There is a whole underbelly of sexual undertones that is (at least consciously) completely missed by millions of viewers.


I sincerely think timing was key. Five years earlier, the movie would have been more realistic, less fantastic, like 2001. Five years later, it would have been a slasher movie in space. Nestling in between Star Wars and Friday the 13th in 1979 was integral to the movie’s niche in cinema history, and it’s a better movie because of it. And then you have Jimmy Cameron from Chippawa throw the whole thing over a chair and give it a total testosterone injection. Lock N Load!

BonbonfireAlien continues to be interesting/relevant to people outside of the seventies, who don’t necessarily like sci-fi, not just as an artifact or a benchmark of the genre, but because it bothers to have a couple of themes and to play around a bit with visual metaphor. Making a movie about an aggressively reproducing life form? I smell gender politics! Why don’t you make the airducts dilate and fill the most rational being with something that looks like semen? (Never mind putting the ship’s main control centre deep in a white womb of a room and calling it ‘Mother’.)



Bonbonfire –  In Aliens, you get a whole bunch of uninteresting but cool-looking characters shooting a bunch of cool-looking but ultimately uninteresting alien drones in a not-very-futuristic-looking space complex. The details may look good, but they don’t mean anything. Why did ripley change her mind and go to the planet after telling the Mad About You guy that she wouldn’t? Did she have a revelation? Did she realize they needed her insider knowledge? Did she just want her job back? I dunno, because no one told me. She just changed it. As a function of the plot. Thanks for nothing, James Cameron.

Reznik – Classic Cameron Drama. What Scott was able to achieve pathetically from a common cat, Cameron had to use 45 minutes of ‘Newt‘ to try and match.

Bonbonfire – So, to clarify–were we watching this movie for serious or for jesting? I’m almost speechless from its epic crappiness. But I will ask three questions:

Bonbonfire Q1) Didn’t we establish in the first movie that guns don’t hurt the aliens? Ian Holm explained it when the jizz was coming out of his mouth. When did that change?

MFLuke – 1)  A sizable period of time elapsed between the events of Alien and Aliens [58 years].  So to answer your question, these are tricked-out, futuristic guns.  ’Nuff said.

Reznik – 1) They kind of get into the changing-alien side of it later throughout the series, too, whether it was a plot device to fix that very plothole or the accidental genius of involving alien genetics. They touched on it in Alien. That was the importance of the ‘facehugger‘ to birth the alien so it would adapt to survive in any condition, taking on some traits of the ‘mom’ as it were. In Alien 3, it’s a more animal-like baddie, because it was birthed from a cow/dog (depending on film version, not a cow-dog). That’s also the whole basis for Alien 4, and thus the need for Brad Motherfuckin Dourif. So there are technically different ‘kinds’ or ‘breeds’ of aliens in each flick.


It could be argued they’re referred to as ‘Xenomorphs’ as a testament to that constant evolution. Wiki: The term xenomorph (lit. “alien form” — from Greek xeno- or “strange” and -morph, shape)

Bonbonfire Q2) What sort of vision of the future is it when the only thing to entertain the children on the bad planet is Hot Wheels? It wasn’t even tricked out. And Hot Wheels didn’t even see out the 80s!

MFLuke – 2)  Although Aliens is set in a futuristic landscape, the fact remains that the movie was made in 1986.  For the record, in 1986 Hot Wheels were the shit.  (Some might say they still are.  I’m looking in Bry’s direction.)

Reznik – 2)  Hot Wheels are, in fact, the shit. But it was a pretty sweet car. There was also a kid riding a BigWheel, if that helps.

Bryronic – 2)  Also, Hot Wheels are still definitely the shit. Other than Lego, it’s probably the only toy that has had such longevity, and only suffered from slight modernization.

Bonbonfire – 3)  OK, so i touched a nerve with the hot wheels. I apologize.


Bonbonfire Q3) Sigourney Weaver, will you ever put on some pants? Help me out here. For real.

MFLuke – 3)  No.

Reznik – 3) Trademark to the series, mildly-attractive-but-not-really buttcrack in undies. And maybe aliens.

BryronicAliens is an 80s action movie made in the 80s for 80s people.  Thus, lots of testosterone, lots of bullets and lots of violence.  However, as was earlier stated, Cameron uses the 45 minute Newt-chase to make up for the lack of Jones-love, and this, to me, is where Aliens goes to shit.  It’s a totally different beast than Alien, so if you don’t appreciate the over-the-top nature of 80s action movies (Predator, Terminator, Die Hard) then you’re going to hate it. This movie, however, will always be great to me (and many others) for the Bill Paxton “Game over, man!” freakout.


Bonbonfire -  I guess that’s the problem, though, for me–it’s just an action movie. But given the chance to try the bodysuit-forklift thing, I’d definitely take it.

Reznik – That kind of filmspank (a new term I’m trying out for self-indulgent director spectacles) helped set a whole trend of ‘wouldn’t it be cool to see this’ and then just make it happen, plot be damned. Michael Bay ended up making a whole filmography of filmspank.

Bryronic –  Thumbs down on “filmspank.”

Reznik –  Then I need a better term for it. ‘Egotistical director narcissistic excess on the screen’ is too long.

Bryronic –  ”Self-serving cinema”… it’s got alliteration and everything.

Reznik – Ok, that is better. You got lucky  ;) I may still use filmspank in a similar more derogatory way.

Reznik – The funny thing about the Alien series is that Aliens is widely considered the best one by many. It’s the kick-ass, plot-be- damned episode that was the epitome of 80s sci-fi action. Even if you hate it, the irony is that without it, Alien probably wouldn’t have become a franchise.

The ‘coolest’ part of Aliens is the one that deflates the scariest and most intriguing part. Alien had one. Alien3 had one. Aliens has the approximate population of Tokyo. An infinite supply of xenomorph aliens removed the suspense, and made them cannon fodder. It was kind of interesting to see what an invasion/infection would look like unchecked (even nurtured, you evil bastard Paul Reiser), but overall it made them stupid, mindless, and demeaned; a less formidable villain, but an almost unbeatable adversary. The next chapter returns to the single antagonist alien.


Next: The Legacy continues, Alien3 and Alien: Resurrection

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