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May 08, 2006: Alien (4 1/2 stars)
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Many people love Alien because it's legitimately scary. What I've always liked about the movie is its sense of practicality. The characters here aren't trying to save the universe with special powers or spread Western Democracy through a space United Nations in their pajamas; they're just people doing a 9 to 5 who get caught up in something way too big for them to handle. And yet, handle it they must, and ultimately one person wins against an (arguably) superior life form by just being too damn stubborn to die.

It's a very human movie in that regard; it's grimy, dirty, and unforgiving, but ultimately sympathetic to the human condition. Add in the fact that the main character, despite being a woman, is written as a PERSON instead. No frilly dresses, no man to save her, but no over the top neo-feminism either. It's not that her X chromosomes make her a more compelling adversary for the Alien, or that they're used to make her a more surprising hero; despite all the baggage that we attach to such things, the monstrous xenomorphic killer couldn't care less. Do you often think about the gender of your food? Would you know how it's supposed to behave in a social situation? Would you care? Alien succeeds by cutting to the gory, meaty part of an honest story, with characters who are life-sized, rather than giants. Ironically, the characters are all the more compelling, even the monster, by being small.
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