HR Giger has died.
May 13, 2014 12:52 AM   Subscribe

Swiss media report that HR Giger, famous for his dark and iconic Alien design, has died. He leaves behind a large body of work, much of it displayed in his own museum.
posted by Zarkonnen (147 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by jiroczech at 12:57 AM on May 13, 2014 [66 favorites]


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posted by mwhybark at 1:11 AM on May 13, 2014


jiroczech, bravo.
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posted by psolo at 1:57 AM on May 13, 2014


He leaves behind a large body, rustling, barely seen in the dark. Things move wetly, organically, restlessly. Slowly, he growls from a tortured throat. Ropes of saliva descend, hissing as they touch the ground.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:07 AM on May 13, 2014 [41 favorites]


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posted by acb at 2:08 AM on May 13, 2014


Holy psychedelic fuck. Just watched Jodorowsky's Dune this weekend and though I've been a fan for years and years (hell, I bought that shitty Debbie Harry solo album because he did the cover art - well, that and because of the presence of Bud & Spud Devo), the film rekindled an interest in his glorious work. My first friends to get tattoos all seemed to get Giger work, and his involvement in the Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist 'Penis Landscape' fiasco taught me more about the freedom of art as a right to expression than anything I ever learned in school.

An incomparable visionary, a too-often overlooked modern master. He will be missed.
posted by item at 2:11 AM on May 13, 2014 [12 favorites]


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posted by tzikeh at 2:12 AM on May 13, 2014


Sorry to dwell, but rotting penises and rotting vaginas, I really am fucking upset about this.
posted by item at 2:14 AM on May 13, 2014


Ah, he did the Brain Salad Surgery ELP album art. I did not know that.

I was in Gruyères at the weekend, which is wonderfully Swiss in a slightly absurd kind of Swiss way. You can tour a cheese factory, a chocolate factory, and, of course, the Giger museum.
posted by lawrencium at 2:20 AM on May 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


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posted by fight or flight at 2:24 AM on May 13, 2014


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posted by misterbee at 2:26 AM on May 13, 2014


Oh man, there was a time in my life when his art was the best thing ever.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:50 AM on May 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


The Giger Museum is fascinating in Gruyere is fascinating. As a fan of his work in the mainstream (Alien) It can be a bit eye opening to see some of the more extravagantly sexual imagery he has produced.

Certainly a talent to be missed.
posted by trif at 2:57 AM on May 13, 2014


Is art skill or conception? Giger was more technically skilled than most artists, and more conceptually original than most artists. He single-handedly transcended that entire debate.

One of my all time favourites.

RIP
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:59 AM on May 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


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posted by Faint of Butt at 3:38 AM on May 13, 2014


> posted by Zarkonnen

Quasi-eponysterical!

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posted by misteraitch at 3:42 AM on May 13, 2014


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posted by Samizdata at 3:44 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by ghostbikes at 4:02 AM on May 13, 2014


His work was a real eye-opener for me as a young, aspiring illustrator/deviant/weirdo. He also gets credit for infuriating my art teacher. May he rest peacefully in a vast, twisted, incomprehensible, infinitely repeating tomb of living flesh and bone and sexual organs.
posted by Drexen at 4:11 AM on May 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


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posted by eemeli at 4:13 AM on May 13, 2014


What a crying shame.

/waits dutifully until the evening to re-watch Alien.
posted by ersatz at 4:16 AM on May 13, 2014


Oh man, there was a time in my life when his art was the best thing ever.

For me as well. I still have huge respect for his originality and vision; I'd have trouble naming another modern artist with the same impact.

the Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist 'Penis Landscape' fiasco

Wow, talk about bringing back memories of another era. I had forgotten that it was a Giger painting at the center of that.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:23 AM on May 13, 2014


One of my favorite artists.

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posted by lalochezia at 4:34 AM on May 13, 2014


A truly unique artistic vision, instantly identifiable style, the aesthetics of the dark inner landscape were his to define in the 20th century. A great loss.

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posted by Fizz at 5:01 AM on May 13, 2014


An extraordinary man/artist, whose work was a part of my life from so early on I couldn't even begin to work out just how profound an effect it had on me.

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posted by opsin at 5:06 AM on May 13, 2014


"Oh man, there was a time in my life when his art was the best thing ever."

Me as well. I remember brooding over the first couple of giant Giger books I could find and afford. And offending houseguests with Giger posters.
posted by doctornemo at 5:13 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I want to believe that one of his last works was a custom design for his own coffin, something that would cause the presiding official at his funeral to turn pale, retch, and murmur, "Dear God, please let this thing stay buried."

