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Original Alien vs. Now

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Hicks/Hudson

Jan-17-2017 6:15 AM

I just saw a thread about who's acting was worse in Prometheus. I think a lot of it had to do with the script and the story they were trying to tell, as some actors had silly dialogue while others were just there and didn't contribute much of anything to the plot.

When I look back at the original Alien and think of Dallas, Kane, Ash, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ripley, and Jonesy I see a talented cast with a great script and story to tell. Each of those characters had great scenes with one another (Brett/Parker with Ripley, Dallas with Kane and Ash, Lambert and Ripley's awkward tension to name a few).  I think it helped that this was an original story, it was fresh, it was new. It was a thriller, action, some comedy.

The problem I think with Prometheus was that they tried to emulate that and make it more. The scenes with Milburn and Fifield were an obvious homage to Parker and Brett. The Janek and Vickers weird sexual tension was because of the unmentioned promiscuity of the crew of the Nostromo (deleted or unshot scene I believe of Lambert and Ripley talking about which of the crew they slept with).

I can't blame the cast of Prometheus, but I can blame the script writing, and the senseless need to try and re-create that original crew magic as opposed to letting the new cast forge their own way. Hopefully this is different in Covenant.

Thoughts?

33 Responses to Original Alien vs. Now

Stan Winston (deceased)

Jan-17-2017 5:52 PM

Millburn & Fifield: they even sound like a comedy double act. And not in a good way. They are completely out of place on an expensive, ground-breaking, scientific expedition.

In contrast, the cameraderie inherent in the interactions of Brett and Parker, and in turn, those two and Ripley, is realistic and familiar.

Lambert is the embodiment of the audience; her fears amplify our anxieties. Kane antagonises us through her. Dallas's reluctant leadership leaves us vulnerable. And Ash's betrayral violates our emotional trust.

In contrast, I could not emotionally invest in any of the Prometheus characters. In fact, it was schadenfreude to see them all get their comeuppance.

dk

Jan-17-2017 7:54 PM

If Prometheus was a stand alone movie with no relations to Alien, It would have been a much better movie imo. Since it was tied to the Alien universe, many Alien franchise fans like myself judged hard one way or another. That is typical of a core fan base.

SpiteHouse

Jan-18-2017 11:06 AM

I love the Law Firm of Milburn and Fifeld.

chli

Jan-18-2017 11:18 AM

I also hope for a better characterisation in AC where you get a feel for the characters and what happens to them, like in Alien. Aliens was also good when it comes to characterisation. You could sympathise with (or hate) all of them. Prometheus didn't quite succeed here, I'm afraid.

Hicks/Hudson

Jan-18-2017 11:33 AM

@chli Agreed.

I think its also because Alien was it's own thing, no sequel/prequel feel to it. It was different and no one knew what to expect. The second Weyland is flashed across a screen now, people are automatically attuned to it and know an alien is coming. The characterization in Prometheus was pretty bad and left the audience almost rooting for the Squid baby and the Engineer to win rather than for the humans to pull it out.

Ash81

Jan-18-2017 11:33 AM

The dialogue in Prometheus is always trying to move the plot along or be representative of "big ideas".  Whereas Alien is elegant in its understatement.  Sometimes we can't even hear exactly what's being said, as in that first moment where we meet the crew as the shot pans around the table.  Ridley Scott's cuts/edits are perfect in just letting looks and inflections tell us the story (ie tension between Ripley and Lambert).  I think it really boils down to how movies are made now vs then.  Now every scene is scrutinized by the studio in a way it wasn't then.  Scott has mentioned being impressed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre before shooting Alien, and wanting to emulate that style of horror in a way.  If you look at that film the characters and dialogue are pretty mundane, which helps with the realistic tension once the horror happens.  Unfortunately from the very first clip of the AC trailer (which seemed gimmicky & fake to me) I could tell this was not going to be like that.  No studio produces movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Alien nowadays.

Hicks/Hudson

Jan-18-2017 11:42 AM

I agree. This Alien movie will be a hard R rating, but has a campy, generic horror film vibe. Lots of gore and bloody death scenes, a sexy shower scene (hopefully the Xeno will be in the buff for that one), and probably about the same amount of stupid human decision making as Prometheus (Crudup I'm looking at you buddy).

chli

Jan-18-2017 12:09 PM

Hicks: Yes, but I think that all of the other films did quite well (when it comes to characterisation): Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, and AvP. In Alien 3, for example, you had more developed dialogues, e.g. between Ripley and Clemens (Charles Dance is a very good actor) and other interesting characters among the prisoners. You got a feel for their personalities and how they interacted. It's strange that they didn't quite make it in prometheus. Perhaps they should have cast more established actors (like they did in Alien - except for SW :) ) ?

