Alien – American Monster Movies in the 1970s-‘80s
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If King Kong is a response to the Depression/war/gender changes, and Gojira and Them! are responses to bomb tests and the Cold War —what is Alien (1979) a response to? The heartlessness of mega-corporations? The consolidation of multinationals? The fear of what is out there in space? Men’s fear of sexual assault and forced impregnation?
In Alien, the monster is a very tall man in a costume playing a combination of reptile and dripping corrosive chemical – it drips acid. The monster, the Nostromo spaceship and planetoid were designed by Swiss artist H. R. Giger and his team, who won an Oscar for Best Effects and Best Visual Effects. Director Ridley Scott and actress Veronica Cartwright (Lambert the navigator) also won many nominees and awards.
Watch Alien. Keep these basic elements in mind:
- pre-appearance mentions & witnesses
- initial glimpses
- sounds they make
- attention paid to specific people
- gender origin
- possible motivation
- methods of destruction
- geographical path they take
- people involved in their discovery
- people involved in their destruction / who dies and who lives
- methods to destroy monster
- human relationships around it
- the meaning (the takeaway message) of the monster
I have dozens of questions I’d like to ask you about the film, but I want you to think up some of your own.
A) Ask 3 discussion questions of your own regarding the film. The questions can be about specific techniques used in specific scenes, the characters, the nature of the monster, the plotline, unexpected outcomes, anything about the basic elements, the ending, comparisons to other genre movies of that era, etc. Use my questions in previous assignments as a guideline.
B) Answer 3 discussion questions posed by other students.
1. The film has a lot of interesting points, however, while watching it, I saw many flaws in logic. What are some you noticed?
2. What might have happened had the crew been able to properly quarantine the alien and bring it back home? How might things have been different?
3. Much of the crew on the Nostromo seemed to dislike one another. Were they a competent space crew? Why or why not?
1.In the Film Ripley plays a role most woman don’t often play. Compared to other woman in the film she plays a stronger and dominate role than them. What is your takeaway with her role as a female and do you believe more woman should receive roles like Ripley’s?
- Why didn’t Kane notice anything prior of the alien bursting out of him? Being attacked by an alien attached to your face for hours isn’t something to forget and stay quiet about. However, he wakes up like nothing happened and ate his dinner with the rest of the crew. Why didn’t he tell anybody?
- There are many organisms that do need a host body to survive, but in the film, it was never stated why the Alien requires a host body in order to incubate. What’s your thoughts on why the Alien requires a host body?
C) Respond to at least one other student’s post with polite agreement or disagreement, giving evidence for your point of view. Don’t just answer another one of their questions.
This is others’ post:
1) This film uses silence to make certain scenes feel incredibly uncomfortable. How does Alien (1979) use audio (or lack thereof) to enhance the horror aspect of the film? Do horror films today still use a similar approach? Or a different ones?
2) This movie had a huge focus on visuals, especially color. Color can have a huge effect on how you view a scene. So basically, pick a scene and observe what color palette they use, or you even describe the color palette for the entire movie.
3) Popular movies often get criticized for trying to send some hidden message on some controversial topics. You could argue King Kong was a metaphor for people of colored skin, even if the director didn’t mean that intentionally. Do you think someone out there made this huge conspiracy theory that the Alien, I don’t know, was a metaphor for terrorism or something? Let me know what you think
D. I find it hilarious that Scott had no intention of creating a message for the viewer. All he wanted to do was horrify the viewers, yet people like Ash wanted to study it, “[studying] it seems the last thing on anybody’s mind.” Yet this studying portion of the Alien itself seemed interesting. Although its main objective is to be terrifying and only terrifying, the lack of morality, empathy, and remorse is somewhat poetic in the sense that we can relate to it. We tend to reject factors of ourselves that make us believe we are horrible people, however that rejection could be the reason we become horrible in the first place. Alien could be an example of what we believe we would become if you allowed our primal thoughts to control us, just at an extreme level. Again, poetic, but I’m probably just looking into it too much. Again, there was no intention of creating a message for the viewer.
D) Read chapter from Intro, “The Thriller” – also read Shone article, https://slate.com/culture/2012/06/prometheus-why-are-academics-so-obsessed-with-ridley-scotts-alien-and-its-sequels.html – (Links to an external site.)Comment on something in either of these readings.