Posts Tagged ‘‘The Mummy’’

Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant

December 26, 2016

Looking through YouTube on Christmas Day, I found a trailer for the next instalment in the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant. Directed by Ridley Scott, this follows on from his not-quite Alien prequel, Prometheus, which came out in four years ago in 2012. The blurb for this runs

Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his groundbreaking ALIEN franchise. The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollet, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, Benjamin Rigby.

The trailer shows the Covenant landing, and a scene with one of the David robots, played by Michael Fassbender. On landing, one of the crew steps on a bizarre set of bulbs, which releases some kind of spore. There is also a proper Alien egg hatching, ready to birth a facehugger. The sequence begins with one of the female characters refusing to let one of the other women out of room with a man, who is clearly in the agonies of some kind of transformation, or the eruption of an Alien from their body. It ends with two lovers in a shower having their tender moment interrupted by an Alien attack.

According to the YouTube page, it opens on May 19th.

This is another movie that I’m looking forward to, along with the sequel to another of Scott’s SF masterpieces, Blade Runner 2049.

The Alien has now become one of the classic Hollywood monsters, alongside the Predator, and older creatures like the Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolfman. Several critics have pointed out that Alien was basically a ‘B’ movie, but treated like a Hollywood main feature. I’d say that this was a fair statement. The basic story – alien gets on board spaceship to run amok killing the crew – was the storyline of another, very definite ‘B’ movie of the 1950s or ’60s. The same critic remarked that it could have – and very nearly did – come from Roger Corman, the great director responsible for churning out any number of them. Fortunately, Dan O’Bannon, the script writer, objected and the studio found Ridley Scott instead. What elevated the movie far above it’s ‘B’ movie plot were its stylish direction by Scott, its superb special effects and the way its script broke a number of conventions and gender stereotypes. It was one of the first SF movies to have a strong female lead in Ripley. Another critic has pointed out that as well as breaking gender stereotypes, Ripley also broke another Hollywood convention in that she was basically a hard, by-the-book character. These types usually die before the end of the movie, but not before they perform some noble gesture that shows they’re OK really. Ripley goes by the book, and doesn’t want to let Kane in to infect the ship with whatever attacked him. She’s right, but it’s a hard attitude, and she’s overridden by Ash, who appears to be acting from simple compassion. The reality is otherwise, and, as everyone whose watched or heard of the film knows, carnage ensues. But Ripley survives to the end, and finally beats the monster.

And, of course, what really made the monster one of the classics was its unique quality and the dark beauty of its realization by Swiss Surrealist H.R. Giger. The Alien’s two-stage life cycle – facehugger and then the monster itself, is genuinely alien. It isn’t like anything on Earth. Its gestation inside humans is based on the ichneumon moth, which lays its eggs in captive caterpillars. These serve as living larders as the developing larvae hatch and eat their host from the inside. It plays on the fear of parasitism, and was intended by the writer and director to make the men in the audience afraid of rape and a malign pregnancy, rather than women.

And when it finally emerges and develops, the monster itself does not look like anything on Earth. The film was before CGI and a little before animatronics, so it really was another ‘man in a rubber suit’. However, it’s design was so unique that it didn’t look like one. It was both cadaverously thin, like a spindly, distorted human corpse, but with an insect carapace. It also had a tongue with its own mouth and set of teeth, and appeared to lack any kind of external sense organs. There are no eyes or ears that you can see. Finally, there are the strange tubes emerging from its back.

Stylistically, it was one of the biomechanical creatures that formed Giger’s oeuvre. These were a disturbing mixture of the biological and mechanical, so that organically derived shapes had the shapes of, and acted like, machines. The Alien was so uniquely strange and disturbing, that it’s influenced the design of other malignant beings from space since then. The aliens in Independence Day show Giger’s influence, as did the ‘Sleazoids’ in an X-Men storyline of about the same time, and the Cythrons and their armour in the Slaine strip in 2000 AD, for those comic fans of a certain age.

There’s also supposed to be an Alien 5 in production, which will apparently see the return of Ripley, Newt and the surviving Space Marine from James Cameron’s Aliens. I don’t know much about this, however.

The Alien franchise is now 3 1/2 decades old, and like Hammer Horror’s Dracula, or Star Wars, doesn’t seem to show any signs of stopping. From the trailer it looks like the latest instalment could be well worth going to, if you’re a fan of what Mark Kermode has called ‘gribbly monsters.’

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‘I’ Reviews New Film of Trial of David Irving

September 13, 2016

Also in today’s I newspaper was a review of Denial, a film about the trial of David Irving, the historian and holocaust denier in 1996. Irving was a highly controversial historian, who had written a book on the Third Reich claiming that Hitler didn’t know anything about it, along with a series of other distortions. He had already been at the centre of a storm of outrage after he was invited to give a speech explaining his views to the Oxford Union. I can’t remember all the details, but at the centre of the case was the battle between him and an American academic, Deborah Lipstadt, who attacked him for his distortion of history. It’s true that there is no direct evidence connecting Hitler to the planned, methodical extermination of 6 million Jews orchestrated by the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler. However, considering the sheer murderous venom with which Hitler describes the Jews in Mein Kampf and his speeches, and the sheer scale of the infamous Final Solution, it would have been impossible for him not to know about it. Historians have pointed out that the Holocaust was an integral part of Nazi policy, shown in the way that even when the Red Army was advancing on Germany through eastern Europe, the Nazis were still determined to carry on their mass murder despite the fact that it used resources which otherwise could have played a vital role in Germany’s defence. The Nazis were also very careful in their official communications to disguise the horror they were carrying out. They rarely talked about it directly. Instead, it was always referred to as ‘executive order such-and-such’, or by the euphemism that it was the relocation of the Jewish population to the east. There was even a vile propaganda film made for the German public, which showed happy Jews working away on their allotments in the new settlement the Fuhrer had provided for them. Except that it was all a sham, and after filming was finished, its subjects were loaded onto the cattle trucks and taken away for their deaths in the camps.

The film was written by the noted left-wing playwright, David Hare, and stars Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt. Weisz is probably better known for having appeared in the ‘Mummy’ movies back in the 1990s with Brendan Fraser, fighting undead ancient Egyptian horrors. Playing Irving is Timothy Spall, who has been in any number of TV shows over the years. He was a Brummie brickie in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, a villain, who had taken the form of a rat, in one of the Harry Potter movies. And most recently he appeared as a mad lord besotted with his prize-winning pet pig, in a comedy adapted from the books of P.G. Wodehouse.

Irving lost the trial, and Lipstadt and a series of other witnesses showed how he had ignored and distorted the evidence in order minimise the scale of the Holocaust. Irving left the court with any reputation for historical reliability destroyed as a Holocaust denier.