First day of my first film festival. Loaded up on a pile of potatoes, eggs, and bacon, I’m coming right out the gate with…a video game. Well, not just a video game; a video game based on a movie; and a movie that inspired a video game based on a movie. It was a panel about the aesthetics of both the movie Alien, and how they translated into the game adaptation, Alien: Isolation. Mark Bristol, writer and storyboard artist, mediated, with Al Hope, creative director of Isolation. Bristol asked who in attendance had seen the movie – pretty much everyone’s hand went up, including my own – and who had played the game – much fewer hands went up, not including mine, but Bristol said that was fine.
Huge fan of Alien that I am (or at least perceived myself to be) there was a surprising amount of information about the film presented which I wasn’t aware of. Star Wars, it turns out, was a huge influence on Alien‘s director, Ridley Scott. In fact, Star Wars and Alien shared the same art director – a fact that becomes pretty obvious when you compare the spaceship interiors of the Nostromo (Alien) with those of the Millennium Falcon (Star Wars). Alien also had the same art department that worked on Alejandro Jodorowski’s (now famously) unproduced adaptation of Dune. Another influence on the film was Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove - namely the interior of the B-52 bomber. Ron Cobb, Alien‘s primary concept artist was named as one of the biggest inspirations on the look of the game.
According to Bristol and Hope (again, I haven’t played the game, so I’ll have to take their word, images, and videos for it), the game matches the visual aesthetics that made the film so iconic. The spaceships have a “lived in feel to them.” Every futuristic device is made to look functional (not just appealing to the eye) in order to draw the audience in to the fantastical elements (like an extraterrestrial creature that bursts out of peoples’ stomachs, bleeds acid, and looks part skeleton, part evil penis). Also the game makers stuck to Alien‘s “70’s vision of the future,” not adding anything in that conceivably couldn’t have been designed in the 1970’s.
Also – and Hope was very proud of this – as sort of a final seal of approval, Alien star Sigourney Weaver was shown screenshots from the game and said something to the effect of, “I’ve walked these halls.” Oh yeah, forgot to mention, they got the cast of Alien to reprise their roles for the game’s downloadable content.
Now, I know what you’re really here for. You’re probably scrolling through this entry looking for any mention of Neill Blomkamp, or Alien 5. Don’t worry, they were mentioned. Turns out Blomkamp is a huge fan of the game. According to the hosts, Alien: Isolation even made Blomkamp think about the look of his upcoming Alien movie. Isn’t it kind of interesting think how media can work these days: a game was influenced by a film, and in turn influenced another film that was also influenced by the original film. Plus, Hope noted wistfully, that means there’s crossover potential with Blomkamp’s upcoming film and an Isolation sequel.