Tag Archives: scifi

Shoo! Alien, shoo! Leave Prometheus alone!

Oh, Ridley Scott. There you are looking back on your career thinking: “Yeah, Alien rocked. And yeah, Blade Runner totally rocked, too!” And you know what, Ridley, you are actually right. They are both fantastic films. I would argue that Alien is far more fantastic than Blade Runner, but because Alien is so fucking out there mega-fantastic that is like saying “Blade Runner is better than 99.9 percent of all films ever made”. And then Ridley? Then you’re all like: “Yeah, let’s revisit this and make another epic Sci-Fi action flick!” Did I mention that you probably look back on films like Gladiator and think that it was equally as awesome? Now there is the problem. Sometimes your films fucking stink. So, let’s talk about Prometheus, shall we?

via thewertzone.blogspot.com

Nothing in Prometheus makes any sense. Whatsoever.
Yup, it’s all a big bag of bullshit. Oh, a nice and pretty bag of bullshit. So shiny you need to look at it. And amidst all the shit squishing and squashing in there we find ideas and performances that are brilliant. But what makes this movie such a bag of bullshit is the problem that many films have: They could be so fucking awesome but somewhere along the way people started to make mistakes and didn’t stop with them. Prometheus is such a case.

via prometheus-movie.com

Everyone and their grandmother has said it by now, but it is worth repeating: The idea that these characters on this ship are scientist is laughable at best. Offensive really, cause what it shows is that obviously no one involved with this project had any idea of scientific work whatsoever. Or they must have hit their heads really hard. From the dumbass boyfriend being all sulky cause he just discovered alien life-forms on another planet and cannot ask them why they made him (not to mention taking off his helmet, cause he just ‘felt’ that he could probably breathe the air) to the “biologist” whose first instinct upon meeting new and aggressive life forms is to touch them in the face. And dear Elizabeth, our supposed heroine, she is what exactly? An archeologist / medical doctor /biologist /geneticist /what the hell? Girl can do it all. Cause she probably studied science. And when you studied a term that encompasses all the sciences ever, you can, of course, do everything that all sciences ever found out and use as their scientific instruments. Cause you’re fucking scientist, duh!

edgy haircut – he must be a scientist! (via flicksandbits.com)

Ok, we could roll our eyes forever because of how hard these people are clearly not scientists. Shall we look at the supposed science then? There is no use averting our eyes, the crap will still get through. The operation super-capsule thingy. WTF? Can do whatever operation needs to be done if you just press a few buttons and hop in. But oh, damn, thing is gender-programmed. Only works on men… For whatever fucking reason. Cause the hard-drive was too small to fit in the program for women? Are you kidding me? And then of course it also works on women, cause wouldn’t you know, just a dramatic effect. So thing operates a squid alien out of Elizabeth Shaw (and boy will we get to how she is not Ellen Motherfucking Ripley) and stitches her belly so that girl can run and jump and crunch and do whatnot AFTER HAVING HER BELLY BEING OPENED BY A LASER-BEAM AND BARELY STITCHED TOGETHER!! She should collapse within 20 centimeters of that damn machine and bleed out is what she should if that movie had any idea of how human bodies work.
But oh, this film so doesn’t. Guess what: the god-alien-whatever-beings DNA matches 100 percent with human DNA! Whoa! Except for no human beings have DNA matching a hundred percent (ok, twins do) and then again every living being on this planet shares a pretty large percentage of their DNA with ours. So instead of being all like: they created us! And they even kinda somewhat look like us! We should really wonder how the hell these beings are related to chicken, and cheetahs and chimpanzees. There is your scientific question, movie, you can run as fast as you want into the other direction, you won’t escape it.
And please, film, Ridely, whoever, tell me: If these beings come to a planet, dissolve and by that create life on a planet – how do they end up being pictured by cavemen? Did they wait for a few million years to come back and say Hi, uh, by the way look at these stars, if you ever figure out what we mean come and visit us there? Oh yeah, that seems to make so much sense, EXCEPT FOR IT FUCKING DOESN’T. The inconsistencies of this movie are to frustrating, it’s almost painful. Just like having just had an operation and then having to …run? jump? fall? scream? Right, Elizabeth?

Ellen, ermh, Ellie? (via guardian.co.uk)

It’s frustrating because the movie plays this “uh, we’re asking the big and important questions” card but instead of attempting to answer them they fall short of answering even the simplest questions that just derive from the plot and the actions. How come the black liquid goo thing kills Elizabeths boyfriend but turns the other one into a killing monster? Why would it even? Makes no fucking sense. Completely unnecessary, strengthens my disbelief and makes me wonder: if the black goo thingy can turn people so easily into whatever fucking monster it wants them to be, why does it have to go to such great lengths to create super-complicated reproduction cycles like the one of the alien? Tell you why: cause black goo and monsters and alien aren’t really logically related and shouldn’t be related in a movie that has no idea of what it is doing.

via flicksandbits.com

What I hate hate hate in movies is the parents-complex thing. So many movies think they provide their protagoinists with motivation because they do what their parents said, or exactly the opposite or something to get their attention. It is there in the recently reviewed Snow White, it lies at the core of The Dark Knight Rises, which I intend to review next and we find it here with Elizabeth Shaw, David the Android, Charlize Theron’s character and oh, basically all mankind, cause we no have to think of those milky white muscle hunks as our daddies. I fucking hate this shit. Having no other motivation for things than you’re parents is the lamest story-telling device in the history of everything ever. Like Elizabeth Shaw is a scientist because of her father, but also religious, because of him, and neither is she a believable scientist nor does her faith have any effect on the plot whatsoever and is nothing but backstory we’re supposed to swallow to think that she is deep and shit, but really it’s just superficial nonsense. Meredith Vickers relationship with her father is so irrelevant, because we have no clue what is going on, we have no clue what her motivation is, and ultimately none of it plays any role in how these events unfold. It is just there and irritating. Granted, it could have been so much more interesting, if the film had focused on the sibling rivalry between Ms. Vickers and David, but we only get glimpses of that. Waste.

AAAAHHHH!! Why does this plot suck so hard?? (via lightsconnoraction.blogspot.com)

The biggest waste in this movie is David, who is also one of the redeeming qualities. Of course the movie looks fantastic, it is beautiful cinematography, the effects are neat. I like how the aliens look, and even though I find it totally absurd, I like how the aliens evolve throughout the movie. But what is really a saving grace and at the same time the major issue is Michael Fassbender as the android David. Because his performance is brilliant and because his character is actually interesting. All the questions that dumb scientist boyfriend mumbles about are just that same that he asks, but he really asks them and he acts on the impulse to want to find out. And along the way he does dubious things, in full knowledge of their dubiousness. Had the movie about him for 2 hours it would probably have been a better movie.

via cinemaforever.blog.de

BUT this movie wanted to hold on to the alien tradition of strong female character with the introduction of Elizabeth Shaw and FAILED. Now, mind you, I like Noomi Rapace and I think her performance was good. And even though I thought “girl, really?” practically every two seconds I still found her character engaging. But my oh my, does the writing on this character sabotage her. We’re supposed to be thinking of her as Ellen Ripley and then again not, cause she is caring, and crying, has a relationship, is compassionate, is religious, yadda yadda. Then we give her some monsters to run from, some gross beings to kill and everyone will think that she is just as badass as Ellen Ripley. Right? RIGHT?????
Hell to the no. Because that was the brilliance of Alien. For a long time it wasn’t even clear that Ellen Ripley was going to be our protagonist. First she is somewhat of a cold bitch and only after some time we find out that we are probably going to spend the rest of this movie – and the rest of the fight against the alien – with her. And she did kick ass with the weapons she found, with the information she gathered. She sweated and screamed and was terrified yet acted on her instinct to survive. In short: She acted like a human being. She felt like a human being. Like the other characters in Alien. In Prometheus we have none of that. They are all tools. Like characters from any CSI series out there we are meant to think of them as real and deep characters because they have a tattoo, or they like to scream out loud when happy or cry because they can’t have babies and nothing in the world is more terrible for the existence of a woman (and in case you don’t notice, I’m being sarcastic here). That is all bullshit. That is all just nonsense, covering up for the fact that none of these people act like real people would. They make stupid decisions because the plot requires them to and none of it stems from any sort of believable motivation. And if you’re characters are void of believable motivations then your film is, ermh, bordering irrelevance.

