Dan O'Bannon is the unsung hero of Alien. An integral part of a trinity of creative masterminds responsible for the classic sci-fi horror Alien alongside Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger. Without any one of those three creators, Alien would not have been the documentary we know, and yet, moviegoers are often less familiar with Dan O'Bannon as they are with Ridley Scott or H.R. Giger.
To kick off the 40th Anniversary of Alien, we have the release of documentarian Alexandre O. Philippe's Memory: The Origins of Alien. While my initial reaction to hearing about this documentary was "how much more can we really learn about the development of Alien?" after seeing it myself, it's clear to me that well is deeper than I thought.
“I didn’t steal Alien from anybody. I stole it from everybody!” -Dan O'Bannon, screenwriter of 'Alien'
Memory premiered during the Sundance Film Festival at the end of January, kicking off their 'Midnight' category of films that were primarily focused on horror and other boundary pushing projects. It's fitting that the film's premiere took place at The Egyptian Theater in Park City, Utah, as one of the focuses of the film is on the power of myths, on how they influenced Alien, and how Alien itself has become something of a modern myth culturally. As we learn in the film, Giger had an affinity for Ancient Egypt in particular. Ironically enough Alien itself premiered at the more famous Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles in 1979.
You might already be getting a sense that this is a different kind of look at Alien than we're used to, especially when compared to the behind-the-scenes documentaries that we've had the pleasure of enjoying until this point. That distinction is exactly this film's greatest strength. Essentially, the documentary is a hybrid of a film essay look at Alien in the context of mythology and how it connected with audiences, as well as a celebration and more personal look at Dan O'Bannon, the sci-fi master who we sadly lost to Chron's Disease.
This documentary surprised me right from the start, as the film opens with a dramatic scene blending the aesthetic of the Nostromo that we're familiar with and a dark vision of Greek Mythology. I don't want to go into the actual details of this film too much, as much of the enjoyment for a viewer who knows and loves Alien will likely come from how unexpected an analysis this is. The fact that I'm concerned about spoilers for a documentary is a sign of its incredibly unique nature.
Continue reading our review here.
Also be sure to check out our recent interview with the Director of ‘Memory: The Origins of Alien,’ Alexandre O.Philippe.
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