The most authentic looking self-destruct sign I’ve ever seen. From Alien (1979).
When I was a kid, Christmas and the week leading up to it would be spent watching the holiday programming on free-to-air television. The same holiday programming was mostly repeated every year. My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, so the holidays usually default to me playing a ton of games. This year however, it was back to a ton of movies.
I started by watching Alien (1979). This is the original Alien, before any of the Alien versus Predator crap, and it’s considered more of a space horror film than space action, which is typical of most sci-fi movies these days. It’s really good. Unlike most horror movies of today, which seems to rely on orgies of sound and visual effects, Alien doesn’t. It is the setting, the isolation and quietness of being on the frontier of unexplored space and the scenes of absolute nothingness that brings about an air of creepiness and unease. This is also the movie that showed that a strong female protagonist could work in sci-fi films. I’m not a fan of the horror genre, but I was willing to revisit it after watching Alien.
Reaching out on Facebook, I was encouraged to watch The Thing (1982), which falls more into sci-fi horror than space horror since the event took place on Earth. After watching it, I can understand why this movie has a cult following. When I read that there was a recent remake of it, I was rather hesitant. Most remakes have been lackluster, and a number downright bad.
The Thing (2011) was less of a remake, but rather a prequel to the original movie, and it’s extremely well done. This is perhaps the best re-make, or re-imagine, or prequel, or sequel to a movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not a remake in the traditional sense in that it has a whole new set of characters that has nothing to do with the previous movie, yet the story differs while remaining faithfully similar enough that it is like watching the previous movie all over again. The ending of the 2011 movie ties in seamlessly to that of the 1982 version that I thought the 1982 movie was going to start playing.
I thought maybe I’m starting to like the horror series, and tried watching some generic horror shows. 1408 (2007) was downright ridiculous and Insidious (2010) kinda meh. There are some really good horror movies other there, but most of them feel like B-movies, the really bad sort, but not bad enough that it becomes good. Just plain, downright bad.
I went back to the sci-fi genre with The Island (2005) and Cowboys and Aliens (2011).
The story behind Cowboys and Aliens seemed lacking. We know that gold is precious to the aliens, although we’re never told why. We know the aliens are the conqueror sorts, yet they only seem to have one ship on Earth. There seem to be too many sidequests for Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford’s characters to embark on, and for a while, we seem to forget that the aliens even exist to begin with. It’s not a bad movie on the whole though, but it could be have been a lot tighter had there been some sort of concrete back story. Better yet, make it into a TV series, or at least a miniseries. The pace of the story was too fast, with too many characters telling too many stories at the same time. If it were a TV series, there’d be time enough to explore all that. Furthermore, looking at how well Firefly is doing even after the show was canceled, we know that there’s an audience for space westerns. This could really work if picked up by the right studio. Nonetheless, it’s a good action movie that satisfied this Firefly, X-Files and V fan.
The Island started out really well, and then rapidly drove off a steep cliff in the second half. I’m a great fan of dystopian stories. 1984, The Matrix and THX 1138 are among my favorite works. The Island seems to follow many tropes typical of such works initially. At the start, we might even be inclined to believe that the characters are actually living in a post-apocalyptic world, and the protagonist’s journey, from sensing that everything is not what it seems to discovery and realization is every bit as interesting. If the movie had ended there, it’d been outstanding. Instead, we get a chase scene which started out impressive, and then spirals down to wanton destruction of property that dragged on for way too long, and an ending of missed opportunities.
If there’s any other movies that you think I might like, drop a note in the comments and I’ll get on it. Otherwise, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. History buffs would also remember that Mikhail Gorbachev resigned twenty years ago on this same day, bringing about the end of the Soviet Union. Bless you, Mikhail Gorbachev.