With my HBOMax about to expire and Alien soon to be taken off their list, I decided to watch (or listen actually) to Alien the Directors cut one more time tonight. While I love the movie overall, I’ve been both mystified and ambivalent towards the cocoon/egg scene that’s included in the Director’s Cut. It’s a scene that I’ve examined for years and in recent times have started to hate it more and more but for my own reasons.
The more I watch this scene, the more I grow to despise it. While it still fascinates me to a degree, I just feel that it looks terrible at the end of the day. I’ve heard Tom Skerritt’s remarks on how he suggested cutting it from the film due to pacing (which many people ended up agreeing was the correct choice) but I just feel it doesn’t work nor add enough to the movie the way it needed to in order for it to have remained.
The Director’s Cut version might’ve been the best version they could have made given the scenes I have seen produced by them. But even then, the scene was too short for my taste in trying to convey the ultimate message of Dallas and Brett’s fates as well as leaving far too many questions that the minute or so addition left behind.
Another major problem of that cut for me at least was that it’s just too damn dark. I get the intent of what Ridley Scott was trying to go for in creating body horror, claustrophobia and fear of the dark in space. But this is one of those scenes I just wish had been brightened somehow.
Part of the problem is that the color is awful. Ripley’s incinerator unit gives the scene a ghoulish cave-like glow as though she were about to roast marshmallows (well, she was but….) The few close ups of the Brett Egg lacked a lot of details, the worst being that the figure inside did not even resemble Brett but a clay dummy.
Maybe part of the fault is my own in this situation because of how I’ve seen the clay statue prior to the egg aspect being added around it. Nonetheless, the figure just looks too generic and requires Ripley to mention Brett’s name for the audience to make the connection.
Also, the shots of the Brett egg are really inconsistent. There are three main ones from the Director’s cut, a medium shot one and two close up ones. The medium shot one seems to suggest that Brett’s left eye falls out of its socket because you can see something droop down slowly, leaving a gaping hole.
However, when we get the first close up, the eyeball object is somehow still inside the dark patch where an eye hole should belong. Also, with the close up, you can see some strange dark lines going across his right cheek (two to be exact). There’s a few other similarly colored squiggles around his head but I can’t tell what those dark lines are. Hair? Blood? Horrible scratches?
When Ripley uses her flame thrower on Brett, there’s a very brief moment that you can see a better illuminated version of the Brett Egg. Oddly, those two dark lines disappear. Did the flames suddenly “clean” them off? That part felt really disorienting.
But going back to the second close up shot, there’s another really bizarre moment where the slime seems to be oozing out of the egg’s top. That shot seems inconsistent with the first one where only the eye is oozing out. Where did all that slime come from anyway?
Also, where is the head wound? I think I finally can see it since I did examined with a zoom feature at an image of the lit up egg. There seems to be a very hard to make out patch of white above his left eye.With enough zoom, the area almost seems to fall into the shape of his pierced skull because you can make out what looks to be ridges from bone lying to the right of a glob of slime. There’s some brighter red patches that might be blood but the stupid orange color makes it very tough to discern exactly what it is.
What’s also very frustrating to me in all of these shots is that we only get a very limited view of the Brett Egg. You can’t see inside, nor the left side of his head nor the rear of where the egg is. From an old photo of the clay statue, you get the feeling that the left side of his face was torn apart with the area around his left eye socket gouged unmercifully.
In these shots, that area seems darkened, suggesting that blood and goo cover up that area. Also, there’s a dark gap to the left side of his mouth. Again from the old picture, that side of his face just was missing. Because we don’t have a good shot of the left side, I have to wonder what exactly the alien did to him.
There’s another touched up photograph that HR Giger had worked on. It was supposed to be a prototype of the scene that he airbrushed (I think) over. The quote I read was that his art mate took a skull and an egg to create the initial stab at the Brett egg entity. So the photo with Giger’s touch would show the right side of the face, which only had a skull and a skeletal hand embalmed in bubbly goo that probably was Giger’s handiwork.
Putting that photo together with the results of these scenes, I’m wondering if half of Brett’s face had been eaten away by the creature. We don’t really get a good understanding of the mechanics behind how the cocooning process works but our only two viable sources are that the alien uses its slime and possibly acid for its handiwork.
The slime itself, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, isn’t damaging as we saw Dallas touch it without harm. Also, Ripley touched the wall from the nest and wasn’t damaged. However, if you go back to the acid for blood scene, you’ll see how the melted floor has a slight resemblance to the strange design of the wall and cocoon structure.
So I’m wondering if the alien partly uses its acidic blood to convert the surroundings into matter for either building its nest or cocooning its victims. That would explain the damage on Brett’s face and possibly Dallas’ apparent pain.
In addition, I think about the movie The Fly where Jeff Goldblum’s character spits acid onto his food to devour it. So while a new facehugger is being nurtured, the alien might use a combination of its slime for preserving its victims and acid to help breakdown their matter for its young.
