REVIEW: Outland (1981) – ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Outland (1981)

Run Time: 110 Mins
Rated: R
What To Expect: A reasonably well aged Alien rip off

If you have been disappointed by Ridley Scott shitting the bed recently Alien: Covenant (and Prometheus before it), as well as the fact that those projects have probably killed off the alternate Aliens sequel, you should probably go back and take a look at this movie again.  It’s post-Alien rip off, both aesthetically and in its anti-corporate message.  Peter Hyams’ old, perhaps lesser known movie has aged reasonably well, especially if you curb your expectations.  It’s almost to Alien what The Last Boy Scout is to Die Hard.

Sean Connery is here, playing O’Niel, a marshal who gets sent from ‘one toilet to the next’ through the Company’s (the first of many inspirations from Alien) interstellar mining colonies.  Running the colony is the sleazy Sheppard (Peter Boyle), who boasts early in the movie of staggering productivity rates, which of course is down to amphetamines being used among the miners.  They allow a normal man to do 18 hours work in six, but if used regularly they’ll fry the men’s brains and drive them batshit, suicidal.  As O’Niel’s wife leaves the colony and returns to earth, he tries to take on Sheppard and bring down his corruption, but the bodies start racking up.

OUTLAND, Sean Connery, 1981, (c) Warner Brothers

Most people call this a rip off of the Alien series, but I only call it a rip off of the first movie.  In hindsight, there are things that Jim Cameron actually (possibly) took from Peter Hyams, remember, this film came before Aliens.  The video calling, the old 20th century-style shotguns.  There are a few effects issues in this movie, for instance Io (the moon they’re mining) in the opening credits isn’t even round.  It’s like a ball of dough, with the bottom right side in particular containing angles.  James Cameron would probably have had a heart attack at this oversight, but who knows, maybe Sheppard was so efficient he dug out 1/4 of the moon!

The finale though is kind of the movie’s weakest point, where O’Niel ‘goes outside’ to pick off the hired heavies in this space western.  This is pretty much effects-driven and not all of it is superb, sometimes a bit jarring or unintuitive… external shots are certainly not the movie’s strongest points — at one point in the movie, I noticed an external elevator shaft was totally bent, which is put down to simply lazy scale modelling.

On the upside, the movie does have a certain atmospheric charm, most of the films interior sets are almost on par with those seen in Alien.  And Sean Connery’s performance in particular I liked, because he’s showing his range as an actor here, this isn’t the cocky alpha male seen in Bond or The Rock.  O’Niel is quiet and aloof, but assertive.  This is actually one of his better roles.