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posted by Halloween Jack at 5:14 AM on May 13, 2014 [17 favorites]


Is this something you'd need to fetishize biomechanical organisms to understand? Because in that case: .
posted by logicpunk at 5:16 AM on May 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


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posted by synthetik at 5:18 AM on May 13, 2014


I tried so hard to get an interview with him for the early issues of Bizarre magazine. Couldn't make it happen. Still regret not trying harder.
posted by Hogshead at 5:19 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by marimeko at 5:25 AM on May 13, 2014


Depending on your world-view. At the gates of hell or the gates of heaven. Either way, I picture him walking in like this....
posted by Fizz at 5:25 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Requiem aeternam dona ei, Regina, et tenebrae perpetua obvelaret illum. Requiescat in pace.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:36 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


He's one of those people you don't really think of as subject to death, you know?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:37 AM on May 13, 2014 [18 favorites]


Amen, Pope Guilty.

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posted by Ghidorah at 5:38 AM on May 13, 2014


He fell from the stairs in his home, I read.

It's tragically ironic that among his first and maybe less known work, there is this series, called "shafts" of drawings of stairs perched on a dark, immense, bottomless chasm, purportedly inspired by recurring dreams.

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posted by _dario at 5:42 AM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


50 minute documentary [youtube]: H.R. Giger Revealed.
posted by Fizz at 5:43 AM on May 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


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posted by sparklemotion at 5:51 AM on May 13, 2014


Better links to early work (spooky shaft here)
posted by lalochezia at 6:00 AM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by MythMaker at 6:03 AM on May 13, 2014


I agree Pope Guilty, including I seem to remember thinking about a week or two ago, 'wow, he's still with us. Wait, of course he is, how could he not be...'
posted by opsin at 6:09 AM on May 13, 2014


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posted by The Vice Admiral of the Narrow Seas at 6:16 AM on May 13, 2014


Do you know what my initials stand for?


also, boo! died? sad.
posted by blue t-shirt at 6:20 AM on May 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


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posted by malocchio at 6:21 AM on May 13, 2014


"Oh man, there was a time in my life when his art was the best thing ever."

When I was a senior in High School I went on a two-week exchange trip to eastern France, and while poking through a bookshop in Besançon I found a Taschen book about H.R. Giger, and it completely blew my mind. I was familiar with Alien, and I had always loved the Brain Salad Surgery album cover, but in those pre-world wide web days I'd never put the two together nor known who was behind them.

The creepy bio-mechanical stuff worked on a lot of levels for me; the overall mood, the design & composition, and the execution all hit me at the right moment; it was like M.C. Escher through the looking glass. His weirdly sexual work was thought provoking, in a "what is in his head that compels him to make imagery like this, and how did it get there?" sort of way.

I think it was also the first time I saw an example of an artist who was doing Art with a capital 'A' as well as commercial work, which was not something ever presented as a possibility in any of my high school art classes; it was always presented as sort of a "one or the other" proposition, with a certain amount of disdain for commercial work. But here he was! Doing this creepy-weird stuff in both an exhibition context and for movies and album covers!

Anyway, finding Giger was one of those adolescent discoveries that was really mine, not found through a sibling, friend, or teacher. For a couple of years I tried my hand at doing my own pale imitation of stuff in a Giger vein... then college and the real world intervened and I drifted away from doing much art in general. But yeah, for a while there he was a pretty big influence, and I think I need to go get that book off the shelf.

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posted by usonian at 6:25 AM on May 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


His work on Alien affected me so deeply as a child that he was the first movie visual artist whose name I sought out, to find out who exactly had created those visions. Even though I was a fan of Harryhausen before that, Giger's work left me burning to know who did that.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:30 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by LizBoBiz at 6:34 AM on May 13, 2014


oh i am so sad to hear this. what an amazing artist. sigh.
posted by agregoli at 6:42 AM on May 13, 2014


Oh man, I just watched Jodorowsky's Dune myself four days ago and the first thing I said to my friends out in the lobby afterwards was "I don't think Giger's doing very well."

As interviewed in the film he looks hunched and in discomfort and--tellingly--conducting the interview in German for an English-language documentary* when I've seen him speak excellent English in prior documentaries.

Godspeed, sir, and if you were in pain I'm glad that chapter has closed.

*Jodorowsky himself speaks mostly in English-with-English-Subtitles in the film which is always a situation that makes me uncomfortable because goddamn his English is certainly better than my Spanish.
posted by whittaker at 6:48 AM on May 13, 2014


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posted by Cash4Lead at 6:48 AM on May 13, 2014


Terrible news. What a loss. :(

He was a wonderfully imaginative conceptualist. Superbly unique. And his work turned up in places you wouldn't necessarily expect, like the album cover and inner liner of Debbie Harry's Koo Koo, which also featured two videos directed by Giger: Backfired and Now I Know You Know.

