June 25, 2012
My sci-fi street cred has taken a hit over the past few weeks when my best friend outed me to the BNAT community so I feel compelled to point out that I have been a science fiction fan from childhood. I was weaned on the classics such as "Star Wars" (duh.), "Star Trek" repeats (yes, I’m Team Kirk, which explains, much to the chagrin of my wife, my bottle of Tiberius cologne), TV’s "Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century" (ahhh, Erin Gray….) and "Battlestar Galactica" (one of my greatest TV memories was the Cylon, upon seeing the Lloyd Bridges’-commanded Pegasus swooping in on his left, attempting to get Baltasar’s attention while the evil leader gleefully watched the Galactica burn. Check it at the 45:30 mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY0IW57L5Z8&feature=plcp). But I also enjoyed the B-Lists such as "Silent Running", "Space:1999", and "Jason of Star Command”. The genesis? My mom quit her post office job in the early 80s and started a science fiction memorabilia company out of our home. The only good thing that came from it was hanging around her booths at sci-fi conventions. But Comic-Con this was not; my mom soon ran through her savings and the business folded because, as shocking as it sounds, it proved impossible to pay the bills on the proceeds of “Star Trek” novels, “Soylent Green” biscuits and bumper stickers reading “What the Frack?” and “Bidi-bidi-bidi...” (Fact: Twiki was voiced by none other than Mel Blanc). Suffice it to say, it was a meager Christmas at the Burgess homestead (It was a fortunate thing that I received my Atari 2600 the year before). That brings me to what is, according to many, my greatest cinematic flaw: My Name is Eric and I had never seen Ridley Scott’s 1979 “Alien”.
Back in 2010 Stephan Hawking argued that alien contact would be risky: "If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," he said. "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet." Hawking’s physics may be theoretical, but his feelings on extraterrestrials are clearly pragmatic; I happen to agree with him more than ever after finally watching “Alien”.
In order to rectify this I needed to wait for not only Brian’s “Alien” Blu-Ray to be delivered by Amazon but, as a teacher, all the end-of-the-school-year hoopla to finally subside. The day finally arrived. It all began in Brian’s brother’s garage-converted man cave that includes the sweetest overhead projector and surround sound system giving off the deepest bass, complimented by Italian leather couches with matching ottomans. Talk about a black box theater, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face when the door was closed. This, according to Brian, was how a movie such as “Alien” needed to be viewed. I soon understood.
The main problem with watching a 33-year-old iconic movie is that I thought I knew what to expect. Fortunately, I was wrong. Other than the creature popping out of Kane’s chest I did not see anything else I previously knew about. I was happily surprised by how ignorant I was to the entire plotline. I found myself jumping throughout the movie, trying with less and less success to burrow into the corner of the couch.
Now for one slight criticism. I opened this review with a little personal background, partly to show that I am no sci-fi neophyte, but also to illustrate that I revel in suspending my disbelief. As I took in “Alien” I accepted the contractual stipulation that the Nostromo crew adheres to when coming across a signal from alien life, including choosing not to wait for a planetoid sunrise (20 minutes away, if I recall) before venturing into near-blinding weather. I accepted that not only does Kane stupidly slip into an alien egg patch, but even sticks his face near enough into the hatchling’s opening to experience the mother of all face-huggings. And I even accepted that everyone but Ripley was willing to disregard the 24-hour quarantine rule, and that the guy who disobeyed the direct order by acting-captain Ripley not to open the ship’s door turns out to be a robot programmed by a shadowy “corporation” with orders to find and return alien life at any cost: “Priority one. Insure return of any organism for analysis. All other considerations secondary. Crew expendable,” Ripley discovers via the computer. Thus, I hope you appreciate the lengths in which I allow my imagination to roam. So when Ripley nearly gets it while trying to corral a cat, then toting the thing around in a CAT CARRIER no less while being tracked by a homicidal extraterrestrial that has already wiped out the ENTIRE crew, well, color me unimpressed. I haven’t seen this much effort put into capturing a Jones since the Nazis hunted an adventurous young professor of archaeology. Unless it turns out that the alien, before getting sucked out to space, embedded another baby inside this cat and that’s how “Aliens” was made plausible, then what the hell is up with the obsession with a damn cat?
Ok, with that said, “Alien” was definitely worth not only the wait but also the global condemnation. Plus, Brian tells me that “Aliens” is even better and it is on our watch list in the next week or so. I haven’t been this excited for a sequel since Brian also explained that “The Godfather II” was even better than the first when he introduced them to me a few years back.
Summer is here, and with it comes Time, time to finally burn through my TiVo queue that has been calling to me for months. In the process I hope to find forgiveness for my cinematic sins from the masses as I strive to not only fill in the gaps, but to continue in my attempts to create a life well lived.