Looks and feels familiar? (via filmkritiker.com)

It is pretty to look at, it sounds nice. I can appreciate that there were good ideas, that some parts were written well (David spending his time alone on board of the ship). As an Alien mega-fan I appreciate going back to that story, to this being. Re-discovering the jockey on that planet. Seeing the alien again, connecting its birth with the terror that awaits Ellen Ripley in the future. But that is all just intellectual meta-level shit. That’s appreciation for what this movie accidentally got right. All in all it got pretty much everything it had going for it wrong. Nonetheless I don’t want to give up hope. The ending screams sequel and you never know, they might just end up making a better movie when we follow Elizabeth Shaw and David the android to the corners of the universe to find out where the creator-beings came from .
Until then we can imagine how other scientists would behave in a movie like this. Mathematicians probably wouldn’t know fractions. Egyptologist would probably never had heard of the pyramids – or would want to blow them up. Directors would make good movies with a coherent plot – oops, wait. That’s no science. Or is it now?

Bye David, see you in the sequel! (via pcgames.de)

Dun-dun-dun!

If you liked this, you can check out my Alien reviews in the directory HERE.

Ursula K. Le Guin kills another revolutionary – literally

The level of lameness I reach when trying to come up with pun-y headlines… You’re welcome! Of course the above statement is just to lure you in to another Le Guin centered review on this blog, but this time we won’t go for a novel, instead we’ll have a look at her short story The Day Before the Revolution, which is connected to her novel The Dispossessed which was published in the same year (1974) and is set in part on the same planet, cause both of the stories are connected to her larger Hainish-Universe. In case you have no clue what I am talking about: shame on you! So much for not alienating readers. (But really, it’s just a short short story. Go pick it up, read it real quick, and come back here for the review! See you in a sec!)

via goodreads.com

In The Day Before The Revolution (which won a Nebula Award in 74 for Best Short Story) we meet up with Laia Asieo Odo, an elderly woman that we previously encountered as a historical figure in The Dispossessed. Odonians, as they call themselves, derive their ideological foundation from the writings of Odo, who is referred to here in this story – unsurprisingly if you think about it, which we of course did not – as Laia, since it is her given name. And good old Ms Odo has a history of writing influential works on anarchism and anarchist society, since she’s been fighting for ending the oppression of those belonging to the working class (and underclass) on the planet of Urras. Her ideas and ideals, written down partially in prison where she spent years of her life have a distinctively communist touch to me (and I guess others), but it is anarchism, because it is an ideology that rejects any form of state, rule, authority, and hierarchies. In The Dispossessed we see that the ideal and the reality may very well clash, but in this story there she is: the woman who thought it all through, wrote it down, started revolutions and became an icon. She lives in a community-organized house (which used to be a bank, something that gives her satisfaction) and deals with age – remarking also, that the older she gets the less easy she finds it to adhere to all the principles and ideals she’s written about so famously.

via wikipedia.org

We follow her through one day. She wakes up and gets up, dresses, has breakfast, reads, remembers, contemplates, meets guests and goes out in the streets on a sudden urge, and ultimately returns, exhausted.
Because The Dispossessed is such a thoroughly political and also theoretical novel in many ways, it is fascinating to witness this other take on Urras and anarchism (I read it before The Dispossessed which didn’t diminish neither novel nor story, it rather enriched my reading of the novel), where we meet the principal thinker of the movement and encounter a brief narrative about old age. How Laia struggles with her own body, its faltering functionality, and also its ugliness, because she does not find herself pretty or attractive anymore. But she is no fool: Her appetite for sex is nothing she denies. In fact she’d love to have her young and attractive secretary look at her the way he’d look at an attractive woman these days, and finds her wishes to be in vain.
Living where she lives and meeting whom she meets she also sees the discrepancy between her writings, the celebration of her principles, and how reality plays out differently. Even though she spoke out against hierarchies and authority, people see her as an icon and treat her as one. And even though she perceives of this ideological gap she is also quite happy with the comfort it provides her with in her old age.

via amazon.com

The Day Before The Revolution is first and foremost a story about old age and the end of one’s own life. Laia/Odo has lived her life fully, we could say. She has known oppression and a precarious existence, but she has also known resistance, protest, further repression and the strength to survive it. And she has known love. And loss, and grief. In between the events of the day we witness  there are brief flashes of memory, when she remembers her time in prison and her deceased husband Taviri. And even though these glimpses are short, they are profound, bittersweet and melancholic, but also realistic. What is over is over, so what can you do? Le Guin is a supberb writer in many ways. Big shocking confession right here: I read it in German, not in English, translated by Gisela Stege. While I love Le Guin’s prose in the original, this translation reads beautifully and doesn’t diminish the effect. Le Guin’s art shines through: she is able to draw a character with a few lines and strokes, but round and full, because Laia here is believable in her insecurity and confidence, in her longing and acceptance, in her stubbornness and open mind.
Having made it back to the house she walks up to her room, slowly, dead tired, feeling the stroke coming. She will not survive this night. But we already know that the next day all hell will break lose, the revolution based on her influential thoughts will take off and lead to the settlement of another planet. But you don’t need to know about your own future glory to be a grand person.

Still haven’t read it? You gotta be kiddin’ me! Do so now!

Ursula K. Le Guin sends you empty-handed into your own revolution

Let’s just say it all together: Ursula K. Le Guin is god.
Damn, girl can’t help it, but when she writes Science Fiction she fucking writes masterpiece-top-notch-blow-your-mind literature. So thanks to you Ursula, cause your SF novels are awesome. Oh, and your Fantasy novels of course. And your short stories. And the way you handle issues of “race” and gender in your writing (most of the time). You totally deserve your own religion. Or something.

Anyhow, the tangled title of this very post is my lame attempt at cleverness, because I am about to review The Dispossessed, a SF novel by Le Guin that was published in 1974.

via harpercollins.com

For many people SF seems to be all about spaceships and aliens and questions of “is it not only escapism, because it has nothing to do with the real world?” That’s when my eyes glaze over and I wanna shoot the person uttering this abomination before god (who is Le Guin, of course). Cause in how far is any sort of fiction closer to reality? To whose reality anyway? And what does reality even mean in the context of SF? I’m ever so puzzled when people feel disconnected to characters and events in SF stories because the surroundings and the technology are not what they expect – since they obviously expect to find their world in a novel or story, or at least the idea they have of the world and the things they’d like to see in it. And it makes me wonder: isn’t that even a graver form of escapism? That characters and actions become so very irrelevant because the whole attraction boils down to only the physical surroundings?

Because great SF comes up with characters and developments that we in our conditio humana can relate to: Characters who are presented with dilemmas that inform our own existence and their ways to deal with said dilemmas.
In the case of The Dispossessed we are presented with a political dilemma of our times: what sort of society do we want to live in? Is capitalism a road to go down or does anarchism and its communal structure present a valid alternative? The narrative takes us on a journey that alternates between chapters set in the now, on Urras, a planet full of nations, many of which are capitalist, some democratic, others socialist and repressive. That is not to say that A-Io, the nation that protagonist Shevek finds himself in, and that is apparently democratic, would not be repressive. There are mass-demonstrations and the government shooting the demonstrators out of helicopters. There are privileged people and an angry underclass. And Shevek, brought up in a distinctly non-capitalist mindset, realizes that despite all the beauty and lushness of A-Io, capitalism does indeed produce a dichotomy: within society, but also within the personality. You need to think of yourself in terms of market value, and at the same time, perversely, your performance in the market determines your value as a person. And yes, this sounds all too familiar for a reason. People do demeaning jobs and accept humiliation and abuse, because the system produces positions that can only survive by putting up with the ugly side of things.

