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Showing posts from July, 2012

Aliens: the pods that failed

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I tried. I really did. I tried to like Aliens, James Cameron’s 1986 sequel, and watched it again when it was on tv this week, to give it another chance. Because it’s always felt like a much lesser film than Alien to me. I know some folk like it, prefer it to the first film even. But for me, where Alien wields the scalpel, Aliens wields the bludgeon. Where Alien is about interiors, tension, horror, Aliens is about spectacle, action, excitement. Alien is sharp, economical, surprising, and quite British; Aliens is forceful, long, unwinds to a fairly predictable conclusion, and is Hollywood spectacle sf.
That’s not to say that I don’t find things to admire in Cameron’s film. I like the audacity of hiding the aliens away for almost 90 minutes. The last hour is gripping, well-paced, and has some iconic scenes, particularly Ripley’s fight against the Queen. But the bad guy, company man Burke, is cartoonish in his yuppie malevolence; the Marines are straight out of central casting (weak, inex…

The Virginity of Androids, part 3: final thoughts

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In this last post on Prometheus, I am going to concentrate more directly on the mythic or religious implications of the film, in particular the issue of Creation and the condition of innocence.
As I noted in part 2, one of the most ham-handed scenes in the film is where Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), in emotional discussion with her partner Holloway, reveals that ‘I can’t create’, breaking down in tears; reproduction as ‘creation’ of life leaves a kind of spiritual barrenness, the motivation perhaps behind the overt displays of faith (the crucifix she wears around her neck, for instance). Another way to read David’s experimental infection of Holloway with the alien DNA is to do something that he also cannot do, which is to create life (Shaw and David are paired throughout the film); not only is the android not a womb, the android is also barren: neither a mother nor a father can it be.  
The connection between Creation and space fiction is a very long one of course, and it is a signal…

The Virginity of Androids, part 2

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There’s a Starman waiting in the sky/ He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds
Before I turn to Prometheus, a quick word about the androids in the other Alien films. The excellent Lance Henriksen plays Bishop in James Cameron’s noisy Aliens (1986), and was seen at the time as a revision of the android figure, almost an apology for Ash. Ripley is deeply suspicious of Bishop throughout Aliens, but he is ultimately revealed to be a redemptive and heroic figure. In the ‘knife trick’ scene, Henriksen puts his hand over that of the ‘grunt’ Hudson and whirrs a combat knife between their fingers: ‘trust me’, he says to Hudson. During the course of the film, Ripley does indeed come to trust Bishop, though she is antagonistic for much of the film, and on first realising Bishop is an ‘artificial person’ (his preferred term) had threatened him and told him to stay away from her. That Bishop insists upon self-definition, not as robot but as ‘artificial person’, indicates …

The Virginity of Androids, part 1

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Ridley Scott’s Prometheus: ‘a ruinously incoherent, inept dustbin of bad sf ideas, and in Clute’s words, a real shaggy God story.’ That’s what I wrote on Twitter after seeing the film, which was a very great disappointment for someone who loves both Alien and Blade Runner and teaches both on a course on science fiction. I’m not going to recapitulate what has already been written about the film, and in particular will avoid (a) its Lovecraft-via-von Daniken story (b) the atrocious editing (c) the gaping plot holes (d) the ludicrous portrayal of scientists (e) its seeming validation of Creationism (f) the appalling and nonsensical ending (g) the risible deaths of many of its characters, particularly poor old Charlize Theron who (h) had absolutely nothing to do in the film but be the shoulder-pad-bitch, one of many under-written parts which only served to highlight the deftness and skill with which Scott once presented an ensemble cast in Alien, but which was entirely lacking here. I ca…