The lonely girl

February 7, 2013

So the other day we watched ‘Free Willy 4; Escape from Pirate Cove‘.  It was cute.  Featuring Bindy Sue Irwin I thought that this would be a great movie for the girls to watch.

Happy Bindi

Happy Bindi

I made a point of highlighting all the girl’s strengths.  How resilient she was and innovative, brave and funny.

I even had a tear in my eye during the last scene when she touched her grumpy old granddad’s crusty heart as she said good-bye.

Wonderful, I thought.

And lo and behold, Steve, who has clearly absorbed my feminist rantings pointed out that there wasn’t a single other female character in the film that really had a line.

I was shocked (not only because of his astute feminist media analysis, but because it was true!)

Well, almost true.

I looked it up on IMDB and there were around 9 females out of the total 26 listed (34%) but other than the woman who had a five-line part complaining about something, I don’t think the others really had lines.

So even though this was a good story about an adventurous girl and how she overcame a significant challenge with the help of her friends, it still did a poor job of including women in the narrative.

Stunningly, it failed the Bechdel Test.*

The main character’s mother was dead (unsurprisingly) and after her dad gets injured he sends her to stay with her grandad in South Africa.  She befriends a whale (male) and a boy.  Her grandfather’s nemesis (male) had a girlfriend, but I don’t think she had a line.  In other words, the other women were all extras (i.e. ‘hostess’, ‘waitress’ and ‘girl’).

Such a shame….

* The Bechdel Test is passed when these three things are true:

a) the movie features more than one woman

b) the women talk to each other

c) they talk about something other than a man.  (And I’m pretty sure that fighting over one doesn’t count.)


Ok, time for the next one.

Aliens (1986)

[In case you’re confused (didn’t she just watch that?), let me just remind you that the other movie was Alien (singular). This is Aliens (plural).]

Right away, music is infinitely more dramatic.

The lone shuttle with Ripley in it, is picked up by a ship. The door is cut open, a person in a spacesuit wipes layers of dust off her sleep unit. The good news is her cat has survived as well. A Company man, called Burke, (Paul Riser!!) comes to talk to her and reluctantly explains that she was asleep for 57 years. She is shocked. She looks away, her heart pounds, the cat hisses. She grabs her chest. She writhes on the bed. ‘Please kill me!’ She says as an Alien pushes in her abdomen! She wakes up and cuddles her cat.

She meets with Burke again, who has news of Ripley’s daughter, who died two years ago, at age 66. She weeps.

She provides a deposition on what happened. The Company seem more interested in the loss of the ship, than the possible existence of the Alien. Ripley isn’t intimidated, she stands her ground and says; ‘Did our IQs drop sharply while I was away?? (Awesome) They dismiss her and she throws their papers at them, shouting. They suspend her pilots license and close the case. She doesn’t give up and suggests they check out the planet where they found the Alien. Turns out there are people living on that planet already. Families. Jesus.

Scenes on the planet. (One of the dudes is the Captain Holister from Red Dwarf. Now there is some trivia for you!) A family of four are exploring the planet. They have a cute little daughter called Newt. They find the original Alien spaceship. You know the one with all the eggs? The kids sit and wait. Jump no. 1 as the mum suddenly opens the door, calling in a mayday. Dad is lying there with a facesucker on his head.

Ripley is at home, not sleeping. Cigarette burning. Burke knocks on the door with a Marine. Ripley first shuts the door in his face, but then lets them in. They’ve lost contact with the colony, they want her help. She’s not happy about it, she is scared. But she is working on the docks and has nightmares every night. She checks with Burke that the plan is to kill, not study the Aliens. He confirms that and so changes her mind. She fondly looks at her cat and says: ‘You, you little shithead, you’re staying here’.

She wakes up on the ship with all the crew. Loads of tough Marine-types doing chin-ups and stuff. This is where you meet Vasquez. A tough Latina Marine.  Later Ripley freaks out when she realises that a cyborg, called Bishop is on the ship. She refuses to let Burke minimise what happened on her first ship and warns Bishop to stay away from her. They brief the crew. They don’t take her too seriously. She is firm with them, but not an asshole.

She pitches in unloading the equipment, driving one of those bad-ass robot/forklift things. She shows off a little, earning herself some respect from the crew. (You know, I’ve always wondered why Bunnings doesn’t invest in one of those.) They gear up and descend down to the planet. The music is very military-marching-band. Their pilot is also a woman. They pump themselves up and Hudson (Bill Paxton) tells Ripley that they’ll ‘protect’ her and rattles off all the weapons they are carrying. He got the douche-bag script, full of bluster.