Anarres, the planet that Shevek originates from, is the antithesis to that. It is the moon to Urras (or Urras the moon to Anarres), and while Urras is rich in water, history, nature, cultures and people, Anarres is not, it is more like one huge desert with little vegetation and a constant challenge to those 20 million people who came to Anarres some 150+ years ago, because that way leaders on Urras removed the threat of an anarchist revolution. Those who adhered to the principles and teachings of Odo, an anarchist writer, were able to set up a society from scratch on Anarres, based on their anarchist thinking. That means that everything is organized communally, people do the job that they would like to do and unpleasant tasks are done by everyone on a rotational basis. There is no possession. The things you need are there for you to take, if you need a room or an apartment you ask if there is something free and you get to use it. You eat in dining halls where food is rationed for everyone.
But the wonderful thing about Le Guin is the ability to be critical about one’s preferences. There is no question that she sympathizes with the Odonian society where people share and have a responsibility towards one another, grounded in neither religion nor nationality, but in the simple acknowledgement that as a society, every human is part of it and profits from it, but also has to contribute. And while Shevek in the flashback chapters where we learn about his life’s story on Anarres sets out with an uncritical appraisal of Odonian society he comes to learn that much of the unity and civility comes from having to work together to sustain the people on the bleak planet of Anarres. He encounters hierarchies in his field of physics and in the society in general, even though the first rule of Odonian thinking is that there are no hierarchies, that everyone is the same, that there are no nations, states, and that all administrative bodies are open to anyone and are not to be understood as authorities. But as structures tend to do, they take root and habits and hierarchies develop, and over time Shevek learns that many people might claim that they are Odonians, that they carry the revolution in their hearts, but that in reality they are fundamentally opposed to having their conveniences and habits questioned and thus seek to protect their petty interests, masking it with anarchist rhetoric. And of course all of that too sounds familiar for a reason.

(c) Eileen Gunn, via usulakleguin.com

Late in the novel Shevek has an encounter with the Terran ambassador to Urras (yeah, she is from our Earth, y’all, only far in the future). By then humanity has pretty much overpopulated and destroyed beloved planet Earth and being impressed by the anarchist (or as she’d probably put it: communist) mindset of Shevek she remarks about Urras:

“To me, and to all my fellow Terrans who have seen the planet, Urras is the kindliest, most various, most beautiful of all the inhabited worlds. It is the world that comes as close as any could to Paradise. … Now, you man from a world I cannot even imagine, you who see my Paradise as Hell, will you ask what my world must be like?”

Just to remind you once more: Le Guin is god. And here’s why: Cause right and wrong is nothing set in stone, but is for 99.9 percent of the time a matter of perspective. And perspectives change and are pre-conditioned by how we are socialized and thus the rights seem very wrong to others while the wrongs might seem very right to others and all it boils down to is that it’s probably a little more complicated than we think and at the same time not, cause why not work with our differences, we’re all just human after all. Granted, there is a catch though, cause obviously despite all its flaws, Anarresti society based on Odonian principles of solidarity is much closer to take the individual as a being to be treated and met with respect and is therefore a pretty spot-on comment about what many people in our day and age (and before that and probably after us too) find wrong with capitalism and the permeation of society and state with capitalist thinking and pseudo-reasoning. However, a constant revolution does not mean invoking revolution through words, but make revolution happen in actions. When they are needed. And they are needed often, and going through a revolution is never easy. Especially not when you meet fierce resistance from those who claim to be living the constant revolution, when really, they’re not.

via blographia-literia.com

Ursula K. Le Guin has time and again proven her ability to create and construct believable political entities and situations, remarkably so in her novel The Left Hand of Darkness. But what she is also famous for, especially with the latter publication, is her ability to comment on gender issues and come up with thought-provoking takes on the whole thing.
In the case of The Dispossessed she does so too. The society in A-Io is divided strictly along gender lines. Women are not in politics and many of them are not supposed to be working at all (though in reality, they do, especially in the working class), and they do not attend universities. They carve out their own spaces nevertheless, though the worth of this remains questionable. Once more, this situation represents a heightened version of what we encounter in our Terran societies these days (and probably even more so back in the 70s when the novel was published). And again Anarresti society based on Odonian anarchist principles functions as a comment on the situation. Shevek falls in love, deeply and thoroughly, with a woman who is of her own mind, who, like all other women on Anarres, is equal to men in every respect. And the profound attraction stems from the fact that he can see her as an individual, as the character she is, rather than the societal position that she inhabits or the gender role she performs. Which is really a marvellous concept in terms of attraction and true affection.
Another interesting gender-subversion is Sheveks short-lived gay relationship with Bedap. The text clearly states that Shevek is heterosexual and that Bedap is homo, but Shevek, because he values the friendship moves in with him and even has sex, even though it doesn’t particularly excite him, but because he feels it to be a natural part of their friendship that is kind of a duty he meets, cause he knows that it is important for Bedap. It’s a peculiar construction within the novel, cause on the one hand I find it to be touching, this concept of deep affection within a friendship that leads one to perform sexual acts that don’t correspond to one’s orientation. However, it is also questionable to the extent that we may of course ask why even go there and have sex, when there is no real sexual attraction. And if there is, why not stick with the bisexual label instead of creating restrictive hetero and homo categories. I admit, the thing kinda puzzles me, because although I see the potential issues, I still think it is kinda heart-warming. Which probably has a lot to do with me not having any problem whatsoever with friendships that involve sex but are not romantic relationships, while, I guess, that does not meet a lot of understanding from other people.

Ah, ‘nuff said. The Dispossessed is a veritable classic, and IMHO anyone should have read it. Just like anyone should have read something by Le Guin (and praise her as god). There is a short story connected to this novel called The Day Before The Revolution, which is about Odo, the principle figure shaping the anarchist movement and society we encounter here, but it is less about her theoretical works and rather about her in old age and how she deals with it. All in one day and all right before the revolution that starts the settlement on Anarres. I’ll review it these next days. Until then: Go pick up your copy of The Dispossessed.

Didn’t you hear me? Go and read it!

Final verdict on the sole survivor: Ellen Ripley, feminist heroine?

I cheat a little, I admit. I’m just gonna pretend today is the 29th of February, so I can get away with posting my last Alien entry today. If you click HERE you get to the Alien master index, linking to all Alien posts of my “February is Alien month series.” Since the issue of feminism has popped up several times throughout my discussions of the various Alien movies I decided to close this series with talking about Ellen Ripley and her status as a feminist icon. Is it justified, and if so, why?

via 4players.de

Looking at the various Alien movies one thing becomes very obvious: the miniscule presence of female characters, crowned by the major Bechdel-test fail in Alien³ where the only female character is Miss Ellen Ripley herself. However, I’ve said it before, I consider it to be an advantage for the overall plot structure and forgive it on the premise that it was a deliberate decision to create a specific dynamic. And that it does in my opinion, so, okay. In Alien we only have one other woman aboard the Nostromo and she gets killed, and I’d argue that part of the reason why she is on there anyways is to provide a sort of anti-thesis to Ripley. She is afraid, indecisive, and ultimately unable to defeat the Alien, while Ripley is all of this sort of not (yay, grammar!).
In Aliens we have two other female characters and they provide some interesting insights too. There is tough Rambo-woman Vasquez who not only saves GI asses several times but also blows herself up heroically in the end, and who serves as a backdrop to what Ripley once was while she becomes something else: a mother. Cause the other female in the movie is a girl and she primarily serves to awake the nurturing instincts in tough cookie Ripley. She still kicks ass, but she does so, cause she has a quasi-daughter now. Which is about to change radically with the beginning of Alien³.
Alien Resurrection is the first film to present a wider cast of female characters. Among them are scientists (who are stupid and afraid of what they’re actually doing), androids who wonder what it is about being human, and captain’s girlfriend who enjoys foot-massages and breaks down badly once her sweetheart is gone. (I will grace the AvP films only with a bracketed comment: those female characters –tough or not – existed only cause they felt they had to provide Ripley substitutes, and we all know it)