That said, I still dislike how the egg appears here. It’s too mature looking but at the same time it doesn’t appear leathery compared to the ones Kane found in the silo. The top has the strange opening shape but it looks too solid.
More importantly than anything else, the egg really doesn’t look as though it formed from Brett. It looks like he was deposited inside and that the egg itself is slowly digesting him. Now, there’s strange formations to the left side of the egg, which could be Brett’s former knee slowly mutating into the egg. Visually though, it just doesn’t come together and that’s where so much of this scene for me breaks down.
I simply cannot rectify how the mechanics work based on what we’re given here. A more logical explanation in my mind given the visuals here is that the alien had laid the egg before hand and used the slime, etc. to anchor it in place. Then after grabbing Brett, it stuffed him inside the egg while he was fresh to be devoured.
This line of thought falls so much better with the wasp-spider analogy from the book. Basically, the alien lays its egg then uses the victim to be fed upon and develop its young. Of course, the question begs how does the alien create an egg?
Then when Dallas comes into this picture, my conclusion is that he definitely is the next victim for the facehugger (if he isn’t already). I really don’t believe he was being setup as another egg. That idea just makes less and less sense for me because it breaks the perfection of the alien lifecycle. The whole part of Ash admiring the alien’s perfection comes to life with the alien setting up Dallas to be next.
If the alien wanted to create more eggs, why did it kill Parker and Lambert? There are hints from the novel and some in the script that one of them might’ve been cocooned in becoming another egg. But I think that’s just sloppiness on Dan O’Bannon’s part.
But again, that’s just more of why this whole scene sucks the more and more I think about it. The utter lack of detail and forcing the audience to create their own conclusions on how such a huge mystery that has lasted for a few decades really weaken the argument for keeping this scene in the way it was shot.
And I’ve already said that largest problem here is that you had several different visions of how this should have looked. I’m not even certain if given the proper budget and time whether or not this scene could have worked out satisfactorily. HR Giger’s vision vs Dan O’Bannon’s vision were too different.
Plus, Dallas begging Ripley to kill him seemed silly. So he’s cocooned but why couldn’t she fix him through an autodoc as suggested in the book? We see him bleeding from the neck and barely moving. But again, what’s happening? Why can’t he move? Is he paralyzed? Did the cocoon disable him? What’s going on?
Now, here’s another thing to think about. If you weren’t a fan of the movie, never read any of the source material, had never seen of Aliens nor any subsequent movie and this was your first time watching this movie, what would you think of this scene?
For me this scene makes so little sense. There’s too many leaps of logic for it to work. The placement is strange too because Ripley had just set the ship to self-destruct so why is she going down a random section of the ship? Isn’t her first priority to get off the ship since it’s in self-destruct mode?
The only way for this scene to have flowed well is if Ripley stumbled upon the section prior to setting the self-destruction sequence. I mean, it would make more sense for her to torch the chamber before that point too. Otherwise, the ship would have taken care of all that for her.
Then there’s the part where she’s emotional. Again, only if you knew the missing details like her having a relationship with Dallas in an idea that wasn’t filmed would you even realize why she was sensitive towards him. Otherwise, her crying for what she has to do makes no sense considering that Dallas acted like a stubborn, dumb ass towards her and is the main person responsible for their state of affairs.
So again, I can see how Ridley Scott’s ultimate decision to remove this part makes a lot more sense the more you look at it closely. The scene at this stage is more of a novelty for hardcore fans. But in the truth, the scene just never really ends up working holistically.
Also, I saw an interview with some of the people involved and they mentioned how by this point, the amount of horror witnessed made this scene almost overkill. The small parts of grossness like the eyeball falling out, the slime oozing from the cocoon, Dallas’ bloody neck, the slime dripping around Dallas and the bodies burning are pretty intense and don’t serve much purpose beyond shock.
And with Ridley Scott wishing to adopt a Hitchcock-like manner of film making where he leaves the most nightmarish stuff up to one’s imagination by leaving the details out, this is one case where far too much is left out and ends up backfiring. The whole cocooning process and egg creation along with what happens to Brett and Dallas leave too massive of a gap where that form of story telling just doesn’t work.
Ultimately, the tragedy to me is that the whole story of what happens to Brett and Dallas really gets shut down in favor of rushing towards the finish. I can understand the motivation from a business point of view but from an art point of view and story telling-wise, I feel really empty each time I ponder this part of the movie.
It’s a real shame because the lifecycle element of the alien really is the story here. Some of the original elements that Dan O’Bannon had like the temple where the astronauts discover the mural explaining the alien life cycle are tossed out and replaced with the android portion. I mean the android portions helps provide more motivation towards the resolution, but I feel that Dan O’Bannon’s main story gets subverted in the process.