MY KINDA SCENE: Neal Asher on Excalibur, Blade Runner and Alien
Infinity Engine, the third and final novel in Neal Asher's Transformation series is out tomorrow, following Dark Intelligence and War Factory. To celebrate, we asked Neal to tell us his favourite scene in TV, literature or film. Neal couldn't narrow it down to just one so here we have his three favourite film scenes, from Excalibur, Blade Runner and Alien.
I guess I can be described as a ‘visual’ writer. When I think of things as I’m writing I’m not hearing the sounds or smelling the smells – they are usually an afterthought – but picturing the scene, and perhaps I don’t focus enough on how the characters are feeling. I think I do and that much of it is implicit, but that’s a debate for another time. Anyway, perhaps I should have been a script writer since it is always the scene first, and then the actions – on occasion I can be caught sitting at my desk doing the karate arm blocks of a fight sequence.
Perhaps this is why many scenes in favourite films have so much impact on me. I can remember years ago playing again and again, on video tape, scenes from the movie Excalibur. My particular favourites are when Arthur collects the sword from Guinevere when she is in a nunnery, the knights riding out through an orchard and falling apple blossoms, and a final one where the sword is returned to the lake, perfectly vertical as the lady of the lake catches it and silhouetted against a bloated bloody sun. Yet now, in retrospect, as I picture these in my mind I realise that the sound was important: the sound of that door slamming as Arthur leaves Guinevere’s room, Carmina Burana playing as the knights ride out and the other music throughout. Perhaps I should concentrate more on sounds…
Others that got repeated replays were scenes from Blade Runner. Again on video tape so you’ll have an idea of how long ago. Perhaps I’m a sick puppy but often it is the violent ones that get to me. When Deckard shoots the first replicant and she crashes through numerous plate glass windows, when he shoots Pris and she dies thrashing inhumanly fast. When Roy Batty kills his creator, and his descent in the elevator afterwards. But most of that film was visually gorgeous (though when I look at it now I’m thoroughly aware of how dated the 80s chic is), which is perhaps a characteristic of its director Ridley Scott. Los Angeles of the future as seen then and which is only two years away now, an owl on its perch, an origami unicorn, Roy Batty dying on a roof in the rain and releasing a dove. Damn I’m going to see if this film is available 4K or Blu-ray and watch it again!
Alien was a film I loved but whose effect was marred by being in the cinema with people who had seen it before. ‘Ooh, this bit!’ rather spoils the shock effect. Again this was visually gorgeous, (to me) again Ridley Scott’s vision but thoroughly enhanced by the biomechanoid art of HR Giger. Of the particular scenes I most like, they don’t include the ‘chest-burster’. It’s famous, I know, but to me the grotesque violence of it simply has a road-accident fascination. I like dripping chains and a frightened cat, a xenophobe woman facing ultimate horror, the journey into the Gigeresque sculpture that was the alien ship, the pilot of that ship and as ever the dripping skull-like alien head opening its teeth in strobe-light. But preferable for me are scenes in the next film: the shuttle crash is a classic and rightly so, the alien mother rampaging after Ripley and their final confrontation is awesome – I ran that final fight frame by frame once and could see no joins, Bishop jerking and looking down to see the mother alien’s tail punched through his body, and then it lifting him up and slicing him in two, the fire-fight in the colony laboratory area, ‘Let’s rock!’ and Vasquez opening up with her M56 Smart Gun, Hudson being dragged into the floor by skeletal alien hands … here I could go on and on. This film is just about as packed with the good stuff as Blade Runner.
There you go – three I’ve chosen to select scenes from. Hey, but there are plenty of others. The look on Sarah Connor’s face when the Arnold terminator starts to rise after being hit with multiple shotgun blasts. The T1000 of Terminator II breaking apart as it tries to walk through liquid nitrogen, then it blown into a grotesque sculpture over a tank of molten metal. Then there’s the Glaive in the film Krull attacking the monster – a scene those familiar with my work might recognise…
Neal Asher's Infinity Engine is out tomorrow. If you can't wait, check out the opening extract here. Come back to the blog on Friday for another exciting extract.