via virginmedia.com

So what about Ellen Ripley herself?
She is the sole survivor, multiple times, and she is because she does not bow down to alpha-male-ish nonsense. She is pretty spot on about what is right and what should be done and about what defo should not be done, like e.g. getting quarantined crew members on board, rescuing the cat, blow a colony up, and kill herself. Ripley, just as the Alien, is a metaphor besides being character, and as such she passes through several stages of female experiences. There is the factor of proving one’s own position and qualifications in a sexist hierarchy, there is the issue of becoming a mother, struggling with the feelings this entails, and also the rejection of motherhood (if we consider her to be pregnant with an alien and deciding to, well, abort the “child”). Questions of female solidarity are touched upon, as is the dealing with sexist remarks and objectification by men. And of course Ripley is more than her gender: the issues she deals with are the acceptance of one’s life story, one’s destiny so to speak, embrace it or reject it, and she remains a self-confident and independent spirit til her very end: she ends her own life, cause it is the only solution she deems acceptable concerning to overall situation and developments. Even as a new and “improved” Alien-hybrid clone Ripley stays true to these traits: she remains in charge of her sexuality (even if it means we have to suffer through abysmal one-liners), she is level-headed in situations of massive crisis, she feels empathy with people even if she does not know them and has no immediate profit in caring about them, and she learns what being human means. The hard way. I guess killing your clone-sister isn’t the easiest thing to do. And well, accepting that the being you fought against the last years of your life is now an inextricable part of you, in the literal sense, even. She once more becomes a mother figure, albeit to an alien this time, and once more she rejects the role, with yeah, terribly racist undertones.
I feel I have to point it out once more: I am not against motherhood, no effin way, mothers rule. But I am against the depiction of female journeys as being complete and meaningful only when they are topped off with becoming a mom. Cause ultimately it means that society tells you that you as an individual are pretty worthless, you only gain worth when having kids. And if we follow the thought through it basically means only being a man really counts, cause a as a daughter the same destiny of having to become a mother awaits you. That is why the glorification of motherhood (meaning that all other conceptions of femininity are rejected or deemed of less value) is often ultimately anti-feminist, or let’s just say it: downright sexist. For all the flaws of the Alien Saga in not only the gender department I truly applaud the series for getting the basic conception of a female and truly feminist heroine right. So: Yay! Feel free to disagree with me tough, but then I challenge you to comment! Muahaha.

via sherdog.net

Admittedly the headline is somewhat misleading, cause this post is more about the overall feminist message of the Alien Saga than just the character of Ellen Ripley. And one super-important yet thus far undiscussed issue is of course the alien.
The depiction of the aliens is highly interesting from a gender-issues-perspective. For once, the alien society is strictly matriarchal. No matter how many the host to a queen might take down, she is still host to a queen, killing her is not an option for the regular alien, since it of course endangers the survival of its species. The whole imagery of having an alien queen, together with her laying eggs (and the complicated mode of reproduction), serves to remind us of some mutant insect rather than an intelligent being or even something resembling human. But this premise is subverted, because in the course of Aliens we witness the alien queen becoming protective of her descendants and finally furious with those who killed them (and yeah, wouldn’t you be?). Alien Resurrection picks up on this, the alien queen literally becomes a mother when she gives birth to an alien hybrid (that is fucked-up-edly white *headdesk*) and experiences what it means to be rejected by your offspring.
While the AvP movies retreat to picturing the aliens as mere killing machines, the overall Alien Saga hints at there being more. They are social beings, and while their whole existence differs considerably from the human experience they are not entirely dissimilar. I’ve talked about the inherent racist implications HERE, but it is less obvious what the message concerning feminism is. In contrast to what the overall series does with the character of Ripley, the alien as a female queen is only valuable because of her function as a mother. However, we never really know about the gender of the other aliens or facehuggers. Do they even have one? Aren’t the facehuggers some sort of omni-gender in that no matter what gender the host, they still always succeed to implant little baby-aliens? Interesting, methinks.

via movieguys.org

Okay, I’ll wrap it up! The short version of this post could have been: Yup, Ellen Ripley is a feminist heroine for a variety of reasons. I just went out of my way to come to a point about the series as a whole, kinda.

And yeah folks, that’s it for Alien month. I guess we got it covered, huh? Maybe, with future films…. and the comics….. ah, never say never.

Kill me now, please: Alien vs. Predator

Hokay, we’re close. Let’s have one more review and then some discussion, and then Alien month on Me, all over the place will be over. Don’t cry just now, we’re not done yet. For all Alien Goodness on this blog please click HERE to get to the Alien master index.

via wikipedia.com

Soooo, Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. I should just say it right away: I think that both of them kinda suck. The first one less than the second, but still, you know, they suck.
Alien for me is all about the movies. I know that there is a whole army of comic fans out there that will cry in agony (oh and hey, yeah, the gamers, at least I played the alien video game too, back in the 90s…) but somehow the medium of comic never convinced me when it comes to Alien. I think that somewhere out there is the perfect comic, cause I know they exist for Batman, but what I need is darkness, grit and alla that, and comics are often just too shiny and flashy to convince me of the inherent Alien darkness. So, when I judge Alien vs. Predator, I judge the movies. Just like they deserve it.

via wikipedia.org

The whole idea of having Alien prequels and having Alien without Ripley caused a massive outcry, and I guess producers and everyone else involved noticed, that is why they tried to give us a first AvP that held up some of the tradition. Seclusion, Alien, Weyland industries, and a Bishop prototype. And of coursely: a female hero kicking Alien butt.
This all kind of reconciles me with the overall concept, plus the fact that I just don’t consider it to be canonical. So AvP is kind of ok. Granted, the cast is practically forgettable except for Ms. Superheroine Woods, who is really just memorable because she survives and gets some Predator-loving. But then again it is aptly named Alien versus Predator, since it is really all just about the Alien fighting the Predator. It is all about action, the whole premise is based on fanboys wanting to see Predators killing the Alien, while the Alien takes down some Predators along the way.
It is sort of cute how they try to introduce some depth and mythology by making the Earth a playground for Predators who are basically bringing Aliens to other planets so that they can travel there and kill them, some sort of initiation ritual for Predator adolescents to come of age I guess. I say it is cute, but of course it is really just ridiculous, because really? That is what it has come down to? There is of course an inherent problem with the whole meeting of Aliens and Predators: Predator is kind of this hunting shoot-them-all-down being that primarily exists to provide some testosterone-ridden action. Alien on the other hand is the ultimate creep, lingering around in dark corners, waiting for us humans, being more of a menace than a real opponent. Of course it is also a killing machine, but when it is reduced to that…well, it just loses the implications that it comes with, and I find that to be sad.
Hey, at least we have a female heroine and she is black. As Alien movies go, black characters usually die somewhere along the way (and that actually holds true for many of those action flicks) so that is actually one really big plus, and a surprising one at that. Admittedly, she too sucks as a character, because she is so obviously the oh-so-independent Ellen Ripley rip-off that it hurts, but still. Focus on the positive, right?

via avp.ugo.com

And then there is Alien vs. Predator Requiem. What the fuck, right? The first one was bad enough, but they still manage to deliver even worse. The most tragic aspect of the whole movie is that it is actually a zombie movie, they just substituted the zombies with aliens and Predators and it does not work. At all. I say zombie movie cause it is the good old “monsters invade suburban American neighbourhood” plot with a cookie-cutter ensemble cast that I really don’t care about the slightest fuck (seriously, before writing this and researching some I couldn’t remember in the slightest if there were any human characters continuously present in the movie, I just had some vague memories of dumb jocks lusting after dumb cheerleaders), and they have to hold together, flee into a building and defend their pathetic asses. Just like in zombie movies the people who survive are usually the worst jackasses that you would never want to meet in real life (and yeah, protective mom belongs in the same category this time), and they basically only survive by chance. And usually because the zombies are slow and stupid, but this is the fucking Alien. To reduce it even further (not just Predator prey anymore) to zombie status is an insult to what it potentially stands for, and it doesn’t even work, cause it’s kind of a no-brainer that zombies are stupid, while the alien really is not. The whole move felt like another Resident Evil instalment too me, with just the mistake that they cast the alien instead of zombies. And I probably wouldn’t get so worked up if it didn’t shit so thoroughly on the Alien Saga legacy. I’m really just being overly dramatic, is what I’m trying to say.
However, even in AvP Requiem some interesting things happen, like the Predators having a little mishap, which sets the whole plot in motion, but even more importantly they just nuke out the city (mmmh, or was is the military?) and everybody dies. BUT! But there is this little leftover Predator weapon that they present to a Ms. Yutani – and again my little fan-geek-heart rejoices in the nod, cause as we all know. Ms. Yutani rules a corporate empire that will eventually fuse with the Weyland corporation and create the evil company that we encounter in the first Alien movies. Plus, nice prequel-ly twist, having her have Predator technology to imply this is how it is all coming to space-travel and world domination and stuff. And nice that Yutani is a female company president, cause we really need more of these in real life.

