film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Memory: The Origins of Alien 2019 * * Stars


The opening scene has a sort of WTF moment and then we're off. Yeah I'm talking about Memory: The Origins of Alien, a documentary that's not about the making of Alien but well, its genesis. This thing goes way back, feeling more like something that was made for the History Channel and not AMC (which presents it). Topping out at 95 minutes (which is probably 30 minutes too long), "Memory" is not meant to entertain but inform. It gives us the lowdown but in an almost overly technical and pretentious way.

Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe and omitting any insight from Alien's actual helmer (Sir Ridley Scott), Memory: The Origins of Alien is at least shot well matching interviews with images and edits with cuts. The drag is that almost everyone you hear from are people you've never heard of, analyzing '79's Alien like the Second Coming's coming. Easy tigers!

Authors and critics are comparing this thing to everything from Kramer vs. Kramer to M*A*S*H to Five Easy Pieces (it's a 70s thing I guess). Guys, it's a flick about a creature who goes after some unlucky crew members on a spacecraft and well, it's a solid outing. Nothing more, nothing less. Film is supposed to have you make up your own mind while interpreting the outcomes in your own manner. I'm not discounting the knowledge of these unknown experts but I just don't need everything explained to me. Ugh.

Anyhow, Philippe is a solid filmmaker from a visual and narrative standpoint. His archive footage intrigued me because it's not just footage from Alien but other stuff via the occult. I just wish he would've concentrated more on the making of Alien, the optical palate Scott created, or the casting and natural performances, not all the sledgehammering psychobabble. 

Is this a docu about Alien's writer (Dan O'Bannon)? Somewhat yes. Is it mythos friendly? Yeah. Does "Memory" feel inconsistent with that early dream sequence (mentioned in the first paragraph)? Sadly yes. Overall, I was left cold and distant after viewing Memory: The Origins of Alien and not in a profound way, like I felt watching the actual feature.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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