Friday, June 8, 2012

Prometheus TONIGHT!


When I first heard of the rumored connections between Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien and his newest movie, Prometheus, I set my mind to avoiding any and all spoilers. Scott himself seemed to be doing his best to deflect questions about this and even the studio was somewhat coy about revealing too much for a while. I didn’t click on any links, I scrolled past pictures any time I saw them, and I didn’t “Like” the movie on Facebook. I was determined to go into Prometheus with as little information as possible and experience it with a completely open mind.

Generally this is how I would like to see every movie for the first time, but Hollywood has made this nearly impossible with its incessant need to show us everything about the movie before it has even been released. And to be honest, it can be a little difficult to decide what is worth seeing without enough information. Knowing the writer or director helps, but if new talent has made a film how do you decide if it’s worth your valuable time without knowing as much as possible?
But anyway, back to Prometheus. I knew I was going to see it as soon as I possibly could. I worked last night so I couldn’t do the midnight show, but I had planned on going as soon as I got up in the morning. Then Monkey texted me and said he was going tonight so I changed plans. And amazingly enough, I have made it to this point without having anything too significant spoiled.
I know more than I would like to – I won’t go into details in case you don’t know as much as I do – thanks to that certain breed of person that absolutely delights in sharing details about things no matter how many times you tell them you don’t want to know:
Mr. Spoilerpants – “Hey, man – did you see the new Prometheus trailer?”
Me – “No. I’m avoiding all of that because I don’t want to know anything until I see it.”
Mr. Spoilerpants – “Well it’s awesome. The xenomorphs are totally in it and it explains how Ripley’s dad was the guy that found them and how they’re actually mutant Sea Monkeys and that ship from the beginning of Alien is actually the microscope that the giant race that hatched the Sea Monkeys used to look at them. It’s really awesome!”
Me - ***STAB***
So I’ve kind of heard a few things, but nothing specific enough to really make me want to stab anybody.
So I’m super-excited about seeing Prometheus.
I know this is hardly an uncommon sentiment – particularly amongst nerds – but I fucking love the Alien movies. Each one has a little something different to offer. A new variation on a common story.
Aliens was the first one I saw. It was at a friend’s birthday party. There were a couple of years where when anybody in my circle of friends had a birthday we would all spend the night at their house and watch movies. I don’t remember how old I was or how we managed to get a copy of the R-Rated Aliens, but at the time it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. There was nothing – and this still holds true – fake about those aliens at all. Not one second where you got taken out of the movie and thought they looked like dudes in rubber suits or computer graphics. The aliens were unstoppable and the Colonial Marines were badass. I think that’s a big part of what made the aliens so scary – the fact that the Marines were well established as tough hombres from the start and that in a matter of minutes these aliens reduced them to either mincemeat or gibbering wrecks.
The technique was very much like what the best wrestlers understand and use – the best way to get yourself over is to put your opponent over. Talking shit about your opponent and short-selling their abilities before a match makes a victory over that person near-meaningless. You just beat somebody who you said sucks. But if you build your opponent up to be the biggest, meanest badass on the planet and then you beat them, what does that make you? Aliens successfully built the Colonial Marines up to be the best of the best, the galaxy’s elite. The guys that get called in when everybody else has had their asses kicked.
And then the aliens absolutely destroyed them.
My favorite characters in Aliens have always been Bishop and Burke. Yes, of course Ripley, Hicks, Hudson, and pretty much everybody else except Newt are awesome (sorry – I still find Newt highly irritating); but those two are outstanding.
Lance Henrickson is exactly the right amount of weird to pull off an android. He is tremendous in the role of Bishop and the character’s story is my favorite in the movie. He does what he does. He maintains. Despite the abuse heaped upon him he soldiers on, eventually performing the second most heroic deed of the movie (though it is just in his programming – thank you, Mr. Asimov) and earning Ripley’s trust.
Burke, on the other hand, is a complete shitbag. I love him. Paul Reiser plays Burke perfectly as one of the very best corporate villains in movie history. Although I still want to know how he thought he was going to get by after he locked the remaining Marines in with the aliens.
Naturally after seeing the amazing, fast-paced shoot-em-up that was Aliens I wanted to see its predecessor. I don’t remember when or how I saw it, but the first time I tried to watch it I couldn’t make it through. I fell asleep during some of the talky-talk at the beginning and wrote it off as boring. I didn’t go back to it for a while. As a matter of fact, I might not have watched the original in its entirety until around when Alien 3 came out. I do remember feeling like I needed to watch the first two before seeing the third and I’m pretty sure I watched Alien and then Aliens with a group of friends before we went and saw Alien 3.
