Written By: Dan O'Bannon, Ron Shusett (story) / Dan O'Bannon (screenplay)
Starring: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt,
Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto
MPAA: Rated R for sci-fi violence/gore and language. (director's cut)
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Ridley Scott's sci-fi thriller, Alien, originally released in 1979, has returned to theatres to prove once again that in space, no one can hear you scream. But this isn't the movie you remember, it's a new, enhanced version! 'Director's Cut', 'Special Edition', whatever you want to call it, Alien joins other classics such as Star Wars and E.T. on the growing list of films that could not escape decades-later 'improvements' from their original directors. Why do they do this? The most common explanation is that they wanted to make the movie better than it already was. Of course, we all know that the real reason is to make some easy money. Bonus box-office from old product, pure and simple. I've tried to remember all the movies I've seen that were actually better after directorial tinkering. So far, only The Abyss and Close Encounters of the Third Kind on DVD come to mind.. Sorry, no trilogies. Well, okay, perhaps the re-worked finale of Return of the Jedi was slightly better than the original, but that's where I draw the line!
'Director's Cut' rant aside, the re-release of Alien is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, along with quick cash, the studio wants to remind everyone of this franchise to prepare for 2004's Alien vs. Predator flick. Oh, and it also means that the video can come out next year as 'Alien: The 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition'. Horray for marketing!
Alien concerns the ill-fated Nostromo, a deep-space star freighter on its way back to Earth. The Nostromo's crew is prematurely awakened from cryogenic hibernation by what they assume to be a distress signal. They assume wrong. The coolest part is that we are simply dropped into these events as they transpire, in an almost documentary-like fashion. The crew go about their business investigating the signal, and it's up to the audience to follow what's going on. In fact, Alien does what few of today's scary movies dare to do. It actually takes its time to develop characters and build genuine suspense!
The bad news is that this director's cut of Alien is not better than the original. The good news is that it isn't worse, either! Basically, Ridley Scott has added a couple short scenes that give the supporting cast a few extra moments of screen time. The best addition, originally offered as an outtake on the DVD release, is a scene in which Ripley comes across her cocooned, suffering crewmates. Also, Scott has subtly tightened the pace of the film. Thankfully, none of these minor edits has any effect on the tone or plot of the movie. Alien is still one of the most terrifying sci-fi flicks ever made. At least Scott didn't monkey around trying to update anything with CGI!!!
Uh, oh. I feel another rant coming on... yep, here it is: Filmmakers of the world, or at least those with the initials 'G.L.', stop messing up your movies with so much computer-generated imagery! This new-fangled digital trickery will never look as good as the old-fashioned optical trickery of matte paintings, well-crafted miniatures, full-scale set construction, and onstage lighting effects. Alien proves that! Wait a minute. Perhaps this re-release will be a good thing for Hollywood after all! If we're lucky, it may even mark a return to those simpler times, back when alien-tracking government agents carried loaded guns and no one questioned that Han shot Greedo in cold blood. Ah, memories...
So, Alien: The Director's Cut actuallysucceeds on the basis of showing a new generation of moviegoers what a real scary movie is. Now that's something to applaud! Once you've seen it on the big screen, I'm sure you'll agree, no matter how you slice it, Alien is a cut above any other sci-fi being released today.