Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Best Lovecraftian Movie Ever

I was a few months shy of 10 years old when Alien was released -- too young to see an R-rated film, even if I had actually expressed any interest in seeing it, which I didn't. I was also a few months shy of discovering D&D, Lovecraft, and all the other creative influences that would have such a profound effect on my imagination in the years to come. Consequently, I didn't have much love for horror of any kind, let alone cosmic horror, and so 1979 came and went without my ever getting the chance to see Alien.

Indeed, it would be several years before I would see the film and, when I did, it was on video tape at a friend's house, along with a number of other teenage boys. As I recall, my friends and acquaintances spent most of the time talking with one another, paying only the most cursory attention to events in the movie. When did pay attention, it was only to the gory bits, the ones that made me wince and not quite look away, simultaneously appalled and fascinated by the violence being visited upon the Nostromo's unsuspecting crew.

For myself, it wasn't the blood and guts that drew me in; it was watching the characters grapple with what was happening to them. Much as many people tend to think that fantasy and science fiction don't belong anywhere near one another, there are probably an equal number of people who think science fiction and horror have nothing in common. Horror, for many, depends on supernatural bogeymen, inexplicable and irrational things that were all banished with the coming of the Enlightenment and adoption of Science! as the predominant paradigm of Western thought. Even back then, I never saw things that way, which is probably why Lovecraft's rationalist, materialist worldview has always struck me as the most horrific I could possibly imagine. Lovecraft's stories are, in my view, more science fiction than horror, borrowing the surface elements of Gothic literature to tell what are tales firmly rooted in 20th century science and scientific speculation.

Alien is thus a Lovecraftian film, a piece of "pure" science fiction that horrifies precisely because there's nothing supernatural in the whole movie. The alien isn't a ghost or a goblin or even a demon but a wholly natural, if rather unusual, lifeform, one that kills not out of malice or villainy but from some instinct that pays no heed to human concerns. As Ian Holm's character Ash states, the alien is "unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality." It is, in his words, "a perfect organism" whose "structural perfection is matched only by its hostility." But it is not evil in any traditional sense. Its actions aren't specifically intended to inflict pain or suffering or to corrupt others. Rather, like all of Lovecraft's creations, the alien simply has no regard for human beings, which are, at best a means to its own unfathomable ends. That was deeply chilling to me as a young person and it remains so to this day.

Having watched and re-watched the film several times in the past two weeks, I've grown more convinced that Alien is, without intending so, the best Lovecraftian movie ever made. The first part of the film, culminating in horrific death of John Hurt's character, Kane, reminds me very much of HPL's At the Mountains of Madness, which effectively builds tension as a scientific expedition to Antarctica slowly comes to realize that nearly everything they thought was true is not. Because Lovecraft's tales were set in the then-present day, they don't appear, on the surface, to be science fiction and thus too many people get hung up on the tentacles and unpronounceable names and misunderstand the point of it all. Alien, on the other hand, is set in the future and that makes it harder -- though obviously not impossible -- to misunderstand it, at least in the same way.

As a young man, I found Alien a distressingly bleak film. As an older man, I still find it bleak, but it doesn't distress me nearly as much, perhaps because I no longer have the same naivety about the likelihood of unambiguously happy endings. Neither do I possess the same faith in Science! that I had way back when, something I should have picked up from the Lovecraft I'd read but somehow didn't, so overawed was I by all the surface details of his writings. Alien lays bare the philosophical core of Lovecraft's writings and wraps it up in a visually stunning -- and disturbing -- package that's leavened ever so slightly with a humanistic edge that's generally lacking in Lovecraft himself. In that respect, Alien does run counter to HPL's thought, but I'm willing to overlook such a "flaw," perhaps because, like my younger self, I still pine for the reassurance of a happy ending, even if I better recognize that such endings often come at a great cost.

