Friday, March 16, 2012
This shot, a close up of the derelict ship in Alien, is one of the most effective shots in the film to me. More effective than the beautiful long shot of the ship--it cuts to this set shot with less fanfare, Jerry Goldsmith's score not changing for the cut, just continuing subtle and anxious. The film doesn't seem to be commenting on the extraordinary thing in this shot--this is the first time we see small details of the alien thing, the ship, and the fact that it's not underlined is scary. It says this alien thing is here, existing, has a discernable complexity, and it's so many things without any human being around to see it. It's a real, Lovecraftian shock.
I was in the mood to watch Alien last night after listening to Jerry Goldsmith's score again. Alien and Chinatown are my two favourite Jerry Goldsmith scores, and they are very different. But I find both are good to listen to even if I'm not particularly thinking about the movies they go with. Alien's score is so understated and nervous, it has this atmosphere of fragility and inevitability. It's like the musical accompaniment of a species going extinct.
And it suits the movie so well. It's a movie that's so off-handedly brilliant in so many ways. From H.R. Giger's designs which are beautiful, strange, and mundane, to the intimately icy direction of young Ridley Scott.
Scott's such a different filmmaker now. His style is superficially similar in some ways--he still likes condensation and shadows, and he still seems to like overlapping sound between shots, but he seems to wield a cudgel now where before he seemed to mould stories out of the atmosphere. This change goes for everything from action scenes to characterisation.
I'm pretty sure there's no way Prometheus can be anywhere near as good Alien. If it's going to be good, it's going to be good in a very different way. I kind of like the viral marketing clip with Peter Weyland as a sort of Steve Jobs type;
At the same time, it shows what I'm talking about. Weyland already seems to be a broader character than any in Alien and the nervous chattering in the audience at 2:20 in the clip is the sort of unrealistic movie cliché I'd have never expected from Scott in the 80s. Of course, Scott might not have even directed this clip.
I'm hoping that we don't learn in Prometheus that the alien was a manmade genetic experiment of some kind. It would make some sense, since the company in Alien seemed to know an awful lot about what the crew would find on LV-426, but we already have plenty of stories about genetic experiments going haywire, I think it would only serve to shrink the Alien universe a little. Gods, I hope that's not what Scott has in mind.