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posted by zarq at 6:49 AM on May 13, 2014


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posted by condour75 at 7:06 AM on May 13, 2014


He is one of a handful of artists who showed me that things can be unsettling and disturbing but also strangely beautiful and alluring.

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posted by lord_wolf at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2014


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I loved Dark Seed.
posted by Mezentian at 7:20 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by pt68 at 7:30 AM on May 13, 2014


Aliens was one of those movies I saw when I was too young to see it, my oldest sister sitting down with me to watch it in the middle of the day on VHS and trying to cover my eyes during the good bits. I fell hard for the Alien design right away, the drones and the queen and the eggs and facehuggers; it really struck me as something, that compelling familiar-but-not-right body horror otherness that Giger did so well. I spent the next several years drawing aliens incessantly—at home, during class, sometimes on the glossy coated surface of the desks themselves as a sort of graffiti gift to whoever else came along after me.

I had always liked drawing as a kid but one of my sisters was The Artist in the family, a precocious talent who I competed with but never really kept up with. I remember once, maybe seven or eight years old, trying to prove to her that I understood more about art than her by showing her how I had shaded the cylinders sections of a rocket ship made up of nothing but cylinders, like, that is how you draw, man. She drew horses. I couldn't see the appeal. Let's draw some more space cylinders.

The alien changed that, though I didn't really see it that way at the time. But its what got me trying harder to capture form, light, musculature. Trying to capture scary. They were still crude kid drawings, but they got less crude over time. I finally found something that I liked to draw enough that I tricked myself into practicing it every day.

When I was 12 or 13 I spent a couple of evenings drawing a large portrait of an alien, face front and from the torso up, almost an LV-426 Gothic pose if you worked in a pitchfork. It was maybe 12"x18", all in pencil, with elaborate, light-handed shading of its eyeless head and teeth and sub-mouth and clawlike fingers and endless ribs (those rocket cylinders at last transformed and redeemed). It wasn't a very close study at all of Giger's drawings—at that age, pre-internet, I didn't really have access to his original work and there was only so much detail you could catch on VHS—but it was a loving, slightly obsessive go at this thing that had been my muse for the last few years. A delicate, careful drawing of a nasty thing; I don't think I'd ever been prouder of something I'd drawn.

I entered it in a county fair 4H art competition or something like that. I was excited. It was a good drawing. I felt like I could win, or at least place. What my drawing got was an honorable mention after being disqualified for actual prize placement on, we were eventually told, the basis of my middle school's lack of a 4H-compliant PTA or something like that.

And I cannot remove the subjective fog of time and nostalgia and childish ambition from my memory of the scene, but what I remember is 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize ribbons hanging on some very pedestrian, child-ish works of art on colorful and age-appropriate subjects, and then hanging just to the side like some uncle no one wants to acknowledge at the Thanksgiving gathering, my alien. Hanging in that exhibit area that smelled of cow and pig and chicken shit from the nearby competition animal barracks, presiding in its bloodless, menacing awfulness over flowers and horses and primary colors, all tooth and claw and horror, terribly out of place but also unambiguously good work by a child.

I imagined a lot, later on, the judges looking from entry to entry and then realizing that, good god, they're going to have to hang this thing up in the exhibit hall. In retrospect I'm probably lucky they hung it up at all. It didn't make sense. It was a senseless, alien thing to hang up at the county fair.

Thanks, Giger.
posted by cortex at 7:31 AM on May 13, 2014 [62 favorites]


I will be very sad if we don't get to see some of your work cortex.
posted by Twain Device at 7:36 AM on May 13, 2014


I will call my mom and ask where it is. I can't believe I don't have a photograph of the thing.
posted by cortex at 7:38 AM on May 13, 2014


I'm so very sorry to hear this. Giger was an artist who seemed to define artistry to me. Either you loved his work or you hated it, but you were never indifferent to it.
posted by jessian at 7:44 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by Hairy Lobster at 7:49 AM on May 13, 2014


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Thank you, by the way, for not framing Giger as "the Alien guy," as every other news outlet I've seen has. I can think of few artists with the breadth of work he had.
posted by cmoj at 7:55 AM on May 13, 2014


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posted by k_nemesis at 8:00 AM on May 13, 2014


I'm so very sorry to hear this. Giger was an artist who seemed to define artistry to me. Either you loved his work or you hated it, but you were never indifferent to it.