55 comments:

  1. One of the better pieces of Lovecraftian criticism on the web.

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  2. Why is Alien a better Lovecraftian movie than the 1982 The Thing? That version was fairly faithful to the Campbell story Who Goes There?, which was only a few years after HPL's death and clearly influenced by him.

    Indeed, the ending of that movie is much more bleak than Alien, and better captures the insignificance of man. Hell, in Aliens we learn that there is nothing a few space marines cannot handle.

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  3. The Thing was good and Lovecraftian, but don't let what happened in the subsequent Alien moves influence what happened in Alien. the sequels were just monitzation of the orignal concept.

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  4. I have always thought that Alien was the best example of HPL style "atmosphere over action". The over all feeling of isolation and building tension. Yeah, very Lovecraftian. I would also agree that Carpenters "the Thing" would qualify too, less in some spots and more in others. Truth is, both are on my list of favorites.
    However, there is no arguing that Alien is the first of its kind and way ahead of its time. I have been thinking more about this since the last week demise of Dan O'Bannon. Requiesquat in Pacem, Dan.

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  5. I agree completely.
    I also think The Thing is a great example of HPL style reality, but The Thing injects a little too much comedy and asskickery to take the top spot. Alien does a better job at conveying isolation than The Thing simply because none of the characters in Alien are capable of taking the situation into their own hands. In The Thing, Kurt Russell is established as the Alpha character from very early on. In Alien, the Alpha character is the Alien.
    Funny, those are my two favorite horror films (and I am a horror film fanatic). I'm sure it's because of their HPL bleakness.

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  6. As always, an article (I dare not call it "a post") on Grognardia is both enlightening and a joy to read - yet, one point leaves me wondering: Where's the "humanistic edge" of Alien? The longer Ripley survives, the more it is the mere will to survive that becomes her sole defining attribute. By being exposed to the alien (what a wonderful metaphor for a cold, indifferent universe and the death of God), she becomes increasingly alienated herself (as it's also emphasized in the following sequels). If there's something I don't see anywhere in the Alien-universe, it is the prospect of redemption (which is how I understand the "humanistic edge")

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  7. Yes, Alien...it gives a whole new meaning to the term "inner" demons!

    Sure the marines fought a good fight in the sequel, but at least the franchise got back on track in the third film and its terribly satisfying conclusion. Ripley holding the newly birthed queen...oh, gives me goosebumps everytime I see it.

    Alien, and some of its franchise, hits on a few Lovecraftian themes:

    The slimy, viscerate texture of the creatures...so organic, so alive, so terrorfying. The whole using human hosts as surrogate-incubators!

    The isolation and detachment surrounding our heroine Ripley. Sometimes that line is blurred between her fellow humans and the creatures, which is more of a monster...at least the Alien is more honest in its actions than the corporate power looking to sacrifice any and all to obtain the beast.

    The helplessness and hopelessness, the sheer terror of it all. Sure, you can kill most of the aliens but they keep finding a way to survive. Relentless, no compassion, no remorse, and they absolutely will not stop...er, waitaminute, that's another movie franchise...

    There is a fragile balance in dealing with these creatures for the heroine's sanity. A price to be paid for sure just to 'break even'. There really isn't a winner. There never can be.

    Ciao,
    Grendelwulf

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  8. I'm not sure who said it or where I read it but the point was "Alien" is how a Lovecraft novel reads, "Aliens" is how that gets translated to an RPG in actualy play. "I've got a tommy gun and that thing has hit points"

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  9. Be glad your introduction was later and on the small screen.

    I saw it in the cinema, first-run. I was 14-1/2. And I had appallingly vivid nightmares thereafter.

    So, yes, I can endorse your characterization of the film as Lovecraftian. I figure it cost me 2 or 3 SAN.

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  10. "Lovecraft's stories are, in my view, more science fiction than horror, borrowing the surface elements of Gothic literature to tell what are tales firmly rooted in 20th century science and scientific speculation."

