Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, and Bolaji Badejo as himself.
Have I Seen it Before: Sure.
Did I Like It: As Brett says, “Right…”
This is another movie that proves difficult to try and write about critically with any sort of honesty. It’s a great film. You know it’s a great film* because they’ve been trying to remake it about a thousand times in the forty years since it was unleashed. And after you see a great film several times, it’s harder still—if not downright impossible—to unpack the experience. One is more struck by the little things that one may not think about on first blush.
The performances are pitch perfect and so against what would be the obvious direction a film like this could have taken. Ash (Holm) particularly stands out on second watch. He slithers through the movie, fighting down his glee (or as much glee as a robot could muster) that things are about to go down.
The others are no slouches, either. They don’t particularly like each other—or at the very least, have gotten sick of one another after this much time beyond the frontier—and it shows. They don’t even like being in space, which is unique in both this series, and in science fiction as a whole.
All of this comes about as subtext as well. Never once does one character turn to another and say, “I don’t like you, and I don’t like having to work in outer space.” This, along with the occasionally insane design gives the entire world a lived-in feel that Star Wars or Trek series often reaches for and comes up wanting.
Another element that never fails to delight—although it is likely less of an intentional choice and more of a reality of the time in which it was made—is the technology that surrounds the characters. Between clicking and clacking, displaying nonsense numbers as comprehensible data, and literally everything about the Mother computer make me long for a time when every piece of tech in a film didn’t look like it was designed by Tony Stark. Eagle-eyed readers of these reviews might detect a hypocrisy in that thought, as I have often extolled the virtue of films resisting looking like they were filmed at the time in which they were, but if films still used computers like this, it’d be impossible to tell when any film is made without consulting IMDB or Wikipedia, and that would make me a very happy camper, indeed.
If a film doesn’t have these little things, maybe it is not all that great in the first place. We are lucky that this one has them in spades. They make them worth coming back to every once in a while.
*While it is a great film, it is a competitive candidate for best trailer of all time. You have to kind of imagine yourself as a person who has no idea what the film is about when watching it, but from that perspective its one of the greats.