And some of us loved to hate it, which made it great.
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posted by haplesschild at 8:11 AM on May 13, 2014


No. I refuse to believe this. He can't be gone. What was Thompson's line about "Too weird to die?"

That was Giger.

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posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:14 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by supermedusa at 8:24 AM on May 13, 2014


Damn. Love this guy. One of his works is my chat icon on the office chat.
posted by Mister_A at 8:24 AM on May 13, 2014


So long, Giger, and thanks for all the unrelenting weirdness you injected into my head.
posted by ephemerae at 8:29 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by mordax at 11:21 AM on May 13, 2014


Whoa. My husband and I were just talking about Giger last night on our walk, after seeing mention of his work in an article about the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune—the unmade Dune film was one of Giger's early set- and costume-design gigs. I mispronounced his name, and my husband corrected me.

The creepy synchronicity is that the article was pinned up inside the box office of a local theater whose longtime ticket-taker died a few months ago, and as we walked away, we passed the local Walk of Fame star for Harold Ramis, who died just 12 days after the ticket-taker. It felt like death was all around—and was an ill omen, apparently, for Giger.

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posted by limeonaire at 11:49 AM on May 13, 2014


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posted by Woodroar at 12:26 PM on May 13, 2014


His art was such an incredibly meld of careful mechanical drafting type smooth steel and machine oil and raw sexual biological slimy meat. So very identifiably his, too.

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posted by bashos_frog at 1:17 PM on May 13, 2014


In related biomechanical horror-art news, the inventor of the Chicken McNugget also passed away today.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:38 PM on May 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


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posted by Michele in California at 2:32 PM on May 13, 2014


I have few regrets in my life, but one of them stands out. During my art college years I stumbled upon a film student selling all of his worldly possessions. He told me it was a spiritual choice, and not because of a financial crisis. I bought a Bolex and a few old cameras for something like $5. Walking with him through his house, I spotted the Necronomicon I and Necronomicon II on his book shelf, and asked if that was for sale too. "Yes, everything" he nodded, "I will give you both books for 75 dollars". I became very excited by that price, but he wasn't even done talking yet. Removing them from the shelf, he looked at me and said "These are very special books to me; let me show you why". He lifted the covers, and both were personally signed by H.R. Giger. He had met him in Switzerland. My mounting excitement soon unraveled into anxiety when I realized I was a poor, jobless art student, and even if someone offered me a Lamborghini for $75, it wouldn't matter, because I was broke as shit. I told him I needed to think about it and I would come back later. I walked home and mulled over whether I should try and borrow money from a friend. But I didn't act, and when I returned to his house a couple of hours later to stare at the books for inspiration they were, of course, all bought and gone.

I miss you signed H.R. Giger books I never owned.

R.I.P Giger. Your art was fuckin' rad.
posted by dgaicun at 3:28 PM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


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Next time you watch "Alien" try to look at it from the creature's point of view.
posted by mdoar at 4:08 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by cashman at 4:23 PM on May 13, 2014


A truly unique talent. I am sorry he is gone.
posted by biscotti at 5:02 PM on May 13, 2014


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I have quite a few of the books — hope I'll make it to the museum eventually.
posted by bouvin at 5:26 PM on May 13, 2014


Oh man now I am never gonna be able to afford one of those chairs.

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posted by turbid dahlia at 5:39 PM on May 13, 2014


I spent the next several years drawing aliens incessantly—at home, during class, sometimes on the glossy coated surface of the desks themselves as a sort of graffiti gift to whoever else came along after me.

Oh, man, me too. For some reason Aliens really stuck with me in an almost genetic-bonding sense, but at the same time it was only half-remembered. I distinctly recall my first forays into alien sketchery, it was basically a collection of femurs all wrapped and warped into what was approximately a skeleton with sharp claws and a bony tail. Then I remembered they didn't have eyes, so it was a skeleton with a bony tail and sharp claws and no eye sockets.

Then it was on TV late one night. I had a little black and white television in my bedroom. I would change the channel when I knew what was coming, because I was a puny wimp child, and then change back when I estimated the scary bit was over. Anyway, I eventually noted the elogated head and the back-tubes and a bunch of other shit. I drew a badass alien when I was in my teens, should have kept it up because Dark Horse are rebooting the comics soon.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:45 PM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by tychotesla at 6:51 PM on May 13, 2014


Just chiming in as another obsessive Alien-drawing kid. I was like Seth in Superbad, but with xenomorphs instead of penises. No comment on whether it was as much of an expression of burgeoning young sexuality.
posted by Drexen at 5:03 AM on May 14, 2014


I have dozens of paintings I made during my teens all directly influenced by Giger, by which I mean I copied him, slavishly, for years. I didn't just want to paint like him; unlike with any other artist, I wanted to be him.