    Totally agree. There was a point where I became truly mystified why Lovecraft was in the Horror section of my bookstore, and not Sci-Fi.

    "makes it easier... to misunderstand it"

    I think you may mean "harder" there.

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  11. Great post, and great comment thread. I agree that the first Alien movie was the most Lovecraftian, but I also think that the later films did an excellent job of drawing out some of the themes latent in the first, especially the themes of maternity, reproduction, and the aggressive dynamics of matriarchy.

    Lovecraft was repulsed and horrified by women, of course (along with nearly everything else), and so the horrific vagina-dentata imagery lurking in his works is always shrouded deeply in the shadows. The later Aliens films bring it into the open more and more, and this allows the audience a fuller, more conscious vantage point from which to explore it. Another set of themes that can perhaps be found in some latent form in Lovecraft, and that deeply but subtly shapes the narrative in Alien, is also ripe for further exploration (but is only partially explored in the rest of the series): the nature of The Company, and its role in the thematic structure of the relationships in the films: human to alien, human to company, company to alien. I've read some analyses of the films that posit a parallelism between the Company and the Alien, and I think there's something there -- Lovecraft never (AFAIK) turned his gaze to the modern limitetd liability corporation, but who better to treat the subject of immortal, amoral, disembodied beings who command the cultish loyalties of desperate men who they in turn regard as mere insects? Lovecraft lived in the first Gilded Age and would have been uniquely suited to write stories about these inhuman monsters living among us unnoticed; perhaps someone today, when social inequalities have returned to the levels of the 1920s in which Lovecraft wrote, is up to the task.

    These ideas aren't really mine, I think -- head over to robmacdougall.org and read his excellent piece on octopus imagery in Gilded Age political cartoons to depict rapacious corporate interests, and the influence this might have had on Lovecraft's horrific alien imagery.

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  12. If Alien can be seen as a Lovecraftian film -- and it has all of necessary attributes to be so regarded -- then I wonder about the role of Ash? Is he the messenger, there to convey the nature of what the crew are facing and only that? If so, then can you equate to the Messenger of the Outer Golds?

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  13. Interesting but I don't know if I quite agree.

    The alien is a bogeyman.

    The real threat in the movie is the corporation.

    The replacement of people by machines. This is important in various areas.

    For example, it's not just about automation anymore. Automation in and of itself is reponsible for perhaps as many jobs lost in America as say exporting jobs for cheap labor. There is also the spying factor. There is also the loyalty factor. The machine is loyal to the coproration without question and will not hesitate or stop to insure that the interests of the corporate masters are satiated.

    The endangerment of human life in order to meet corporate goals. This happens in several fields ranging from a no kill on the Alien to getting the thing on board the ship in the first place.

    While the monster's fighting ability, etc... is impressive, it's essentially dealing with a group of retards who'd have done no better in any other slasher flick. After all, would it be any more terrifying if it was a colony of ants doing the exact same thing? The alien's apperance is a prime motivator in the 'cool' of the film thanks to the artists Gieger.

    The numerous opportunities the crew have to deal with the monster are sabotaged for corporate ends by a corporate machine until the machine is finished and the one person with an iota of common sense gets out of there.

    Then again, I could be misremembering the flick as it's been a long time since I've seen it but the corporate that makes them take the alien on board, puts their lives at risk, and has it's own plant on the ship that is essentially the boss, is far more of a threat than the 'great unknown' which is essentially a giant cockaroach.

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  14. @JoeGK, while I agree the corporation is a symbol of greed in the film, I think Ridley Scott would have a hard time seeing that as the main villain. I really believe he meant for viewers to experience something "alien" and terrifying, which are really the touchstones of HPL in a nutshell.

    If anything, their "corporate goals" are all brushed aside for the sake of survival, making it essentially obsolete by the time she's the sole remaining human.

    Now, you could make a much stronger case for the corporation as evil entity in the sequel(s), but I think the monster is squarely the heavy in the original film. Ripley isn't blasting the company logo out the air lock of the shuttle at the end--it's an acid-slurping xenomorph.

