Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Alien: The Director's Cut

This article was first posted on August 30, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

I have mixed feelings about Alien: TheDirector's Cut. On one hand, the insertion of never before seen footage provides us with a perspective on the life cycle of the Alien different from the Alien as social insect analogue used in Aliens. On the other hand, the insertion of the footage interferes with the taut pacing of the original, especially when one considers when in the sequence of events leading up to the film's climax Ripley discovers the Alien's nest in the Nostromo; the atmosphere is one of urgency after Ripley finds Parker's and Lambert's mutilated bodies and subsequently initiates the Nostromo's self-destruct sequence and it is during her almost frenzied rush to the Nostromo's lifeboat/shuttle that she discovers the nest and spends valuable minutes that she can ill afford to lose (given the self-destruct mechanism's ten minute timer) exploring the nest and euthanizing, for lack of a better word, Dallas and Brett, who she finds cocooned and slowly metamorphosing into Alien eggs. Had she found the nest prior to initiating the Nostromo's self-destruct sequence, the inclusion of this scene may have worked. In its present place, it detracts from the urgency of Ripley's plight.

Be that as it may, details of the Alien life cycle presented in this scene give us a tantalizing glimpse of what may have been had this footage not been excised in the original theatrical release. The first sequel, Aliens, would have certainly been different, since there wouldn't have been an Alien queen to act as Ripley's foil. Speaking of Aliens, the more I've watched Alien (either the original theatrical release or the director's cut), the more dissatisfied I've grown with its sequel. My primary gripe is on differences in the way the Alien was portrayed in the two films; in the first film, the Alien is an ambush predator that establishes a perch from which it slowly and stealthily approaches its victims before seizing them and dragging them to its lair where they can be cocooned; in the second film, the ambush predator is no more and we are treated to the Alien as a target amongst many in a shooting gallery, which, to be fair, is probably consistent with the vision of the Alien as social insect presented in the film.

Frankly, I prefer the vision of the Alien presented in the original film. To quote the android, Ash: [The Alien is a] perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. [It is] a survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.

This vision of the Alien didn't survive the transition from the original film to the sequel and, frankly, I think it's a pity.

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