Before desktop OSes natively supported full-screen desktop wallpaper, an unsupported third-party Extension/Control Panel combination for Mac OS 7 called Décor let you hack one in. I was lucky enough to discover that at the same time I hit upon a cache of high-(for-the-time)-rez scans of Giger originals. A soaring, menacing, beautiful detail shot from his derelict ship design was my desktop before I ever hung a piece of art on my actual wall.

ARh+ is a good bird's eye view of his work and life. Includes some Alien and Dune designs as well as the stair/shaft series and 'landscapes' also mentioned upthread, as well as sculpture, stories, photos of him at work (including building the Alien costume itself) pen and ink drawings from his youth, and so on, all different and surprising and unexpected.

What can you even say about the work? So fully realized it defined an aesthetic: "biomechanical"; so distinct that the unmistakable tendrils of its influence required we invent the term "Gigeresque", and with a craftsmanship, a so incredible and detailed execution that legions of impostors, from movie set designers to video game sprite artists to sixteen-year-old me hiding in the high school art room during lunch, meticulously painting and repainting landscapes of wet, toothy viscera, could only remind the world how much incredibly higher Giger, by comparison to us all, had set the bar.
posted by churl at 7:35 AM on May 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Alien, and the biology of the xenomorphs, also had a big effect on me and the way my life has developed.

When I was a wee little undergrad once, long ago, I made my Gen Chem professor ludicrously happy by asking in class what a 'molecular acid' was and how acidic xenomorph blood would need to be to have such a corrosive effect while I was learning about how pH works for the first time. It turns out that ‘molecular acid’ means precisely nothing as all acids are indeed molecules and, while many corrosive things have acidic properties, that is generally not what makes them corrosive – at least to metals. Ridley Scott was indeed just talking out of his ass in the same way that was more readily apparent to laymen in Prometheus.
Dallas: [looks at a pen being dissolved by alien's body fluid] I haven't seen anything like that except, uh, molecular acid.
Brett: It must be using it for blood.
Parker: It's got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don't dare kill it.
Bishop: The molecular acid oxidizes after the creature death, completely neutralizing it.
I'm still fascinated though by the question of how, if we go with Both Dallas and Bishop are idiots instead of the obvious Ridley Scott is an idiot, one might try to start making sense of finding the kinds of chemistry necessary to corrode aluminum or steel alloys at standard temperature and pressure in seconds in an obligate parasitoid like xenomorphs. Indeed, those kinds of chemistry are pretty fundamentally incompatible with biological systems as we know them; or could conceivably interface with ours like theirs are shown doing. If they had terrifying shit like Uranium hexafluoride or God forbid FOOF running through their veins there would be no way for them to do anything other than start exploding on fluid contact with us, much less replicate in us, whileeven the face-hugger stage critters had this 'molecular acid' blood. Perhaps there is some kind of fucked up oxidative chemistry going on that is somehow segregated from their living systems? Or maybe their living chemistry is just fundamentally alien and they generate energy somehow from the violent reactions we see with biological molecules we are familiar with (ie: the crew)? While the second hypothesis would explain more, Bishop's observation would seem to make the first more plausible.

Even after all these years I still thrive on the deep visceral horror of finding parasitoids in nature just like H. R. Giger's not so original design.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:22 AM on May 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


How about we assume that the bio/mechanical pairing is really fundamental to its metabolism, and the metals being "dissolved" are actually being eaten away by a nanomechanical defense system. They stay inactive while inside the body, but they swarm when they contact metal. It would also explain why the Queen covers everything with mucus.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:43 AM on May 15, 2014


I've generally come to the conclusion that Aliens (including Prometheus) should be considered more in the realm of soft mythic science fiction. Instead of the swampy grotto behind the newly constructed clan hall, we have beacons on unexplored planetoids. That the first three movies loosely map to the three acts of Beowulf may be coincidence, but it's an interesting one.

Similarly, I think Prometheus is at its best when it rises to the Greek tragedy of the climax. Weyland meets his god. The god tears Weyland's abomination-son apart and beats Weyland to death with the still-living head. If any of the drama surrounding this moment had been compelling, the handwavium would have been largely forgiven.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:19 AM on May 15, 2014


Prometheus ruins the central core of the original film - that we are alone, animals at the mercy of animals stronger than us. That intelligent design crap made me want to gag.
posted by agregoli at 9:35 AM on May 15, 2014




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posted by tessmartin at 1:38 PM on June 12, 2014


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