via filme-welt.com

There is really not that much to say about the AvP movies IMHO. That’s probably because the story is just there to justify the whole shoot-em-up scenario and it shows. One interesting thought, stimulated by my dear flatmate, is the idea that the whole fighting has S&M overtones, with the alien and the Predator being both these dark leathery creatures that are all about torturing each other. And then there is the “Predalien,” the Predator/Alien hybrid from AvP Requiem that is basically their child. Ha, nice thought. Don’t ask about the genetic underpinnings, cause you’ll run against a wall, but we already saw in Alien Resurrection that having Alien hybrids is less of a good idea than some people might think.

You really don’t have to watch them, is all I’m saying. Just to think of all the wasted money they could have channelled into a good Alien sequel…. Too late, I guess.

On the runway no one can hear you scream – xenomorph dressing

After a wordy Alien entry (click HERE to get the to all Alien master index) I felt it was time for another round of photo-heavy Alien goodness, and what better way is there to celebrate Alien and visuals than: Alien Fashion!

That’s right folks, you are so immersed in your love of Alien, you just wanna display it on your body. (No copyright infringement intenden, if you own the right to any pictures displayed here and want them taken down, please contact me. For further info on all the pieces just click the links provided or the images themselves) Now, there are several ways to get there. You can of course always opt for the occasional fan-shirt, be it the iconic chestbuster (found here) or a full body Alien representation (found here) to show your allegiance.

Ok, so T-shirts are not your thing? You wanna go for something more fancy? Don’t you worry, there is always the option to choose an Alien costume. Granted, it is slightly less ready-to-wear-y than a T-Shirt, but you’ll feel much more like you’re on Fiorina161 than ever before, and people will look at you like you just stepped off of the Nostromo (which is a good thing of course). You’re options range from a simple, yet elaborate Alien headpiece (found here), to the DIY version that your kids will hug you for endlessly (found here), but you can also get a little more geeky and channel your inner Kane with yet another chestbuster-themed piece of clothing that requires you to learn how to manage to do things with only one hand (made by geeksix’s Josh, found here), or the Ripley inspired, now slightly Avatar-y, robot costume that might just land you another job (made by alexthemoviegeek, found here).

But the fashion-victim that you are, you of course know that an outfit relies on the details – you need Alien accessories, ASAP! You can keep it classy (read: splatter and sex) by simply have the chestbuster complete your cleavage (found here), or store your stuff in you new favorite backpack (found here). There is always the option to take it up a notch though by going high fashion (Hi, Tyra!) and go with the designs of the late Alexander McQueen: ditch your sneakers and opt for the McQueen Alien-heels (also available in other colors, found here), or screw that ponytail and get your hair did true Alien fashion (as seen on McQueens spring 2010 runway show, found here).

Hey Alex, you’re asking, what are you going to wear? Friends, I just wanted the right mix of high fashion, Alien, costume and yellow, so my pick for tonights outfit would definitely be Blackstore’s latex dress (found here). Cause it’s just too pretty to not wear it to the party!

Alien and the world of fashion, what a nice topic! Too gimmicky, you say? Bah, you can still just put on a white tank top, some olive army-pants, put a grey overall over it and say you’re just copying Ripley’s style. But she’ll know (and she’ll kick your ass for it).

Are you afraid of the Other? A color-conscious reading of Alien

I am a white German man and I enjoy the movies of the Alien-Saga helluva lot. That’s problematic. It might not be for many people, it might not seem so for many people, it might be the unthinkable to many people. But when I watch the Alien movies and find myself thinking: “they’re way cool!” I observe myself wondering: “aren’t you just being a privileged prick?”

Instead of reviewing the remains of the filmic Alien-Saga today (there are still the two Alien vs. Predator instalments) I opt for the editorial-style discussion of issues of racism and color in the Alien movies. Since I haven’t reviewed the two vs. Predator movies yet, and since I think they’re kinda shitty and non-canonical, I will mostly ignore them in this discussion. But then again, I cannot really, cause there we encounter some interesting aspects of the whole issue. For more Alien-related posts, please click HERE to get to the Alien master index.

this looks cute, but our discussion won't be, via fanboy.com

Shall I ease our way into this discussion? The question alone should make clear where I am coming from (talking bout my position within larger human society here): I address somebody who is white, western, thinks of her_himself as colorblind and does not think every other thing should be examined in relation to the issue of racism. If you are a person like that, kudos for being so interested to getting this far, please stay with me. To everyone else: Apologies. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I wouldn’t have that default audience in mind when I start to write? A truly diverse and non-me kind of audience? It would, but I don’t. I started to write and I wanted to write the question of “easing into the discussion” just when I noticed what I’m doing. But I am doing it anyhow, this time around making visible though where my own personal starting point is positioned.

this is what an alien usually looks like, via thefilmstage.com

This wordy entrance provides me with a good starting point to go on about the “easing into” anyways, cause for the beginning, let’s not focus on the alien, nor on the human cast. Let us just look at the actions that inform, more as a subtext than really out in the open, the overall narrative of the Alien movies.
Human beings, originally from our beloved Earth colonize other planets. They have mining colonies, they have prison colonies (hey Fury!), they have colonies on planets where they need to install huge, gritty machines that need to convert the atmosphere to make it inhabitable for humans. Now, you might remember, somewhere in the back of your head, or really just right away: Human beings from planet Earth have quite the history with colonialism. And it ain’t a cute one. It is a history of racial oppression that was desperately in need of racist ideology to justify what was happening in the name of whatnot else. Colonizing space seems to be different at first glance for many people, cause it’s about the future and the explorer-spirit, yadda yadda, but ultimately it is colonialism. And we never see or hear about the colonial struggles that the Earthlings might fight (well, we see one, kinda…). This whole notion of colonialism is further reinforced by presenting us with one huge corporation in charge, Weyland-Yutani, very reminiscent of the various colonisation societies and companies that existed during the days of European and Japanese colonialism not too long ago.
A company is a company, and when we expect it to follow principles and values we usually mean human ones. While that might be helpful when addressing the people in charge of running or employed by companies, a company in itself is not a human being, and in a capitalist world order it has interests that have little to do with being human. That is where the whole corporate craziness from the Alien movies stem from: Humanity meets an alien life form, and the corporate plan is to domesticate it, dissect it, study it and ultimately market it. It is potential profit, that is why it’s interesting and even more so than any of the human staff are. And a lot of the vocabulary should already make it clear, there was a perverted little system called “slavery” that humankind once thought to be a pretty neat thing. It was all about domesticating people (of color, usually), of studying them (people of color, usually), tear them out of their environment (consistent of people of color, usually) and market them (to white people, usually). The Alien, even if we don’t touch upon the issue of looking at it as reminiscent of human or regard its color, is basically being treated and approached like an enslaved subject. My point here? Colonialism and slavery, two terrible things, closely intertwined with the issue of racism and color and we encounter them in the context of Alien, thus this whole discussion is totally worth having, based on that alone. Eased into it already? Good.

how about a different color-scheme?, via artasty.com

Cause the domestication and subjugation of the alien happens on the basis of the argument that it is hostile. And oh, it happens to be black. Granted, not human skin kind of black, but black, as in very visibly not white (ha, not just yet, we’ll get there!), and a kind of black that is reminiscent of human skin color.
Ok, clearly, the alien is not a human being. It reminds us – or at least me – of some sort of reptile/spider-like being that creeps around dark corners, has a body that is set up so very differently from the human form that this alone inserts a factor of insecurity (after all, what can it do? We wouldn’t know) and does not communicate with us in any other way than attacking us. The point I’m getting at, why not just say it now?, is that in light of the history of colonialism, slavery and racist ideas many white people considered people of color to be non-human, to have bodies that differ fundamentally from theirs, to be menacing and violent and ultimately fear-inducing, based alone on the appearance. Don’t go batshit-crazy here, cause I am in no effin way saying “oho, the Alien is like a person of color,” that is not, I repeat: NOT, the point. What I mean is: “aha, interesting, the alien fulfils a vision of fear and menace in white minds that’s been formerly (or still?) occupied by people of color in white mindsets.” And that, I argue, is a racist construction. It was then, it is now, and while white people and people of color do not belong to different races, human beings and the aliens very well do, making the word racism just as appropriate, though somewhat different in overall meaning.