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  15. But Ripley herself was almost a vicctim of the 'corporation' in that Ash was chocking her and would have killed her had not the rest of the crew saved her.

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  16. A fascinating discussion, but let's not forget the film's debt to A. E. Van Vogt's The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950). He even won an out-of-court settlement when he sued 20th Century Fox for plagiarism. So maybe Lovecraft shouldn't get all the credit.

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  17. A fascinating discussion, but let's not forget the film's debt to A. E. Van Vogt's The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950). He even won an out-of-court settlement when he sued 20th Century Fox for plagiarism. So maybe Lovecraft shouldn't get all the credit.

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  18. Walker said, "Hell, in Aliens we learn that there is nothing a few space marines cannot handle."

    On the contrary, we learned in Aliens that there were things that space marines couldn't handle. All of them but two died, and the two that survived were either torn in half or permenantly disabled. Frankly, what Ripley did at the end of the movie was no more out of place in a Lovecraftian story than the captain running his fishing trawler into an Elder God in The Call of Cthulhu, or the U.S. Government invading Innsmouth.


    Regardless, sevenbastard called it when he mentioned that Alien was like a Lovecraftian novel, while Aliens is like most Call of Cthulhu game sessions. ;)

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  19. When this movie came to my country, I was nine years old, and I took my cousin to the movies to watch Alien. She was eleven :-) Everybody was talking about this film in school at the time, the Hungarian title was The eight passanger is Death. Good times :-)

    And I had the nightmares too! :-)

    I tend to agree with this article, especially the title, though I only discovered Lovecraft about four or fives years later.

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  20. > Jerry Cornelius said...
    > A fascinating discussion, but let's not forget the film's debt to A. E. Van Vogt's The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950).

    *nods* Reads as Prime Material Plane only with the Alien (in the first movie, at least) no more smart than poor kitty; acting on biological imperative.

    The Call of Cthulhu (2005) was a perfectly decent short film, despite budget and the digital video showing through rather awkwardly in places. Could've gone a bit more overboard with the German Expressionism and still been fine, IMO. *g* "The Call of Caligari"? :)

    Dark Star is more nihilist, anyhow, beachball or no beachball ;)

    Now it's time to go sleepy-bye...

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  21. I suppose there's something to be said for the "company" taking the place of HPL's started cult-leader-high-priest figure, working to bring back some heretofore unknown big evil. And it turning out be a lot more dangerous and uncontrollable than they expected.

    So who is more villainous: The cult leader or the mindless horror?

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  22. I Saw Alien when it was still out during it's first run. I had a loose tooth and while watching the film while chomping on some goobers during the scene when the alien bursts out of the crewman's chest, I bit down hard in surprise breaking the loose tooth free and filling my mouth with blood. Every time I watch the film I can still taste the blood.

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  23. I'll be bearing your arguments in mind the next time I watch this, James.

    One of the finest Lovecraftian films I've seen is Quatermass & The Pit, though it probably has a more Derlethian ethos -- making no bones about the evil of the alien relic, and remaining steadfastly convinced of the power of human ingenuity and staunch British courage to overcome cosmic horror.

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  24. > One of the finest Lovecraftian films I've seen is Quatermass & The Pit

    Best seen without reading the plot/spoilers. :)

    The Hammer Film version is pretty good and the original has aged /very/ well for a 50+ year TV series, mostly recorded live.
    (Would've preferred if the latter had been kept as a serial - or at least + final credits - rather than merged together into a three hour "film" in the standard off-the-shelf version, but that's still easy enough to watch through in a single sitting).

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  25. "The Best Lovecraftian Movie Ever"

    I, personally, find Ramsey Campbell's choice of The Blair Witch Project to be inspired.

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  26. Would starship troopers qualify?

    I can't help but think that the ending doesn't really change anything and that mankind is going to be overrun by mindless insects whatever we try, in that film.

