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A L I E N : The Character of Dialogue

A L I E N : The Character of Dialogue

Scified2016-04-30 22:48:42https://www.scified.com/articles/a-l-i-e-n--the-character-of-dialogue-48.png
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The core trilogy (dare I say the only three films that matter?) in the ALIEN series brought to life one of science fiction’s scariest and most iconic creatures. We also know that the character of Ripley was created, breaking barriers for being a female heroine in a very male dominated genre. 

The unsung hero of the film is its dialogue and the character it creates. The dialogue is written with such respect for the characters, and the audience that all attention is paid to the story. There is no distraction. The crew is smart enough, and savvy enough that we’re not second guessing their decisions. We’re on this journey with them together, and we know, in our minds, we would have done the exact thing they did, if presented with the same situation. 

The genius behind ALIEN (1979) ALIENS (1986) and ALIEN 3 (1992), is undoubtedly the accessibility of the characters, brought to life by very believable dialogue.

In A  L  I  E  N  We are first introduced to the crew of the Nostromo as they eat breakfast, after a long cryo-sleep hibernation. At this point, most of them believe they’ve reached the milky way galaxy. They’re home. 

The dialogue at the table isn’t anything special. In today’s world, a scene like this would be cut, going right to the crew discovering the beacon from the derelict, opting for a faster pace. Instead, Ridley Scott, the master filmmaker that he is takes his time introducing us to each character. The dialogue isn’t clear, everyone is talking over everyone else. It’s one of the best scenes in a science fiction film. Ever.

 

 

INT. MESS

       The crew of the United States commercial starship Nostromo
       seated around a table.

                Dallas………Captain
                Kane………..Executive Officer
                Ripley………Warrant Officer
                Ash…………Science Officer
                Lambert……..Navigator
                Parker………Engineer
                Brett……….Engineering Technician
                Jones……….Cat

       Five men and two women: Lambert and Ripley.

                                LAMBERT
                 Jesus am I cold.

                                PARKER
                 Still with us, Brett.

                                BRETT
                 Yo.

                                RIPLEY
                 Lucky us.

       They yawn, stretch, shiver.
       Dallas looks over at a flashing yellow light.

                                KANE
                 I feel dead.

       Kane is not yet fully awake.
       Yawns.

                                PARKER
                 You look dead.

                                ASH
                 Nice to be back.

                                PARKER
                 Before we dock maybe we’d
                 better go over the bonus
                 situation.

                                BRETT
                 Yeah.

                                PARKER
                 Brett and I think we deserve a
                 full share.

                                DALLAS
                 You two will get what you
                 contracted for.  Just like
                 everybody else.

                                BRETT
                 Everybody else gets more than us.

 

This scene is particularly brilliant as we quickly understand that the cast before us are blue collar workers. They’re miners in space. The characters in ALIEN are brilliant because they’re readily and easily accessible. They’re engaging in conversations that we have in our real lives. Ridley Scott sets up a universe where real people are talking about real things. 

When events in the film start going south for the crew, they continue to act and speak in ways that you and I would in the same situation. The crew faces a terrible dilemma they aren’t fully understanding, and as the threat grows, so does their terror. 

In a particularly climactic scene, Ripley and crew are monitoring Dallas as he braves the air duct system of the Nostromo, hoping to flush out the creature. It’s clear that these very average, very every-day-people aren’t sure what’s in store. The look on Ripley’s face tells us all that she’s sick to her stomach, that’s how frightened she is.

Backing up a scene. Parker is reacting to Brett’s disappearance.

 

The tension in this scene is palpable. These people are scared to death. Sheer panic. They’re quickly realizing that what’s creeping around their ship is huge, strong, deadly. They’re trapped in space with it.

As each member of the Nostromo is killed off, those remaining have less and less to say. They don’t know what to do, they’re struggling. Again, highlighting a particular scene, after the disappearance of Dallas, the tension turns into disagreements and arguments as abject fear courses through the veins of the remnants of the crew. 

