It goes without saying that Alien is a classic. Some prefer its sequel, Aliens, a great movie in its own right, though it’s much more an action film as opposed to its horror predecessor. Personally, I lean heavily toward the original. I wouldn’t call myself an Alien fanatic, but I have always had an immense appreciation for it. With that in mind, I was thrilled to watch Memory: The Origins of Alien. I thoroughly enjoy documentaries about movies and this one didn’t disappoint…
…Written/directed by Alexandre O. Philippe (78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene), Memory: The Origins of Alien details the development of the film, starting with screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. The documentary goes into O’Bannon’s young life, exploring his love for science fiction and the works that influenced what would eventually become Alien. Every step of the journey is covered, from O’Bannon’s struggle to complete the script up to the actual production of the film. Along the way, cast and crew from the film, along with a host of others, talk all things Alien, presented amongst archival footage, pictures, art and even some of O’Bannon’s early work on the story.
Although I have seen Alien many times, I have never watched any features on the making of the film. Therefore, just about all of the information contained in Memory was new to me. The documentary touts itself as a largely untold origin story. I will say that the film packs a lot of interesting tidbits, stories and discussion and makes great use of its ninety-minute runtime. It’s engrossing and never becomes boring or repetitive.
The presentation of Memory is very impressive. From the comic pages shown early on, all the way up to the storyboards that were created for the film during pre-production, every image is clear and presented in high quality. The music is also great, complimenting every part of the documentary from beginning to end. This is a very well-done piece.
One issue Memory does have is that it sometimes can’t decide if it wants to be about the production of Alien or if it wants to dissect the film. Both the making of the movie and the effect and influence it’s had on our culture are very interesting topics, but the contents of this documentary could almost be split into two separate features. It could have used some breaking up of the information, as opposed to everything just running together.
Another area where Memory comes up a little short is that it really only covers the production of the first half of Alien. There’s not much talk about anything beyond the famous chest-bursting scene. In fact, after the discussion and footage of the shooting of that scene, the documentary kind of just ends. Granted, it’s really about the origins of Alien and going into more of the production would have extended its runtime, but I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed when Memory wrapped up as if only the first half of Alien was shot.
That having been said, Memory is still a fantastic watch about the origin and creation of a classic film, full of beautiful images and art, thoughtful discussion and tons of behind-the-scenes info. Whether you’re a die-hard Alien fan or just a movie buff in general, you’ll find a lot to like about this documentary. I highly recommend checking this one out.
Memory: The Origins of Alien bursts onto VOD through Screen Media on Oct 4th.
By Billy Smith