This column has reviewed several films that feature superheroes, common stock characters of the summer movie season. But superheroes are not the only predictable characters that reappear in successful franchises. This month, “Godzilla” will open in theatres. In this film, along with the other films in the franchise, Godzilla is a monster who terrorizes humans. Monsters, particularly ones that human selfishness or stupidity have somehow enabled, are familiar movie villains. One of the strongest films in this genre is “Alien,” from 1979. This was the first film in a franchise.
“Alien” centers on the crew of a corporate spaceship, the Nostromo, which is led by Captain Dallas (played by Tom Skerritt). While on its way back to earth, the ship receives a distress signal from a remote planet. Obeying orders dictated by the company brass, the crew treks to the planet to investigate. While there, an alien creature attaches itself to a crewmember, Kane (played by John Hurt). Later, the creature comes off and Kane seems to be fine. But as they are eating dinner, Kane dies when an alien bursts out of his chest. Now, the surviving crewmembers struggle to stay alive as the alien terrorizes them. Among the other crewmembers are Ash (played by Ian Holm), the science officer, and Warrant Officer Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver).
“Alien” is directed by Ridley Scott, who does a great job creating a terrifying atmosphere. The ship is very big and very dark, a sort of haunted house in space. Scott also does a great job creating buildup. The alien is not shown for the first half of the film. The characters are much more fully developed than in many science fiction offerings, they all have authentic and complicated storylines.
The cast is very strong. Ian Holm is great as Ash, the science officer who has a questionable agenda. Sigourney Weaver is also strong; showing her character is tough and smart.
“Alien” is one of the best monster movies of all-time.