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  27. Recursion King, I disagree because of two aspects: For one thing, the focus of Starship Troopers doesn't lie on the sense of dread, coldness and cosmic indifference but on the interaction of its characters and on the dissection of societal processes; additionally - but that's only a minor point, for it's directly connected to what I mentioned before - the bugs are far too human to be lovecraftean: They follow deducable strategies, they have motives and built a hierarchy which governs their behaviour. All of this is far too sensible, too graspable to be beyond human understanding.

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  28. "Sure the marines fought a good fight in the sequel, but at least the franchise got back on track in the third film and its terribly satisfying conclusion."

    I am ashamed to live in a universe that doesn't include the destruction of anyone who compliments Alien 3 in its natural, inviolable laws.

    Especially horrible given that you call Alien 3 "back on track" after the amazing and satisfying Aliens.

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  29. Alien 3 was an excellent sequel to Alien but a damn poor one to Alien 2.
    Stuck on a barely functional refinery with a bunch of sex offender religious converts...sounds pretty horrifying to me, then throw in the Aliens and it actually gets worse.

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  30. "human beings, which are, at best a means to its own unfathomable ends"

    Its ends are entirely fathomable - propagation of the species. I thought this was the key to the horror; for the Alien, humans are just hosts for its offspring, exactly like the wasps that lay their eggs in living caterpillars etc.

    I think what struck me most about Alien was the alien ship and its long-dead pilot, the message being that even a species and civilisation vastly more advanced than our own was still just helpless prey to the Alien predator.

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  31. The Company as deity is an interesting notion. I was in the flagship Apple store on Regent St, London yesterday and was very struck by its feeling of 'sacred space' - it felt very much like a Temple, complete with supplicants, priests, shrines and altars. The design was very much that of a religious building, with inner and outer temples; in the innermost temple a priest led the faithful (sat on pews) in worship of some new gizmo on the giant screen.

    Of course no one in the Alien movies is depicted as worshipping The Company. Missed a trick?

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  32. "Alien 3 was an excellent sequel to Alien but a damn poor one to Alien 2.
    Stuck on a barely functional refinery with a bunch of sex offender religious converts...sounds pretty horrifying to me, then throw in the Aliens and it actually gets worse."

    In concept perhaps. In execution it is one of the most staggeringly inept films I have ever seen.

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  33. "Of course no one in the Alien movies is depicted as worshipping The Company. Missed a trick?"

    Would the worship not ultimately be of money? As far as I can see, the Company represents the soulless, mindless pursuit of wealth and power regardless of human consequences.

    If the Xenomorphs represent the alien, unknowable, uncontrollable aspects of the Cosmos (and serve as an okay-ish stand in for Cthulhu and his lot), then the Company is like the insane sorcerer who seeks to bend the power of the Old Ones to his will, with all the negative consequences that such folly brings.

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  34. Hell, in Aliens we learn that there is nothing a few space marines cannot handle.
    I cannot imagine how you came to such a conclusion about a film in which the military is completely outclassed almost from the outset. Only one of the marines survives, and he's incapacitated. The hive is destroyed, but only by accident. If anything, it's a film about the dangers of military arrogance. Or in other words, Vietnam.

    If there's something I don't see anywhere in the Alien-universe, it is the prospect of redemption
    I'm not sure of that. There's Bishop in Aliens, for example, the irony being that he's a machine.

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  35. "I cannot imagine how you came to such a conclusion about a film in which the military is completely outclassed almost from the outset"

    Actually, no. The marines die because they have their ammunition confiscated so as not to rupture the cooling towers and cause a thermonuclear explosion.

    Then, the ammo bag catches fire from the flamethrower after a marine is taken into the wall and explodes, throwing the whole thing into chaos.

    Then, the inexperienced Gormon, who is in command, talks gibberish and then freezes up, unsure what to do.