Hicks/Hudson

Jan-18-2017 12:22 PM

A3 gets a bad wrap. It was more suspense/character driven than Aliens was. Charles Dance, Brian Glover, Charles S. Dutton, even Pete Postlewaite in a small role brought more to the movie. The dialogue wasn't silly either, when Clemens talks to Ripley about why he is there was especially good. Prometheus didn't have that. They tried real hard (anything with Shaw talking about her beliefs) but it just came across wrong IMO. Character actors seem to fit the bill in these movies better...makes me a touch worried about Franco and McBride's castings.

Neomorph

Jan-18-2017 12:27 PM

I wouldn't worry about McBride even though I get your point, he looks dead serious in the trailer.

Hicks/Hudson

Jan-18-2017 12:30 PM

I get he'll have some one liners. I just don't know if I'll be able to handle him if he's packing a pulse rifle telling Daniels to stay frosty.

Neomorph

Jan-18-2017 12:46 PM

Doesn't have to be limited to a scenario such as that. He could be a survivalist rather than a fighter.

 

chli

Jan-18-2017 12:53 PM

I agree, Hicks/Hudson. They lacked too many good character actors in Prometheus to support the leading role. Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron and of course Michael Fassbender were great, though. The only one I’m sure about in AC is Fassbender . . .

Lone

Jan-18-2017 2:01 PM

In ALIEN the characters felt real. Some of that comes down to the fact that there was little to no rehearsal, and many scenes were filmed as improvised.

After the ship lands causing some damage, and the crew are making their assessment, John Hurt tells Tom Skerritt "Dry dock Tom!" He refers to him by his real name. Also watch Ian Holm jump as the fire breaks out at his console, that's not acting!

That, plus the cramped cockpit, with the handheld camera up close to the actors, gave that scene in particular real gravitas.  

The gritty, grimy Nostromo and the constantly moving camera gave such realism, it was as if you were watching a docu-drama.

I felt really invested in the characters and their plight, there are subtle clues to explain Ash's shiftiness. Plus, we have the wee Mini-McGuffin Jonesy! [For anyone who doesn't know, I love Jonesy!]

ALIEN has been my favourite film for decades, it's closer to Sci-fi perfection than anything else I've seen. 

PROMETHEUS was far more polished, no grittiness or realism to be had. The lesser characters were poorly drawn and their dialogue was often bizarre. Some of the problems arose from the editing, it really should have been a three hour movie.

Mind you, if the intent was to make it a strange trip, it gets full marks from me! 

Michael Fassbender and Ridley's class as a visual director more than make up for any shortcomings. I do think it is a fantastic film, but a longer running time and better writing could have resulted in near perfection!

THE LONE GUNWOMAN

"Let The Cosmic Incubation Begin" ~ H.R. Giger

dk

Jan-18-2017 2:17 PM

Lone-

I think you hit a really important point about improv and little rehearsal time- how it makes the characters more real and relatable. Not to say that doesn't happen, but in the case of Prometheus it seems that element was missing- Fassbender being the ONLY exception.

Stan Winston (deceased)

Jan-18-2017 3:39 PM

Like many, I too am sniggering at McBride. But I should remind myself that 30ish years ago, a two-bit comedic actor signed on to an action film called Die Hard. The rest is history.

Ash81

Jan-18-2017 4:09 PM

They should convince David Lynch to make Alien 5 instead of Blompkamp.

Ash81

Jan-18-2017 4:22 PM

Another thing that gave Alien its eerie qualities was the fact it was shot on film with low lighting, creating greasy black shadows that were suggestive.  Now everything is shot digitally and everything is super clear in the shadows.  

a few things that would fix the Alien series:

-Cut the budget to less than 20 million.  I know that's extreme, but most of what made Alien scary was the creative ways that Scott cut the film so the monster was more suggestive.  If you saw it for too long it would become too apparent that this was a man in a suit.

- Practical FX.  CGI and digital manipulation should be used to a minimum.  Everything should be done like it was in the 70s/80s, the heyday of horror movies.

