Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alien Vs. Aliens: Making the Impossible Choice

I had the pleasure of attending an Alien-themed convention recently in the UK, and between hotly debating the potential plot of Prometheus and the finer biology of a facehugger, I got talking to fans. They were all very kind about Alien Vault — although given some had only just bought it; they were either expert speed-readers or being very polite. But out of their many entreaties (“What did I think the plot of Prometheus might be?”, “How many times have I met Sir Ridley Scott?”, “Is Sigourney Weaver really tall?”, “Had I seen Prometheus yet?” etc.), it appeared what they most wanted to know was whether I thought Alien was better than Aliens.

Let’s get something straight, both are fantastic movies. Greats. I remember seeing Aliens in the cinema in 1986 as if it were yesterday. James Cameron, putting the emphasis on action-thriller, made what is still one of the most exciting movies ever put on celluloid. I swear from the moment Ripley drives the APC into the nest to rescue who remains of the marines until the closing credits I forget to breathe. Inevitably, I went again a week later and hilariously at the point Paul Reiser’s Company stooge Burke closes the door on Ripley and Newt, a young man — utterly caught in the moment — shouted out his opinion of the character in language that doesn’t bear repeating here. It broke the tension, but only momentarily. We all knew exactly what he meant. Aliens remains one of the best experiences I have ever had in a cinema, but if forced to pluck one from the metaphorical burning building, I would still choose Alien.

To be fair, it did have the advantage of coming first. As told in Alien Vault, the film originated from many sources: Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett came up with the B-movie concept of this spacecraft failing to fight off a strange stowaway; David Giler and Walter Hill then knocked out the B-movie stuffing by adding realism to the characters, and propulsion to the plot; meanwhile Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger provided a visual texture that appeared to meld technology and biology in some oddly sexual way. It was science fiction by way of Freud. And then there was Ridley Scott, who took all of these disparate elements and fused them into something much more than the sum of its parts. He created a new blueprint for film.

If I was to give one reason why Alien is my film, it is because I can’t escape it. From the first time I saw it (on videotape, having played hooky from school) it got inside me and has never budged. You might say I have never recovered. Those mesmerizing first forty-five minutes when nothing seems to be happening, just this impending sense of doom — of something horrible, really horrible, lying in wait. That startling landing on a storm-swept planetoid. Where had this derelict spacecraft come from? What was that strange ossified creature long dead, and strangely sad? Where had he come from? Then the egg, the facehugger, bringing the damn thing back onboard attached to Kane’s face. Ripley knowing they shouldn’t break quarantine.

The chestbursting is cinema history. I can’t imagine what it was like not to know it was coming, the sheer shock. But there is so much more that haunts me: Ash’s increasingly bizarre behaviour, the picking off the crew one-by-one, Dallas clean vanishing from the air-ducts — why did he go in? Why? There seemed no chance any of them would escape. Scott removed that comfort, the ‘it’s okay, it’s just a movie’ feeling. His world, however far in the future it is set, felt like my world. Alien mixes the thrills of Aliens with something deeper, darker, stranger: in amongst Scott’s sublime atmosphere (he would waft the dry ice to his ideal consistency) a momentous theme seemed to be at work. It’s ambiguous, but I always felt this was the first contact with alien life…and they didn’t come in peace.  

-Ian Nathan

Alien Vault Receives Five Stars from Den of Geek

The masters of all things geek chique at Den of Geek have given their approval of Alien Vault with a 5-star review. 

Here's a snippet (for a full review, click here):

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"True Alien fans will have no doubt collated much of the film’s history from various director’s commentaries and magazine articles over the years, but Nathan’s gathered it all together exceptionally well, and written a potentially dry chronology of its production process with infectious enthusiasm.

"Nathan’s also managed to score some great reviews with seemingly everyone majorly involved in Alien’s birth; Ridley Scott provides a wry commentary of its progress, explaining how, with his artistic flair and powers of persuasion, he managed to pry vital added funds from Fox executives. Giger describes how his unforgettably hideous creature was built out of rubber and condoms. Sigourney Weaver and co-stars describe the film’s labyrinthine set, difficult working conditions, and Scott’s relentless perfectionism.

"Alien Vault makes one thing abundantly clear: the film’s path to the big screen wasn’t a straight one, and at any turn, could have wound up as a vastly different beast from the one that wound up in cinemas. But somehow, the right combination of actors, writers and filmmakers all came together at just the right time, during the right movie making climate, to create one of sci-fi cinema’s unholy masterpieces.

"That Alien is still talked and written about in awe and reverence, and movies are still being made within the universe it established, is proof of its brilliance. Alien was a film that functioned as an exceptionally scary sci-fi movie, but also as a carefully-wrought piece of art and design.

"And now, at long last, there’s a fitting document of its conception, and it’s one that any Alien fan should be proud to place on their shelf."

AvPGalaxy Reviews "Alien Vault"

The reviews of Alien Vault are starting to pour in, with AvPGalaxy taking the lead. And while it's no secret that our friends at the Galaxy have a certain affinity for all things Alien, it's great to have them on board with a glowing review!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Alien Vault" Now Available in U.S. & Canada

“In space, no one can hear you scream.”

For over thirty years, audiences have been simultaneously captivated and appalled as the spaceship Nostromo is invaded and its crew stalked by a terrifying parasitic creature. From the gore of the infant alien bursting from Kane’s chest to the mounting claustrophobia as Ripley discovers the monster has followed her into the escape shuttle, Alien is a chilling masterpiece.

Now, Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film opens a portal into the making of this legendary film, tracing its path from embryonic concept to fully fledged box office phenomenon.

Featured herein are director Ridley Scott’s own annotated storyboards, Polaroids and script pages; the elegant but disturbing concept artwork of H.R. Giger; sketches and construction blueprints for the Nostromo; costume designs by Moebius; a treasure trove of never-before-seen photographs of the cast and crew; and ten meticulously reproduced artifacts, enclosed in vellum envelopes, for readers to remove and examine more closely.

Fully authorized and illustrated throughout, Alien Vault is the ultimate tribute to a movie that changed cinema forever.