ALIEN set the bar for believable characters. The characters remain in our hearts and minds, not because the lines are cool, but because the people are real, real, real

Thirty-seven years on, filmmaking has become slick, easier, better. Believable characters have nearly disappeared as the Hollywood machine has dumbed down its scripts for the masses, hoping to make a quick dollar on opening weekend. 

The universe of ALIEN is about to explode open once again, with the release of ALIEN : Covenant next year, and Neill Blomkamp’s vision materializing soon after. If these films are going to succeed, it’s not going to be because of practical effects, cool monsters and awesome ships. No, the success of these films will be in the ability for the audience to relate to the characters and not feel like they’re smarter than them. In order for us, the audience to root for people in films, we have to believe in them and the journey they’re on. If we don’t believe in them, if we feel like the decisions they’re making are stupid, and nonsensical, you’ve lost your audience, and you’ve undermined your film.

If you're a fan of Alien / Prometheus and would like to discuss Alien: Covenant and its upcoming sequel with other like-minded fans, be sure to join in our Alien: Covenant forum! Ranked the #1 Prometheus forum back in 2012 and reigning as the web's top Alien: Covenant fan site, it's a great place to discuss the upcoming Prometheus sequels, dissect details from every trailer and engage with other fans just like you.

Written by JM PraterPublished on 2016-04-30 22:48:42

About Alien: Covenant 2 / Alien Awakening

The state of the Alien: Covenant sequel continues to remain uncertain. Ridley Scott has mentioned previously that they have a story already in place and know exactly where the sequel to Covenant will go, however the recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox film properties by Disney have potentially put the rumored-to-be-titled Alien: Awakening on hold for the time being. As new details arise concerning Alien: Covenant 2 we will be your premiere source and you can find information on the Covenant sequel by visiting the About Alien: Awakening page here.

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Related Alien: Covenant Articles
8 Fan responses to A L I E N : The Character of Dialogue

Something Real

May-01-2016 2:57 AM

JM PRATER - One hundred percent spot-on! I could not agree more with your sentiment! Thank you so very much for taking the time to share this with us! :)

Sergey Zaslavets

May-01-2016 4:37 AM

Guys, I can`t find out how to start a discussion, idk why, so I post it here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BEySZI2p5hG/?taken-by=demianbichiroficial a magical view in New Zealand probably from Demian Bichir`s Instagram. Have a look. 

Thoughts_Dreams

May-01-2016 7:09 AM

Yeah one of the reasons why it works are the characters and the fact that they are not ready to face the situation that they are in. They react like people in general probably would have if that is what they would have experienced.

Chris

May-01-2016 8:03 AM

@JM, great article man! Totally agree, the Alien Trilogy built up its characters with masterful and relatable dialogue. I really hope Covenant goes this route again and brings the characters back to the story. Really enjoyed reading this.

@Sergey, the blue icon at the top left of the site, next to the Scified menu and the three lined icon for the menu, clicking that will let you post news, start a discussion, review a movie or upload artwork. Hope that helps!

j-Hex

May-01-2016 11:25 AM

@JM, nice work.  In fact, the only decently thought-out and executed piece I've ever read on this site. Thanks.

Charza

May-01-2016 12:14 PM

Nice article JM Prater ! 
Movies nowadays indeed set themselves apart if they have characters which act like real people and especially the first Alien movie nailed this ! 

One of the reasons Prometheus never realized it's potential, was the fact that there were characters in there that absolutely made no sense whatsoever ! 

I hope that Alien Covenant will be different in this regard. I really hope that those in charge of this movie will take a very critical look at what Prometheus turned out to be, and with a healthy dose of honesty will acknowledge the problems this movie has, and thus with the best efforts, will make sure that such things will not happen again. 

 

Leodagan

May-01-2016 2:59 PM

Nice work ! Couldn't agree more.

Necronom 4

May-12-2016 3:10 AM

I completely agree. Alien to me has an intelligently made documentary feel to it, nothing about it feels forced or heavily scripted. You just don't get films like that anymore. It's a great shame.  

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