-Get unknown actors

One interesting thing that I read in 2008 or so was that Sigourney Weaver and Scott were walking about doing an Alien story that didn't even feature the monster at all...just focusing on what happened after Aliens and what it'd be like for someone who lived through that.  I would still love to see that movie.  There's a lot of room in the Alien universe for different types of stories that fit into the context fo scifi horror realism (ie not Star Wars-y)

Lone

Jan-20-2017 12:10 PM

Ridley struck gold with ALIEN's cast.

Apart from Weaver, they were well known but non Hollyweird star types. All very good character actors who were consumate professionals and gave their all to make their respective characters convincing. 

THE LONE GUNWOMAN

"Let The Cosmic Incubation Begin" ~ H.R. Giger

S.M

Jan-20-2017 12:29 PM

You couldn't do an Alien film for less than $20m these days.

Hicks/Hudson

Jan-20-2017 12:53 PM

S.M

You could, it would just be like Alien. Low budget effects, smaller sets, character actors that don't want 20M for a 10 minute scene.

S.M

Jan-20-2017 1:02 PM

AvP was done cheap, with Anderson saving nearly $20m by shooting in Prague, and it still cost $60m with a decidedly non- A-list cast.

They did AvP:R even cheaper, using locations and saving on building sets, with a cast of unknowns - and it still cost $40m and was rubbish.  And that was 10 years ago.

Simple inflation and labour costs mean you couldn't do a film like this now for $20m.

dk

Jan-20-2017 2:24 PM

From what I could research $20 million in 1979 was about $66 million in 2016. Procede from there.

QueenElizabethShaw

Jan-20-2017 2:39 PM

In response to the original post, there's possibly a trend going on in Hollywood amidst the modern efforts to expand on old franchises. A lot of Promethus felt like it was trying to provoke nostalgia for Alien in a similar way The Force Awakens felt like it was trying to provoke nostalgia for A New Hope.

I think Force Awakens barely pulled it off. Prometheus on the other hand seemed to fail.

It seems with Prometheus, there was an attempt to force those blue collar (space trucker) qualities on a group on white collars (scientists). In the pre-Lidelof script, this feeling doesn't seem to be present. Not sure if that means it was his fault or Ridley's.

Either way, I understand what they were trying to do, but I think it was a mistake.

dk

Jan-20-2017 3:09 PM

In general, movies like Alien and Star Wars had influences and inspirations but were fresh and new concepts at the time and they hit big and hard. It seems like those movies are trying to recapture that- that might be possible with younger generations but becomes a tougher sell for old people like me. 

ninXeno426

Jan-20-2017 3:12 PM

Well said dk.I felt that was a mistake they made with Terminator Genisys(my brother loves it but agrees).

Nothing the God of biomechanics wouldn't let you in heaven for 

S.M

Jan-20-2017 3:21 PM

"From what I could research $20 million in 1979 was about $66 million in 2016. Procede from there."

Yeah I think $60m would be the absolute minimum.

S.M

Jan-20-2017 3:21 PM

EDIT - Double post

 

shoulders of neptune

Jan-20-2017 3:22 PM

Original Alien vs now? 

When I compare Alien 1979 with Prometheus the thing that I think about is the group in question. 

In Alien they are more of a group. They are all eating together and the scenes are like someone said life identical (realistic). We have a tight group in front of us and also are shown hiearchy between them. They are Seven little indians, each presenting a feeling and own uniqness. RS is a director psychologist.

In Prometheus for me they are more individualistic. Despite Prometheus fancy camera work/special effects Alien 1979 is simply very, very realistic. Simply brilliant and brilliantly simple.

One actor that for me stands out in Prometheus is Fassbender and he reminds me of old school of acting.

It is also impressive what Noomi did given the fact that she was a less known actor back then.

In any case Alien 1979 for me is very realistic and the most important part of that is that right people met each other, on acting level, designer level (ships, effects, the monster) and director level RS.

And of course the Alien is Epic!

dk

Jan-20-2017 3:41 PM

Neptune-

Nicely said.

The 1970s and early 80s also had a more.........grittiness and realistic vibe to them as well. Movie makers were certainly influenced by things they liked but were also pioneering movies that would influence what we have today- and they probably weren't even thinking about that. Well, possibly Lucas. Side note his pre Star Wars THX 138 was great and fans should see it.

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