Stanislavsky would have demanded answers


We have already run two conflicting reviews of Alien 3. ALAN GREEN takes a long at the film from a third standpoint: the alien's.

I would like to write a few words in favour of the alien in Alien 3. The film's author, Vincent Ward, does not seem to have any scientific background, nor any spirit of inquiry. Indeed, those who do, the company scientists, are made to seem to be the real monsters, counterposed to Ripley's feminine intuition.

I came away feeling sorry for the alien, a derogatory term if ever there was one. I ended up wondering what it was in its evolution that would give it acid for its analogue of mammalian blood — what sort of acid, what sort of concentration and what sort of biological function would it serve? Stanislavsky would have demanded answers.

If the creature is possessed of such amazing powers to allow it to smash glass, survive drenching by molten lead and intelligently track its prey, why do there not seem to be equally well developed powers of communication? The only time this appeared to be the case in Alien 3 was when it refused to live up to its well-established reputation by refusing to kill Ripley because she carried a developing alien queen inside her. A pheromone perhaps?

The creature's reproductive habits are curious. Throughout the Alien series there has been no hint of sexual reproduction, though the egg-laying queen is frequently referred to as female. Its opened eggs produce a crayfish-like intermediate stage which either hibernates in an egg depository (Alien 1) or actively and intelligently seeks a host (Ripley and the dog in Alien 3). This suggests that it co-evolved with biologically compatible mammal-like organisms. Where are they now? Are they extinct? If the alien creatures are indeed such fearsomely efficient predators as to kill their hosts and presumably all other nutrient-rich life forms, does this not imperil their existence?

In nature a balance is usually struck between parasitism and destruction of the host. Yet there seem to be real parallels between the life stages of the alien and some insects, as became evident as the series progressed. Host destruction is known in some species of wasp and caterpillar, and its social organisation into reproductive queens and aggressive worker/warriors is similar to that of bees and termites. But these creatures live in harmony with their environments.

The only analogue to a creature so dangerously and destructively out of synch with its surroundings is Homo sapiens.

The alien is surely a projection of script writers' fantasies developing from the late 1970s through to the early 1990s. The alien of Alien 1 was never fully seen, and this gave it greater psychological power than in later films. Indeed, the sheer number of creatures in Alien 2 reminded me of a Sydney kitchen full of n 3 much of the mystery had gone, as had innovations such as spacefaring androids, or intergalactic ore-carriers. Alien 3 looks as if it were done on the cheap. Some of co-producer Sigourney Weaver's reputed US$5.4 million fee could have been used on its production values.

But worst of all, it is a deeply pessimistic movie. This could be due to Vincent Ward's experiences in his native country of Aotearoa (New Zealand), where truly alien-like damage has been wreaked on the creative infrastructure of that country.

Strained references to religious fundamentalism and AIDS openly cater to the US market, with Weaver playing a sacrificial, defeatist figure in the final frames. No attempt was made at inter-species communication as in Spielberg's ET; no attempt was made at carving out some kind of mutual ecological niche. It was as if the film was mired in cold-war propaganda demonising the enemy.

The Alien saga could still have a constructive role if it is viewed as a thought-experiment in exobiology, an example of how a potential contact with an alien life form ought not to develop.

But if there is to be an Alien 4, I suggest they hire Stephen Jay Gould as a script writer.

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