Alien is a very scary movie. If there were two movies that I wish I could wipe from my brain and experience fresh with no prior knowledge they would be Alien and Jaws (thought I just realized I would have to wipe two whole franchises away as well, not to mention decades of references to those franchises).
The first Alien just took more maturity to enjoy than its sequel. You have to be patient, but it rewards you big time. It is one of the most tense movies I have ever seen and the atmosphere works every time. When that damn cat goes running off it still makes me nervous.
Alien 3 was quite a departure. It had a completely different feel from the previous two movies, neither of which had particularly resembled the other. It was a weird combination of more real and gritty while at the same time seeming even more fantastical than the others. I don’t know quite how to explain it. The world seemed more real – I suppose because it actually took place on a world – but the characters and situation almost seemed like a fantasy story.
The prisoners were such Seven Dwarfs-type characters. As a matter of fact, there was a certain Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs quality to the whole movie. I suppose I could write a whole post about that, but if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about. Each of the prison inhabitants was a very specific archetype and they all had to coexist with this woman who was running away from certain death. And Ripley definitely ended up with a poisoned apple.
I thoroughly enjoyed Alien 3 and at the time I was the only one I knew that did. Every one of my friends disliked it and wrote off the franchise. Something about its weird atmosphere just caught my eye. Little did I know at the time that two of the people involved would go on to do even more interesting things. We all know David Fincher – the director – has made a couple of moderately successful movies since then. But one of the prisoners went on to become the eighth incarnation of everybody’s favorite Time Lord. Paul McGann played (whatever) in Alien 3 and would step into the TARDIS just three years later.
Alien: Resurrection seemed like it took forever to come out. Everybody pretty much thought Ripley died at the end of the last movie, so even if there was another sequel, we all assumed Sigourney Weaver wouldn’t be in it. How naïve we all were.
When the fourth Alien movie was announced we learned that not only was Sigourney returning as Ellen Ripley, but that the movie would also feature Winona Ryder (remember her?) as an android. Not to mention Ron Perlman, who was already busy cementing his reputation as a go-to smart/bad ass.
Who else would like to see Perlman as Jayne Cobb’s long-lost brother/uncle/father in the never-gonna-happen return of Firefly?
Resurrection was the most Hollywood-ified of the four movies. While I definitely found it enjoyable, there was a certain over-produced hollowness to it. It felt like a soulless popcorn flick, and no matter what you may think of the other three movies; they all had the feel that they were special in some way.
The fourth entry also gave us the hideous xenomorph/human hybrid:
Ugh. I used to have a toy of that. No idea what happened to it.
But anyway, I enjoyed each of the four original movies in different ways.
Speaking of toys, this would hardly be a Needless Things article if I didn’t at least mention the tons of wonderful toys this franchise has given us and how absolutely fucking ridiculous it is that they were ever even made and marketed to children.
You see, long before McFarlane Toys or NECA had the license to make action figures based on the Alien movies, Kenner had those rights. They produced an often-referenced but rarely seen (in person) 12” figure of the alien from the first movie back in 1979. It’s terrifying and I can’t imagine what lunatic thought it was a good idea.
Kenner kept that license alive throughout the toy boom of the 90’s by producing an absolutely insane number of variations on the titular xenomorphs. Aided by the comic books from Dark Horse and the “dog alien” from the third movie, Kenner came up with the genius idea to make figures of alien hybrids and market them to children even though there was never any kind of media aimed at children. No cartoon, no breakfast cereal, nothing. The toys sold by reputation alone.
I collected the heck out of these and wish so badly that I still had all of them. I have fond memories of the bull alien, the gorilla alien, the snake alien, and a giant queen. Kenner also produced Ripley and some of the Colonial Marines. It was a thriving toy line for years until it finally ended up going straight to the “Clearance” bins at Kaybee. At the time of the Hasbro/Kenner transition, Hasbro produced a line of Signature Series figures aimed at collectors. These were 6” scale and featured more detailed, realistic depictions of the xenomorphs. That’s the line the human/xenomorph hybrid came from.
And then McFarlane Toys got the license and things got even more realistic. We got movie-specific likenesses of the various aliens (which are what you've been looking at in this article - from my own collection), as well as a great Hicks figure that I still have around here somewhere. These were all much nicer, more articulated figures. Oh, and McFarlane also got the Predator license. The reason for that is a movie that I’m not going to mention here. But you know what I’m talking about.
Now NECA has the license and I have yet to buy any of their toys. I still have the McFarlane ones and I find those to be pretty darn good.
That’s about it, you guys. I just wrote almost 2,000 words about the Aliens franchise to talk about Prometheus and I still don’t even know for certain that the two are related. Because that’s how I roll.
-Phantom

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