One of the central aspects as to why it is ok to hunt and kill the aliens is that (besides them attacking and killing us) they are constantly dehumanized within the context of the movie. Dehumanizing the being you’re dealing with is the general modus operandi when it comes to white people enslaving and discriminating people of color, it is also firmly in place when it comes to killing animals for fur or skin or meat (but I won’t go there now).
However, there is a paradox inherent in the whole construction of the Alien narrative. If the alien only were an animal that we deem a menace but not really a worthy opponent, the movies would be far less interesting. Therefore, we’ve been introduced to fairly human reactions and interactions, with somewhat of a social system, instincts that lead to the protection of their children, and an intelligence that is en par with that of human beings. They need to remind us of ourselves, in order to make for a worthy opponent, and please don’t go “but their social system, that’s like ants!, or bees!”, cause we as human beings set their social systems in human context, use human vocabulary and thereby think of them as somewhat remotely human, before denying it again on other grounds.
We do a lot of the same with the aliens. Their curious and complicated mode of reproduction, including eggs and parasitic development, rapid growth and an interesting lack of sexual interaction between the queen and any other alien, it is there to remind us that they are not human, that their reproduction cycles do not consist of warmth and familiar gestures. Which kind of reminds me how white “scientists” displayed the genitalia of black women in Europe, cause they were deemed strange and only remotely human. Not to forget white western discourses about how people of color threaten to overpopulate the world, cause they have too much sex, with too many children and too little sense of responsibility (yeah, white people – not all, mind you – think that).
Another popular white discourse has been and still is in some corners of white minds the discourse on how people of color, especially black people are not rational beings but are being led by their instincts that are considered to be primal and void of civilization. Colonial discourses were grounded in that kind of shit, and here in Alien we encounter a being that is defined (even explicitly so) by what it does, and what it does is interpreted as following its own primal instincts, without conscience and without rational thinking. Ermh, similar much?

human/alien hybrid, via cyberpunkreview.com

And then, in Alien 4, Alien Resurrection, there it comes: the alien that is closer to humanity than ever before, cause it reeks of Ripley’s DNA, shows feelings, has eyes, a pink tongue, snarls, and is MOTHERFUCKING white. Umh, the less white you are the less human you are? Is that the message you wanted to send there, stupid producers/everyone else involved? While everyone was probably like “whoa, cool visuals!” (and white) it is really just a horrid subtext displayed there. Cause all of a sudden, even if we were somehow able to ignore all the issues I presented until now, and didn’t connect the color of the aliens and its representation with the issue of racism, all of a fucking sudden Alien Resurrection conveniently links the parts together for us, saying: look, we can think of them as human, and hey, the closer they are to real humans, the whiter they get! Beatings and shootings for everyone on the fucking film set, sez I, but only in the vile places of my personality.
Then there is even the mind-boggling issue of an interracial family (which is still up to this day, unfortunately, a whole issue in itself, cause of the reactions of white society) since Ripley and the aliens are now somehow related, and Mr. Whiterson McWhite aka new kinda alien clearly considers her to be his mother. Let us just briefly think about what happens in Alien Resurrection then: the kid of that interracial relationship that is born with white skin turns against his black mother (even killing her) and family and is ultimately rejected by his white mother (and her family) cause it is still related to the other race. Yes, you may hit your head hard and repeatedly now on the table, to make the pain go away. Not only is it an extremely racist message, but it is even an extremely racist message that doesn’t even try to say it’s not. Whoa, in a not good way, I say to that.

My Little Alien by Mari Kasurinen, via thejunction.de

Having talked a lot about the aliens themselves I still want to discuss the presence of people of color in Alien movies. We all know, Ellen Motherfucking Ripley kicks ass in all the right ways, but she is not a woman of color. Ok, some people are just not (curiously basically every other Hollywood hero though), and hey, at least it is not Erik Ripley, so, yay, female presence! So, how many people of color (who, let me remind you, account for the way larger part of humankind) do we find in the main casts of Alien movies? One in the original movie, he dies. None, really, in Aliens. One in Alien³, and yeah, he dies. And one in Alien Resurrection, wanna guess?, he dies. Yay, diversity…? Obviously, with only one character of color whose name we’re aware of none of the Alien movies pass the Bechdel test adjusted to color. L.A.M.E. In about every way conceivable. At least some Latin descent is hinted at, but let’s not even ask for an Asian presence, shall we? L.A.M.E. Let’s say it together next time!
Curiously, this is where I have to start discussing the Alien vs. Predator movies, cause the first of them, and yeah, just hold your breath and sit down, comes up with one human hero – and she is a black woman. Supposedly she is the new Ripley (without ever being seen in the other AvP movie, though) and that alone makes me even kind of forget how she still needs to be acknowledged by the Predator. As for AvP 2- Requiem, I only saw it once and thought it was abysmal. I don’t even remember – are there any human characters we’re supposed to care about (except for dumb college jocks and their ladies)?
The introduction of the Predators into the Alien Universe just reinforces what I stated earlier though: the aliens become prey, they are beings in themselves, but not respected. Their existence is only permissible to the extent that the Predators can enslave them, play with them, hunt them and kill them. The predators just take over the torch. They become the mightier colonizers and masters, their every racist whim is what is to structure the universe.

Sanaa Lathan as Alexa Woods, via moviesmeter.com

On a final note I should maybe explain why I can bitch about how racist Alien movies are and still like them. Part of it is probably nostalgia, I watched and loved the Alien movies long before I ever contemplated racism and white privilege. Another part is white privilege, I guess I am white enough to not be confronted with the negative end of racist action every other moment, so that I can ignore many implications, even though I am aware that they are there. And then there is of course that part of me that hopes that some of the story and imagery is really not just that bad, tells us something about the human condition that transcends the mere medium of film
Oh and, why should be critical with something mean you have to dislike it? Hm, what do you think?

Pregnant in Prison: Alien³

This is not a post about three aliens in one movie, but it is a post about one alien film times three, logically leading us to conclude that we deal with the third instalment of the Alien-Saga. Which is really just a lot of blabber to welcome you to another review in “February is Alien month.” If you want to read the other stuff posted in relation to Alien month, click here to get to the master-index.

via wikipedia

Two of the most memorable moments in the Alien saga happen in this instalment: Ellen Ripley, our own very favorite female superhero of choice, gets to have some sexy-time with a man (who doesn’t get to let this experience sink in for too long), and our beloved Fiorina161 resident Alien gets an up close head-to-head shot with a very scared and bald Sigourney Weaver.
Ellen Ripley shaved her head before G.I. Jane did (and yeah, where did Demi Moore’s career go?), and I’m glad she did, because it adds much to the movie in that it reveals how people might look very alike and be in very similar circumstances, but are nevertheless individuals and thus react and behave very differently.

via rioranchofilmreviews.blogspot.com

But let us enter into this discussion with a little more grace and get done with the technicalities first, hokay?
Alien³, opting for some typographical terrain nouveaux, was released to theaters in 1992, so in real-life-time, the third act arrived 13 years after the whole thing started, which seems like an awful long time to wait for me. Then again, the stories are pretty much self-contained, it is not like there was this huge cliffhanger that kept us all waiting for how it is going to get resolved.
By now one thing becomes crystal-clear: Sigourney Weaver IS Ellen Ripley (yeah, I think being an actress is actually her role) and the Alien series attracts director-talents. David Fincher took the job, who also directed music videos and movies like Se7en, Fight Club, Benjamin Button and most recently The Social Network.
I’ll be upfront about it: for a long time I considered this movie to be the weakest of the original three, and practically on par with the fourth film Alien – Resurrection. But the tides have changed, folks, nowadays I appreciate it much more than I originally did, although I still don’t think it lives up to the standard that Alien I and II have set. Lemme ‘splain, will ‘ya?