Their Lieutenant’s inexperience starts to become obvious. Sweating during the landing. They land and the marines go first. They enter the building and do a sweep. The place is a mess. Acid burned holes all over the place. Barricaded doors smashed in. They scan for movement. (The machine makes a pinging noise). But no people. So Ripley comes in to. She is jumpy. They find some live facesuckers and little Newt is still alive. Ripley cleans her up. She is kind but not condescending.

Using the mainframe they scan the entire complex for life. The see life forms in one concentrated area in a different building, so they all great up (cue snare drums) and get in their tank/car and drive over there. The marines go in and find tunnels lined with what they think is secreted resin.  (Yeah, but secreted from what?) The place is creepy. The structures look spine-like. Ripley figures out that the team is under the Primary Heat Exchange Unit and if they fire their weapons they’ll blow the place up. Lieutenant (safe in the tank/car) is not happy, swears and tells the marines to put away their heavy ammo. (What are we supposed to use? Harsh Language?). The tank/car has screens showing the vitals and visual of every soldier.

The proceed and discover people. People cocooned in the structures. One woman is alive, but an alien burst from her chest so they use the flame thrower on her. Ripley cringes. They hear noises and the walls start unfurling. Ripley tells the Lieutenant to get the team out. He ignores here. The get multiple movement signals (pinging). A soldier get’s grabbed, the bag with the collected ammo catches fire, everyone is disorientated. The Lieutenant starts mumbling, he can’t handle the pressure. Ripley grabs him and tells him to DO SOMETHING! GET THEM OUT OF THERE! Lieutenant Gorman is paralised, whispering nonsensical commands. She gets in the drivers seat and drive the tank/car straight through a wall to rescue the remaining marines.

Only a handful are left. Vasquez, Hudson, Hicks (who we like a lot). As they close the door to the tank/car and Alien sticks his head in. They shoot it in the head. Ripley gets them clear and runs over an Alien. She flees and Hicks has to ease her down. Gorman gets knocked out in the rush.

They regroup and talk about what to do. Ripley thinks they should take off and nuke the whole planet. Burke says they should protect the Alien. Ripley points out that Hicks is in charge now and Hicks repeats Ripleys advice. Take off and nuke the place. Totally babein’ when a man just accepts a woman’s advice as good. They call in the plane, but it got an Alien on board and it takes them down mid flight. Hudson’s swearing and there is huge damage to the complex. The survivors retreat. Newt has this great moment when she says ‘They mostly come at night. Mostly’.

They regroup and count their ammo. Hudson unravels a bit. Ripley keeps him busy and tells him to deal with it. They analyse the blueprints of the building and figure out the best way to blockade the entrances. Motion sensor canons come in handy and they block the tunnels. Hicks gives Ripley a locator beacon so he can find her. She smiles. Ripley puts Newt to bed and they talk. Newt figures out that Ripley had a daughter that died and that her own mum is probably dead. Ripley promises that she’ll take care of her.

They regroup and start asking themselves about where these eggs are coming from. Hudson suggests there might be a queen. Ripley tells Bishop to destroy the facesuckers. But Burke has told him not to. Ripley confronts him. He acts all disappointed in her because she doesn’t want to make money on this issue. Ripley tells him how she found out that Burke sent the family to the Alien ship. Ripley slams him up against the wall. She is kinda scary when she is angry.

The Aliens attack and the canons keep them at bay and they back off. Turn out there is a thingy which is going to blow up in four hours. They start thinking about how to escape. Bishop offers to go outside with a remote console and remote fly the spare shuttle down from the spaceship. He crawls through a pipe and it’s a creep view and I keep waiting for an Alien to jump out. Hicks gives Ripley a lesson on how to use the bad-ass rifle.

  Y’know the one in all the pictures. She makes him promise to kill her if it comes to it. Gorman wakes up, nobody is impressed with him. She goes to check on Newt who is asleep under the bed, she puts the gun on the bed and snuggles up to her. She wakes up with a start. (At this point I had to stop watching because it was too close to bed time and I didn’t want nightmares.)

Next day…

Ripley wakes up and sees an empty facesucker canister. She reaches for her gun. It’s gone. She looks around and a facesucker jumps at her. Even though I knew it was coming I jump. She pins it behind the bed. They bang on the glass but nobody can hear. Burke switches off the screen of the security camera. Bastard. Ripley tries to break the glass, no luck.

You can hear the critter skittering around. Ripley trips the sprinkler system triggering the alarm. The marines come running. But the facesucker jumps at her, she throws it away and it skitters towards here. (great scene). Turns out there are two and Newt pins one and Hudson creams it. Ripley holds off the other. It has it’s tail around her throat. Hicks and Hudson grab it, throw it and Vasquez blows it to smithereens.

