Is Alien Ridley Scott’s Masterpiece?

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When a Weyland/Yutani towing vessel receives an order to investigate a signal of unknown origin on a nearby planet, the crew of the Nostromo are wakened from hypersleep.  Touching down on the planet from which the signal appears to originate, a search party comes into contact with an alien lifeform, one of whom attaches itself to the face of crew member.  Back aboard the Nostromo, the crew eager to dust off and head back to Earth, the alien begins to transform and hunt the crew.

Ridley Scott's ALIENStarring Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, Tom Skerritt as Dallas, Veronica Cartwright as LambertHarry Dean Stanton as Brett, John Hurt as Kane, Ian Holm as Ash, and Yaphet Kotto as Parker, Alien is directed by Ridley Scott.

Alien is one of those iconic films that’s been discussed, analyzed, argued over, and celebrated.  Rightfully so.  Scott’s vision of the Nostromo, its crew, and the alien landscape of LV-426 was so complete and fully realized that, in a way, they were made real.  The film spawned an epic franchise (including that disappointing crossover with the Predator series) and gave birth to what is arguably the strongest female character in the history of film: Ellen Ripley (Weaver).

Full of intricately developed tension, Alien is every inch a horror film.  That it’s set in space with an unknown species as its villain are the only reasons the film even manages to Ridley Scott's ALIENgraze the sci-fi spectrum.

The set of the Nostromo was constructed as a self-contained stage, one that the actors or crew couldn’t actually get out of without traversing to the other end.  This aided significantly in the authenticity of the claustrophobia felt in the film, in addition to restricting the movements of the cast, thereby increasing the tension between them.  The concept of an enclosed, complete set has since been duplicated by directors like Joss Whedon who constructed the set of Serenity much in the same manner.

There is an ongoing discussion about Alien‘s sexual undertones.  From the oral penetration of the face hugger, to the explosively violent “birth” of the alien a short while later, there’s no denying the intensity of the imagery.  There are also countless theories about the play on the fear of rape in men and how Alien has become a sort of payback for years of the film industry’s exploitation of women.  Take or leave the theories, one thing remains irrefutably clear.  Ridley Scott knows how to inject fear to maximum, unrelenting effect.

Ridley Scott's ALIENThat the character of Riley (Weaver) was meant to be a man is not lost on me, or other fans of Alien and it’s subsequent sequels.  Weaver, who had up to the filming of Alien been predominantly a stage actor, brought a steely resolve to Ripley.  In a crew comprised mainly of men (the exception being Cartwright’s, Lambert, the ship’s navigator), Ripley stands her ground at every turn.

As a woman, there is probably no other performance in film that affected me, molded me, and influenced me as strongly as Weaver’s performance in Alien.  It taught me that women could be strong, resourceful, smart, and sexy.

Ripley is one hell of a role model and remains, to date, my favorite character in any film.

Akin to many other films made in the ’70s, Alien develops over a protracted period of time, with little action occurring in the first half of the film.  In many instances, there is nothing but silence, expect for maybe the humming sound of the ship.

[Spoiler Alert!}

You’re given a look at the Nostromo crew, their life, their interpersonal relationships and struggles.  Then Ridley Scott makes you sit there and steep in it.  Like the alien5crew, you’re more or less trapped in the confined space that is Nostromo.

This works to the extreme for the horror elements in the film.  Before the struggle to survive begins, you have a fairly good handle on the environment and the characters.  You know there’s nowhere to run and that no one is coming to help.  The crew, after all, is expendable.  Thanks, Weyland-Yutani.

Alien is a bonafide horror masterpiece, beautifully imagined, orchestrated, and executed by Scott.

Parasites, disease, physical invasion, claustrophobia, paranoia, Alien has it all.  Truly a must-see.  Alien is a bonafide horror masterpiece, beautifully imagined, orchestrated, and executed by Scott.

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Ridley Scott's ALIEN

Published by C. L. Taylor

C.L. is a BIPOC, LGBTQ+ artist & writer who pushes pixels and slings ink in her 9 to 5. She's a content producer's content producer, who's ready, willing, and able to throw down anything from illustration to animation, UI/UX design, and copy. If you want it to sparkle, evoke, or convey a story, chances are C. L. can help! Her short fiction has earned first place in category and honorable mentions in the NYCMidnight short story, micro fiction, and flash fiction contests, and has appeared in Typehouse Literary Magazine, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, and anthologies by Brisk Publications and Alyson Publications. Her poetry will appear in the upcoming October issue of Versification. In her spare time, C. L. chases mindfulness and often falls asleep in savasana pose. You can catch up with her on Twitter: @ctaylor and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cltaylor_writer/

13 thoughts on “Is Alien Ridley Scott’s Masterpiece?

  1. Great essay and some very deep insight to what makes this film so iconic and important. I can easily say that this film is Scott’s magnum opus, in my opinion. Good job!

    1. Thanks for that, Victor, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Alien is a such a landmark work in not only the sci-fi genre but the horror genre, as well – its influence can be felt in so many other films (some of which are great in their own rights). In researching the film, I was most delighted to learn about the self contained set construction – a (sorta) full sized Nostromo?! How amazing is that! What about you? Do you have a favorite Alien moment or fact?

      1. My favorite moment has to be when Ripley is singing to herself in the escape pod while prepping the shuttle for decompression. The suspense is incredibly tangible and disquieting. So well done. I could go on all night with other favorite moments!

        I do like that Scott used children for scale against the Nostromo exterior during the search party sequence. Guy’s a genius. Also, It! The Terror from Beyond Space is cited as an inspiration among other films that are not as widely known. The Whedon connection you made was spot on, btw. Good job!

        1. I love that moment with Ripley, too, always find myself holding my breath a bit. Like you, I could go on and on, but high up on my list of favorite moments is the scene in which Dallas meets his untimely demise. Brilliant!

          I hadn’t heard/read that about Scott using children for scale – thanks for sharing that little nugget!! And, I’ll have to check out – It! The Terror from Beyond Space. If you’ve seen it, let us know what you think!

          1. Oh, Dallas. He was such a tragic figure in the film. He was so brave even when following everything by the book. I loved when he and Ripley argue and she shuts the bulkhead door on him. Great scene that gives us some back story to Dallas.

            I reviewed “It!” for HorrorNewsNet. I review sci fi films for them. If you’d like I can post the link. It is a very influential sci fi classic. It was available on Netflix streaming for some time but I am not sure about now.

                  1. Do you mean my review, Jeffrey? I wouldn’t mind. If it is something else I would run it by C Taylor. Thanks!

                    1. Actually, Jeffrey, since the review belongs to HorrorNewsNet, I am not so sure if they would like it re-blogged. Sorry!

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