Much criticism back in the day, from such prominent likes as previous director James Cameron, was directed at the decision to kill of the three characters (Newt, Hicks, and Bishop) that survived Aliens with Ripley. I strongly disagree, in fact I’m happy for the decision, cause I think it makes Alien³ a stronger film. Watching Alien movies I have certain expectations, and I feel that if we would have witnessed Ellen Ripley with new quasi-daughter Newt and potential military husband Hicks it would have been, ermh, problematic. Too much melodrama is never a good thing (which is where some of the problems of Alien 4 are located), and I’m glad we got around it.
Alien³ is a harder and tougher film for it. Given, it wants to be, with all the macho-males in prison blah, but the grit and roughness stems much more from the cold-heartedness of events and Ripley’s character. The prime example is her basically ordering the autopsy of Newt, having the doctor cut up the girl and searching her intestines for an alien-parasite. It upsets everyone around her, and they don’t understand. Ripley does, but she’s not dramatic about it.

via fandomania.com

The cold-heartedness lies at the very center of Ripley’s character. I’m glad we got to see the softer side of her in Aliens, when she kind of adopted Newt, but ever since the original movie Ripley has been the pragmatic type. She appreciates you more when you’re level-headed and girl is out to survive. And give her a break, will you? She sums it up so perfectly herself in this movie: her life has been dominated so much by the existence of the aliens that she cannot even remember how it was without them. And it is hard to imagine an Ellen Ripley with a life devoid of Alien-struggle. Ever since the Nostromo woke her from hibernation she had to fight for survival. There is nothing (or at least not much) else.
The little else we get this time around is getting cozy with the prison-doctor Clemens. They have sex, share intimacy in an environment that is highly unlikely for any sign of affection, and while it seems to relieve Ripley somewhat from all the struggle, we also get the sense that she is detached from it. She is not falling in love here. She takes a little break from fear and anger and both of them know that this is pretty much it. Plus, Clemens does not stick around for a love affair, the alien makes sure of it.

via best-horror-movies.com

The approach to the topic of sex in Alien³ is one of the fresher aspects of the movie, specially in terms of feminist readings of it. For the first time (and the only among the first four) an Alien movie does not pass the Bechdel test, since Ripley is the only female character alive in this picture. While that is somewhat lame, it is also explicitly deliberate: it’s not like in other movies that the singularity of female presence just happens by chance (yeah, right…), but it is the premise of the narrative. The ship crashes down on a prison planet with only male inmates and Ripley suddenly finds herself in an hostile and sexist environment. Interestingly, the movie thereby highlights our position as viewers: the female character, envisioned and directed by male writers and directors, consumed by us through this male gaze is being watched, evaluated and desired by an ensemble of male characters.
It makes us realize once more how bad Ripley can kick ass, but it falls a little flat because most of the prisoner-characters (including the religious revival thing and the deliberate seclusion) are rather one-dimensional and ultimately uninteresting. They’re alien-fodder and we know it, it’s not like we expect them to outshine Ripley or even survive (though some actually do). The idea of the prison planet Fiorina 161 is amazingly neat though, cause once more the SF-reality feels more real for all the grit and human darkness that we are presented with. And it is Australia. ?, I know. But once more the colonialism-idea is taken up and we witness a planet being colonized for the sole purpose of dumping convicts there. Wicked, sez I. The whole industrial-complex-ness of it makes for some amazing images along the way, including chopping up of people by large fans, drowning the alien in liquid lead, and finally those huge ovens that serve as the grave for someone we know.

via geektwins.blogspot.com

In retrospect it is fascinating to see, how much the whole Alien saga surrounding Ellen Ripley is connected to the issue of motherhood. It is of course not unproblematic, especially if one wants to argue for the feminist position of Alien movies.
The interesting thing about the third Alien movie is how it puts a spin on the whole motherhood issue. If the series had ended here we would have been left with an indeed feminist stance on womanhood and the rejection of motherhood – because Ripley’s children (her biological and adopted ones) all are dead by the beginning of Alien³, and she decides not to “give birth to” the alien queen, a quasi-abortion by killing herself (though technically you could also argue for child-slaughter). On the one hand the whole thing is terrible, because Ripley is dead, but the justification lies in the fact that she erases the alien queen that would bring more terror to the universe. But if we remind ourselves how hard the whole franchise plays on the motherhood imagery that comes along with being an alien-host, there is this other ring to it. (Oh and let me clear it up here, before shit hits the fan, I don’t consider motherhood to be detrimental to feminism, but glorifying female-ness and consider women to be complete only when mothers, that is something I consider to be very unhelpful to the feminist cause).
Having Ripley finally being the victim of face-hugger-y that “impregnates” her with a chestbuster rounds up the whole issue of constantly crossing paths with the deadly being. It’s cool, but what is kinda sucky IMHO, is the whole chosen-one crap about it. I get it, Ellen Motherfucking Ripley, special connection, yadda yadda, but did it have to be a queen she’s got in herself? Like, the ultimate antagonist, there’s nothing less to settle for? While it’s thrilling the first time around, thinking about it reveals the inherent lame-ness of the concept. Way better is the encounter with the one alien of this film, though only enabled by her being with a queen (yeah, my dilemma, I know), when they are literally face to face and Ripley is in terror. For all her kickass-toughness, she is afraid of these beings and that is what drives her. She ultimately overcomes the fear, and it makes her stronger, but only to the extent that she knows about the desperate situation she is in. She will die, inevitably, by the hands of an alien, one way or the other. The only thing she can do is to take matters into her own hand and end her own life. And that is what she does. Ellen Motherfucking Ripley, heroine of all universe, jumps into molten steel and dies a tragic, quiet death on Fiorina 161. No press, no parade, no friends nor family. The alien exits her body – literally and figuratively – but she takes it down by killing herself. Bam, devastation hits us in the face.

via flickr.com

Some unresolved issues to talk about are our favorite corporate friends from Weyland-Yutani, who are still only interested in the alien for the profit it might generate, and their wicked little realization that extremely friendly Androids could be more efficient in getting human beings to do what you want. We thus encounter a “fake” Bishop who stands in stark contrast to the broken version she talks to in the prison-dumpster, who is all the more human for his pragmatism and honesty.
Also extremely fascinating, at least to me, is the realization how little human beings mean to the aliens: the alien they fight in part three is one who was “born from” a dog. Whatever, it seems to say, I just need a host, why not use the dog. Do you wonder, too, what being connected to the organism of a dog does to alien psychology? I see a whole field of research lying right in front of us…

I’m kinda glad I didn’t see Alien 3 when it came out, cause I was just too young and innocent. It probably would have killed me to know: this whole thing is over. Ripley is dead as can be and so is the last Alien the human species knows of. Case closed. As intriguing as it is to see something really end (cause as we’ve witnessed by now, franchise extensions are not always for the better), I’m glad there was – and hopefully is – more.

Yeah, you know the drill: Go watch it!