They confront Burke. Ripley thinks he wanted them infected so he could import the Alien. ‘I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a percentage’. They debate what to do with him and the power goes out. They go looking, there’s movement, pinging… They’re inside. Movement everywhere. But it’s weird, the readings say they should be in the room with them. They look up and realise there are ducts overhead. Hicks takes a look and there are dozens coming. They drop through the ceiling. Marine open’s fire. Burke hightails it and locks them in. Hudson destroys them but one comes up from underneath and takes him. Vasquez launches grenades. Hicks welds his way through the door. Burke retreats further and tets munched.

Newt shows them a way out through the ducts. They make their way to where the shuttle is supposed to land. Vasquez holds them off, but an Alien drops on her. She pins it with her foot and shoots it. Her foot is burned. She is out of ammo. Gorman goes back to get her, but they get cut off by an Alien. He pulls out a grenade and they blow up. The blast knocks Newt down a tunnel, Ripley grabs her sleeve and she slips right out. Newt is in a sub-tunnel full of water. Ripley and Hicks find her and start cutting through the floor. Movement. Pinging. Great scene of Newt facing the camera and a huge Alien coming up behind her. Ripley pounds through the floor, but Newt is gone. Ripley is hysterical ‘They don’t kill you! She’s alive!’ Hicks gets her out of there, they get into an elevator and an Alien almost gets them. Hicks get’s sprayed with acid. Ripley half-carries him out onto the landing deck.

Bishop lands the shuttle. Ripley dumps Hicks in the shuttle and they fly over to where the Aliens take the people. Ripley straps a flamethrower to her already bad-ass gun. Making it super-bad-ass. She loads up on explosives. ‘See you Hicks’, she says. ‘It’s Dwayne’. ‘Ellen’, she says. ‘Don’t be gone long Ellen’. She gears up in the elevator, straps on all her gear, takes a moment to close her eyes and opens them, focused. Game on.

She makes her way through the tunnels, firing off the flamethrower to clear the way. She drops flares to light her way back. (Did I mention she was smart?). She is tracking the beacon. Pinging. Heartbeat. She finds the beacon on the floor. No Newt. She weeps.

Meanwhile, Newt wakes up, hands cocooned. An egg meters from her face. She screams, Ripley leaps up and comes running. She destroys the egg and a couple of Aliens. She breaks Newt free. They rush out of there and Ripley pauses. She is in a room full. of. eggs. She slowly turns around…. and sees an egg being laid…. a gigantic eggsac, attached to …. the Queen. You can hear her breathing. Some minor Aliens come in to the room. Ripley points shows off the flamethrower and them points it at an egg. The Queen gets the other Aliens to back off. Ripley and Newt slowly back out. An egg opens. Ripley cocks her head and fires up all the eggs. She fires at the Aliens, all of them. She launches grenades into the egg sac of the Queen. They run away. The queen pulls herself loose. Ripley gets Newt to the elevator. Hell, that must have taken all her strength.  She doesn’t have much left in the way of firepower. They get into the elevator and give the queen a few burst of fire. They make it to the top and run for the shuttle. It’s not there!

Bishop, goddamn you! The place is falling apart. The queen appears. Ripley goes to the edge and gets ready to jump. Close your eyes Newt. But Bishop was just floating off the edge because the bridge was too unstable.The jump on board, the Queen screams, they get clear, the place blows up.  They made it! The music is all harps and stuff. They land on the spaceship. Ripley is talking to Bishop when they notice a bit of acid next to his foot. Bishop grabs Ripley, his chest bulges and the tail of the Queen bursts through. He gets dramatically ripped in two. The Queen unfurls herself from the outside of the shuttle. Newt hides under the floor.

Ripley gets herself in one of those mechanical forklifts. ‘Get away from her you BITCH!’ They fight. The Queen lashes her tail and snaps her jaws. Ripley uses the blowtorch. She picks her up and drops the Queen down an exit chamber. The queen is pinned under the powerloader, so Ripley tries to climb out but the queen grabs her.

Ripley opens the outside door. Bishop, well, his upper half, hangs on to Newt. Ripley’s shoe comes off and the Queen is sucked out. Ripley makes it to the top and shuts the door. She made it. She really made it. They put Bishop in a plastic bag and put him and Hicks in a sleep chamber.

Newt and Ripley go to sleep and the credits roll….

Stay tuned for part three….

Why I love Ellen Ripley – Part 3+4