In CRAFTY SCREENWRITING, I wrote:
Alien is a well-crafted story about a bunch of human beings in danger of being eaten by a monster. While we find out that an evil corporation put them in danger, the movie isn't really about the danger of evil corporations. It's about people trying not to get eaten by a giant bug. We come away from the film with just the adrenaline rush.
A Friend of the Blog writes in:
When I was a film student, Dan O'Bannon came to speak after a screening of that film, and he actually worked himself into a lather over this exact topic. "Everyone thinks this movie is about an alien, and it isn't. It isn't! It's about the evil corporations and how they only care about the bottom line, not human life!" He became so angry and vehement (without anyone provoking him) that I remember the scene rather well.
I've casually observed that Alien is the first movie in which a space ship is represented as a workplace crewed by workers, as defined by their relationship with the Corporation that pays their wages. Even their motivation for going down to the planet isn't some sort of sciencey exploration - it's because if they don't go, they'll lose their bonuses.
I've not seen it in years, I'll have to go to the shop and rent it sometime. the Evil Corporation comes through loud and clear in the sequels. Have we just forgotten about it 'cause the 'haunted house' story is so well done?
I always understood 'Alien' as a feminist statement. The hero is a woman and the villain a phallic-headed creature who reproduces without the need for females.
Granted, the sequel introduces the 'queen alien', but this wasn't part of the original 'Alien' concept (there's even a deleted scene where Tom Skerritt's character is cocooned with a new egg).
The 'evil corporation' stuff is definitely there, but within the context of the first film the story is about a woman fighting for her place in the universe. Thoughts?
I thought it was about how we should all fear the Easter Bunny. Was I wrong?
It seems to me that this is a classic argument based on semantics.
When someone in the industry asks you what your script is "about," they're almost always referring to the plot.
However, when a writer answers the question, they'll almost always refer to the theme.
Bit of a disconnect. But who's right? They both are.
I kind of think both views sort of miss what makes Alien stand out from most other "people get eaten by a giant bug" or "corporations are evil" stories.
The Alien is a parasite. It lives and procreates within a human host. It plays on a very primordial human fear. The movie exploits this fear.
The corporation subplot is a human analog of how parasitic humans can be. While the aliens are screwing us for their life cycle -- we're screwing each a better weapon. Or survival -- but not many people talk about that part of the plot. There's debate whether or not they should even let the infected people back aboard the ship.
You can lose the corporation storyline, replace it with something else, change the look of the monster, but without the parasitic nature of the Alien, you got nuthin.
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