Friday, February 27, 2015

Sci Fi Friday: If Sigourney's In, I'm In

Movie Poster for original Alien, 1979
When I first heard that there was going to be a reboot of the movie Alien, I yawned. Reboots are always ... Well, reboots. If a remake is faithful to the original product that we love so much, then it is predictable because we've already been there, done that. If it's not faithful to the original, then we complain because it changes the thing we love so much.

And then there's the magic of a first. Some movies, like music, have a synergy that only exists the first time around. Any art that become phenomenon has this synergy. It's complex and is about more than the artists but also includes the audience.

When Alien appeared back in 1979, it came on the heels of the comparatively childlike Star Wars. Hans Solo, the bad boy of the film, is a cartoonish space pirate compared to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. 

If the two were in a fight, I'd put my money on Ripley to kick Solo's ass.

Star Wars gave us R2D2, C3PO and Ewoks. Cute, sometimes cuddly characters.

Alien gave us this:

Alien art from Neill Blomkamp's Instagram
Alien ushered us, not so gently, into an age where all kinds of things come out of the sky, hellbent on destroying humankind (Thor, Transformers, Independence Day, Mars Attacks ... just a few that came to mind - please add to the list in the comments section). Star Wars was our age of innocence. Alien was our coming of age.

I saw the original Alien in the movie theatre when it first came out and can still remember yelling out with surprise (as did most in the theater) when that alien popped out of the guy's stomach. I've seen it several times since and I still jump at that moment - even though I know it's coming. The movie has a pervading dark tension that builds and builds up to that moment. You know bad shit's going to happen. You just don't know what or when.

And then there's Ripley. Smart, sassy, mother of all bad mother f***in women who will kick your sorry ass ... Ripley.
Sigourney Weaver on the set of the original Alien movie, 1979. Corbis
Sigourney Weaver pretty much invented the strong female lead for Sci Fi media. Sure, there are plenty of strong female characters in the world of story before Ripley. But I can't think of one in film prior to Alien that had a female character that could kick ass the way Ripley did.
Linda Hamilton (with cut arms to die for) in Terminator II:Judgment Day (19991) owes her bad assedness to Weaver paving the way for this type of character.

In fact, Weaver paved the way for a lot of us. Seeing Ripley on the screen back when I was a kid allowed me to see that a woman can save herself. Ripley looks that alien bitch with two sets of teeth in the face and says eat it.

So Neill Blomkamp wants to give us his take on Alien? And media touts it as from the director or Elysium and Chappie. Well, that made me snore. I wouldn't exactly call those two movies a great sci fi pedigree (some of you may disagree and if you do, feel free to tell me so in the comments).

But somehow or other, Neill convinced Sigourney to come along for the ride.
If Sigourney's in, I'm in. I look forward to seeing how she'll fit into the Alien world (re)created by Blomkamp nearly 40 years after the original (damn, that's a long time!).

Just please, Neill, don't try to make her more "feminine" - more likable - like they did in the second film, Aliens. So typical of Hollywood, they had to give her a kid to take care of (1986 Aliens, written and directed by James Cameron). So many Hollywood stories give us female characters that have a kid slung to their hip, even if they're toting a gun with the other hand (and typical of Hollywood too to put kids, dogs, and  yes, Ewoks, into movies to cuteify them, perhaps thinking it will make the franchise appeal to a larger audience).

So go forth, Neill Blomkamp, and revision Alien. But please, while your re-envisioning what Alien can be, don't take away from us the strong, self-reliant Ripley that we love.

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