"Alien", 20th Century Fox, 1979
I have probably never been so torn on a movie - whether I love it or I hate it. It's cult status certainly doesn't help. Whilst in some areas it triumphantly exceeds and pushes the boundaries of film as an immersive experience, in others it's unsure of its identity and utterly falls flat on its campy face.
Firstly, It's a true cinematic spectacle. The textured sombre hum of the spaceship that brilliantly echoes a sense of dread right from the very beginning; the utterly beautiful cinematography that captures the claustrophobic feel of being totally alone in space; the suspenseful approach towards the editing with unnerving cuts between action. And the Mise En Scene - the attention to detail with the lighting, costume, set design and everything else that you see in frame is just phenomenal and is something that has (rightfully so) clawed its way into film culture and invites for pastiche. The way that characters are composed around stark moody blues and flashing lights underscores poignantly the impression of not being in control, providing the framework for the bureaucracy-of-space-corporation vs humanity of friendship conflict that runs throughout, allowing audiences to project themselves within this distant world. Every single space of frame completely suspends disbelief and for that reason is one of the most "filmy" films I've ever seen.
However, I feel that Scott and his team were so invested in the look and aesthetics that they actually overlooked the intricacies of the storytelling element. As good as the premise may be and the creative decisions this could've allowed Scott and his writers pursue, the way that the diegesis plays out is terribly underbaked. Perhaps shaped by the incredibly bland writing that fails to break these characters out of the mould of their archetypes, these characters feel less human than the alien that roams the ship. The way they interact makes me question Scotts's talents as a director. Whilst I do see his vision in terms of how he wants to create a cold world, this particular world can sometimes feel empty with totally inappropriate and even funny responses of characters towards often life-threatening and tense situations. It often undercuts the overall tone and slips into a parody of itself - it feels like a very expensive student film in places. It doesn't help that some actors occasionally seem like they don't even want to be there. I feel that this reflects the fact that this series has been stretched out for as far as it has - all this is being sold at this point is the world/idea of Alien, appearing completely devoid of any character or substance beyond the "Ahh (insert noun here) has broken loose!" trope. Whilst this film is masterful as making the audience as weak as its characters, the whole package just isn't here as to what I find compelling about film.