    So: they lose because they have no ammunition, then there is an accidental explosion and then the commanding officer freezes up.

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  36. "Actually, no. The marines die because they have their ammunition confiscated so as not to rupture the cooling towers and cause a thermonuclear explosion."

    Questionable. The Marines are clearly hugely outnumbered by the Aliens (did you see the scene with the automated machine guns in the Director's Cut?), and throughout it is shown that even with the advantage of firearms they are unable to kill aliens in large numbers without taking returning casualties. The aliens are good at getting up close via stealth, and when shot at close range, the acid tends to harm the marines.

    Ultimately I think the marines were hosed either way.

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  37. ""Actually, no. The marines die because they have their ammunition confiscated so as not to rupture the cooling towers and cause a thermonuclear explosion."

    Questionable."

    RIPLEY
    That's not what I mean. Gorman, if your men have to use their weapons in there, they'll rupture the cooling system.

    BURKE (realizing)She's right.

    GORMAN
    So.

    RIPLEY
    So...then the fusion containment shuts down.

    GORMAN
    (impatient)So? So?

    BURKE
    We're talking thermonuclear explosion.

    GORMAN
    Shit.(into mike) Apone, collect magazines from everybody. We can't
    have any firing in there.

    The troopers look at each other in dismay.

    WIERZBOWSKI
    Is he fucking crazy?

    HUDSON
    What're we supposed to use,man? Harsh language?

    GORMAN
    (voice over; static) Flame-units only. I want rifles slung.

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  38. I didn't mean that it is questionable that the incident with the cooling system happened, I do not, however, believe it is the ONLY reason the aliens gained the upper hand.

    In other words, even had the Marines had their weapons and gear ready at full use, they still ultimately all would have died.

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  39. I accept that you believe they would all be dead anyway, but in the film that action /directly/ leads to a chain of events that kills almost the entire squad in a few minutes - it clearly has a huge part to play in the final outcome.

    With their ammunition, they would have had fewer deaths, the ammunition would not have exploded from being all placed in one bag and then set on fire, and Gormon would not have frozen up because Apone was dead, killed while trying to listen to his rambling nonsense instructions.

    If that didn't happen, I suspect they'd have lost only a few marines and then made a tactical withdrawal and the whole film would have gone very differently.

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  40. The likelihood is that, had the aliens not destroyed the squad in one fell swoop, the necessity of retreat would not have been apparent.

    It was only with the death of the commanding officers that Hicks decided to retreat at all. Apone doesn't seem like the type who would run away from a dangerous situation. Their mission was to eradicate the aliens, and, actually, a few successful encounters would only have drawn the marines further into the mess - causing casualties and ultimately leading them to be overwhelmed.

    The scene with the automated machine guns clearly shows that there were hundreds if not thousands of aliens in that colony.

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  41. "The likelihood is that, had the aliens not destroyed the squad in one fell swoop, the necessity of retreat would not have been apparent."

    No ammunition and being attacked by a hostile enemy that has knocked a few team member off?That sure seems like retreat and regroup conditions to my tactical mind, at least.

    But then who knows what would have happened, Gormon is certainly incompetent so maybe you are right.

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  42. The automated machine gun scene is all about proving that the Marine's supply of ammunition is finite. The Aliens are relentless, that they exist in huge enough numbers to mob the automated guns, and that eventually you will run out of bullets.

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  43. ... and if the marines' ammunition is not confiscated and everyone is firing their standard rifles, there is the possibility that the explosion at the end of the movie instead happens right there and then.

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  44. Well, the damage that does the reactor in could be from the dropship crash, so perhaps they could have kept their ammo after all. ;)

    I would argue that the dropship crash was more significant than the botched attack, and that was all to do with being complacent (no sentries, leaving the back door open), rather than bad luck.

    You also have to factor in the first half an hour or so of the marines' briefing, training, etc, which shows them to be a pretty complacent and arrogant bunch.