In space no one can hear you scream: Alien

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been 32 years since the original Alien movie hit theaters all over the world. It’s a classic. And it is one hell of a classic, at that. You might consider the original Star Wars movie (now Episode IV, ha!) to be a classic, but me sez: Alien fucking takes Star Wars down with a bang. Fear not, I will elaborate.

via wikipedia

In German there was a fun subtitle to the Alien release: “Das unheimliche Wesen aus einer fremden Welt,” which sounds totally cool in German IMHO, and which translates roughly as “the uncanny being from another world.” Where Star Wars really is a space opera that seems to be much more of a fantasy quest, Alien is science fiction, practically as sf as it gets. It is set in the future, dealing with interstellar travelling on spacecrafts, computing technologies and encountering alien life forms. Granted, you could bring forth all that for Star Wars as well (which I’ll abandon in a second, promised), but where Star Wars steers off into romance/melodrama territory, Alien takes an altogether different route and decides to go all horror genre on our asses.

Horror, these days, sounds like we’re talking high school jocks and their scantily clad girlfriends getting slaughtered by chainsaw-mutants, but the horror of Alien is more of a traditional sort. While we also see some blood and buckets of human organs, much of the horror in Alien is about the fear. Somewhere on that vast spacecraft there is one being that is going to kill all others. Where is it? Where will it hide? And will the human (or feline) protagonists be quicker?

Alien was directed by Ridley Scott, who deserves all the praise imaginable for this movie alone, but he is also responsible for Blade Runner, which is also a really really good movie (though not among my favourites, gasp). Some people also like to talk about him as the director of Gladiator, but I’d rather pretend that movie never happened and act like the person who directed Alien in 1979 cannot be the same as the one who did Gladiator. Maybe his body was replaced with an Android during the shooting of Blade Runner? Now there’s an explanation I can live with.

via isthatyouboy.com

The movie can be summed up with two words: Alien and Ripley. There is one of each, and that is a good thing. Later instalments of the franchise (except for Alien³) come with an abundance of Aliens who develop all sorts of gimmicky tricks, but in the original movie it is basically one on one, if we ignore the fact of the rest of the crew for a moment. Because let’s face it: it is ever so creepier that one single being can take down a crew of seven, one by one and resists almost all their attempts to kill it. And of course there are other factors that add to the creepiness of t it all, which is the claustrophic and dark atmosphere the vast spacecraft Nostromo provides us with, there is the uncanny birth and growth of the Alien itself and its design that seems to have creeped out of the weirdest dreams anyone (or H.R. Giger for that matter) could have.
And then there is Ripley. I’m going to get to the rest of the cast in a minute, but Ripley, I mean, Ellen Motherfucking Ripley, is one hell of a character to come up with in any sort of movie. Sure, she is skinny and pretty, but she also looks like she could just be working on your next car-assembly line, and she is for the major part of the movie a character we as viewers are not told to symphathize with. Actually, she kinda comes off as a bitch in some of the major scenes, although we admittedly understand early on that she is not a smartass and totally full of herself, but actually smart, confident and genuinely worried about the whole situation. Plus, she takes the Alien down. And likes the cat. The then practically unknown Sigourney Weaver could not have asked for a better head-start for an international movie career or a better role for a female lead in 1979 in a major Hollywood production. Lucky gal got both.

Alien cast, via wikipedia

What a lot of movies get horribly wrong, is that they think they have to throw in an ensemble of characters that have some sassy dialogue and get killed off one after the other. What this movie gets wonderfully right is understanding that we have to care about these characters. And in Alien the whole crew, alongside Ripley, gets introduced and established in a way that not only gives the impression that these are real people, but what they do and say and worry about actually feels real. Because the shortcoming of a lot of science fiction movies in my opinion is the reliance on shiny electronics and management-level service jobs. But these people work. They are on this fucking huge spacecraft, cause they’re mining another planet. They need money, and they’re afraid they might not be getting it. They are employees, all caught in a hierarchy set up through their respective jobs within the company (Weyland-Yutani, yay) that creates tension within the crew. And some of the guys make sexist remarks, which is totally fine with me, cause they act like people do, while the women on the Nostromo respond as most women would and do (hell yeah, Alien, surprise y’all, passes the Bechdel test, if just barely. Oh, and the central operating system goes by “mother”).
No discussion of the Nostromo-crew is complete without mentioning Jones, the cat, of course. If Laika can go space-travel with the Soviets, why should there not be a cat on the Nostromo and provide some comfort to the space-laborers? A cat is so much more random than say, a dog, less instantly likeable for all her independence and strong will and far more eerie when it comes to reacting to humans or aliens. In short: the cat is awesome. And how awesome is it, that Ripley could practically take off and leave the alien behind on the about to explode ship, but runs back and grabs the cat, cause she can’t leave without Jonesy, the only other “crew-member” alive? That, my dears, is the human touch. In your face!

via aliensandpredators.tumblr.com

There is one lesson about Robotics we can learn from Alien: Androids are made by human beings, even though they are not human beings. They are created for specific purposes, and they usually outsmart (computer brain) and outwrestle (steel-skeleton) you. I’m reading Isaac Asimov short stories at the moment, with the three laws of Robotics that state that robots can’t hurt or kill human beings. Well, clearly, no one in the Alien universe heard of that law. Cause our favorite resident Droid Ash, played by Bilbo Baggins Ian Holm, is designed to make sure that Weyland-Yutani, the charming company, makes a decent profit with possible bio-weapons Alien-style, and does most certainly not care too much about the lives of you human beings, sorry. But of coursely it is not that simple: the nuanced performance confronts us with a character that seems torn. After all it is not just “a robot is a robot is a robot,” but it is an artificial intelligence that is capable of coming to its own conclusions. So while for a long time we and the rest of the crew do not know about Ash’s android-relations, when we do, we encounter a character that seems to have doubts about his actions, but pursues them nevertheless. The company made sure that its interests will be protected. And thus, human greed can easily be transferred into non-human (or semi-human? or meta-human?) androids.

via generacionfriki.blogspot.com

The android and the questions that he creates take us deep into the science fiction aspects of the story. Being there, let’s take a look around: the year is 1979 in real-earth-time, and computers are loud and big and exhibit the graphic abilities of a three-year-old child (blinking lights and green writing appearing painfully slow on flickering screens). However, in contrast to other SF movies, Alien’s technology holds up surprisingly well, which has a lot to do with it being less of the slick and clean type a la Avatar and more of the gritty dirty reality that people are likely to encounter when they have to work. And on this interstellar freight-ship these computers look like they belong there, even in 200 years from now. Ok, people will have their iPads, iPods and iPets (instead of Jonesy? Aaaargh!), but although the computers are kind of amusing, they still feel real. Then again that might only be me thinking that because I was born in the 80s and thought SimCity2000 was an awesome game, being so big to need TWO floppy disks and running on Windows 3.1. So if you were born mid-90s chances are considerably slimmer to find this type of technology relatable. Don’t smirk, two floppy disks were a lot.

via hrgiger.com

Do I really have to talk about the meta-level and comment on the superb filmmaking going into this one? The awesome minimalist score? The conceptual artwork that translates beautifully into the creation of the Alien itself and all the surroundings? The wonderful cinematography and lighting? And last but not least that incredible pacing: taking its time, building things up and then have horror unfold itself far out in space? No, right? Cause we all know how fantastically the movie is crafted. We’ve seen it, duh!

Three things remain to be commented on.
First, we have an almost exclusively white cast, and I can imagine there being more diversity, that being said, the movie is pretty perfect as it is, and I’m barely bugged by the lack of people of color, but, you know, still.
And then second and third – the other ship and many eggs. Yep, there was one Alien, but there are going to be many many more Aliens, just you wait. Cause hey planet where they landed on to trace the signal, we’ll be coming back to you in the sequel. Unfortunately we don’t get to see the other spacecraft and the giant jockey anymore.
But then, there is talk of a possible prequel being produced. Ridley Scott is allegedly interested, and Sigourney Weaver most certainly is, although she does not fit well into a prequel…. And prequels – or re-boots – can be fun, but in the case of Alien, where especially the first movie is such a singularly stellar piece of work, there is always the danger that a prequel takes away from that, in that a new interpretation of events gets established, one that kind of predetermines what we see happening here and one that possibly diminishes this feeling of witnessing a first contact – and a horrible one at that.

Not only floppy disks mentioned here, no, I’m actually holding up a VHS tape. Can you even believe it? Go and watch Alien now!

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