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  45. Personally I blame Gormon. He's incompetent through and through. He freezes under pressure, has no plan B and clearly has no idea what he's doing in any of the film (simulated drops and so on).

    Perhaps the corporation picked him to lead the team on purpose, if Burke's plan to get one of the crew implanted wasn't spontaneous but preplanned all along.

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  46. Alien had a profound effect on my adolescent brain. As James pointed out, what was most disturbing about the portrayal of the alien itself was not its supernatural, otherworldly character, but the fact that it was wholly natural. In fact, it mirrored the common behavior of backyard insects. From a certain perspective, Alien was a variation on the "Incredible Shrinking Man" genre -- in this case the human crew members were "shrunken down" to the level of insect prey so that we the audience may experience that reality more viscerally. Alien drew me toward a study of the reproductive biology of insects upon which it was modeled. Beyond the idyllic, childish images of "busy bees" and "lowly caterpillars blooming into butterflies" I discovered the real world of Ichneumonidae. "I cannot persuade myself," Charles Darwin wrote, "that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars." Biologist Richard Dawkins wrote: "The macabre habits of the Ichneumonidae are shared by other groups of wasps, such as the digger wasps studied by the French naturalist Jean Henri Fabre. Fabre reported that before laying her egg in the catepillar (or grasshopper or bee) a female digger wasp carefully guides her sting into each ganglion of the prey's central nervous system so as to paralyze the animal but not kill it. This way, the meat stays fresh for the growing larva. It is not known whether the paralysis acts as a general anesthetic or if it is like curare in just freezing the victim's ability to move. If the latter, the prey might be aware of being eaten alive from inside but unable to move a muscle to do anything about it. This sounds savagely cruel, but Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose."

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  47. "We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose."

    That's a great quote, but obviously wrong. It's just a matter of perspective. The species propagating and life continuing is a purpose unto itself. The individual's struggle to find a host to do this is a purpose. So no, it's not without purpose, it just depends on what perspective you are taking: if it is the universe's then all of it is just reformed star dust waiting to return to the same dust and will seem purposeless. So, it is both true and false, depending on your frame of reference.

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  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  49. "So they they lose because they are human marines, definitely clouded by conscience, remorse, and delusions of morality :) In this case, doing their duty even against reason and judgment."

    hehe

    However, the confiscating of ammo occurs because there is 'significant dollar value' attached to the atmosphere processor, not to save anybody's life, as Burke says when they later discuss taking off and nuking the site from orbit. In fact, morality is what stops the whole thing from going completely wrong.. it's Ripley's conscience that makes her take command of the APC and rescue the rest of the squad.

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  50. @ The Recursion King: "That's a great quote, but obviously wrong... it's not without purpose, it just depends on what perspective you are taking: if it is the universe's then all... will seem purposeless."

    You are right, of course. Dawkins was referring to the universal perspective ("God's Plan") and my out-of-context quotation did not make that clear.

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  51. Possibly my preferred film. A brilliant work!

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  52. Science Fiction and Horror are companions that had their birthing pains in the same maternal bed - the pulps.

    Both were all about conveying something greater than themselves. For SF, it is usually trunicated to something called - The Sense of Wonder (the majesty and fearful size of the universe) and for Horror (it is creeping terror and unknowable) both of these converge into what good writers do when they create the atmosphere of the novel.

    So, Alien like many films of the 1970s, it came all together and captured the Zeigest of the moment - like Traveller just a bunch of working class guys & dolls pulled from their work routine by a large impersonal employer (the Company) to be fed through the meatgrider in order to turn a profit or two.

    Sure, Alien has many flaws when viewed from a SF or Horror cannon that proports to support authencity but nothing can distract from what they attempted and succeeded in doing which was to alter the mood of the audience.

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  53. I saw 'they' last night, quite a good horror film that has strong Lovecraftian overtones... more overt and possibly stronger than Alien itself, certainly if you are familiar with Call of Cthulhu, anyway.

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