- June 21st, 2012
Before this week, I had never seen a movie from the Alien quadrilogy. I saw Alien Vs Predator in the theater, but never any of the movies from the main franchise. I bought the quadrilogy on DVD years ago when I found a really good sale on it, but never made the time to watch. Since I took a staycation this week (and with the release of Prometheus), I figured it was finally time to watch them all. I finished the fourth movie this morning and plan to continue on with the two AVP movies, but I wanted to get my thoughts down on the main franchise before I continued. There are spoilers up ahead.
There are two versions of each film and a lot of negativity toward the third and fourth movie. I decided to do a little research to figure out which version of each movie is considered the best or most definitive version before choosing which to watch. While doing this research, I found that there is a lot of political baggage surrounding the third and fourth movie as well. I took some of this into account while watching these movies. I also went into them with a fresh outlook. As much negativity as I ran into, I was still able to find a fair amount of people advocating for the quality of both movies. I always like to keep in mind that people don't like when a franchise takes a large step in a new direction.
I'm not a big fan of older movies, but I really enjoyed Alien. The plot was good. The setting was excellent. My one issue was that the crew was made up of some really stupid people. You would think that they would need intelligent people on this mission, but they pick people that will fuck around with strange eggs after finding a dead creature from a species that they'd never seen before. These people bring that idiot back to the ship and ignore quarantine protocols. They don't check out this person after the thing that was tightly attached to his face detaches and dies. They try to stick something in the mouth of a person having what they think is a seizure (which I'm sure is more of a sign of the time that the movie was filmed, but still). These are some stupid people. But I liked the movie, and the ending was satisfying. I liked that there was only one full-size alien, because there was a small crew in a pretty claustrophobic space (which is strange considering the size of the actual full ship). The one thing that I found to be strange is that the alien found the cat in the carrier and just decided to leave it alone. It is worth noting that I watched the theatrical version, because Ridley Scott said that it was the definitive version.
This is where the politics come in, I guess. James Cameron directed the movie and ended up cutting some semi-important things out so that the studio could have a shorter movie. This pissed off Sigourney Weaver, which then made her pretty demanding during the production of the third movie. It seems that most of this stuff was put back in for the director's cut, which is what I ended up watching. I liked this movie as much as I liked the first movie, even though this was a pretty different creature. This tended to be more of an action movie than a thriller, which suited it just fine. I liked that there were more characters and more aliens. They expanded on the mythology really well and in an organic way. I don't remember having any issues with this movie.
Here's where the shit hits the fan. I ran across a number of reports on crazy things that happened to derail the production of this movie. Some people blame Sigourney. Some people blame Fincher. It sounds like they cycled through a good five or so concepts before finally filming a script that they were working on during the shoot. I had a really difficult time choosing which version of the movie to watch, because it sounds like the theatrical movie is an action movie while the special edition isn't. But the special edition was supposed to have tightened up some of the plot holes from the theatrical version. They also made some pretty ambivalent changes for the special edition...but I decided to watch the special edition with the hope of seeing a tighter, more cohesive movie.
After hearing a lot of horrible things, I have to say that the movie isn't horrible. The special edition was a little long, and I had some trouble staying awake at some parts. We're back to one alien, but the cast is bigger. The setting isn't all that claustrophobic. I'm fine with them deciding to do something pretty different from the previous movies, but it seems really strange to have killed off Hicks and Newt right as the movie was starting (Newt makes some sense, since I'm sure the actress had grown too much to play the age that she needed to be). I think it would have been a better movie if there had been more than one full-size alien and the action wasn't spaced so far apart (which, I understand, might not be the case in the theatrical cut). I also kind of wonder why they chose to have the alien incubate in an ox in this version instead of in the dog that they used in the theatrical version. I also wonder how the queen embryo got into Ripley. I guess there had to be a second egg on the ship. One facehugger got Ripley while the other waited until it found the dog/ox. I only remember seeing one egg, though. I'm sure this is so that we're surprised when we find out that Ripley has a queen inside of her. Overall, I think this movie serves its purpose, but it's the weakest of the franchise.
This is where I get hate mail and death threats. Resurrection is probably the most reviled of all the movies in the franchise. Even Joss Whedon, who wrote the movie, hates it. He wasn't pleased with the interpretation of his script and the delivery of his lines. And that makes sense. Joss' words have a very particular flow to them. It's hard for someone to present that when they don't know Joss' work intimately. But I could still very much taste his flavor in the movie. The politics seemed to die down before this movie got made, and it sounds like a lot of axed concepts from versions of the third movie made their way into this one. And as much as people seem to hate this movie more than the third, I found some articles with good things to say about it. I ended up running across a few of these articles while trying to figure out whether to watch the theatrical version or the special edition. Ultimately, I decided on the special edition and then went back to watch the original opening and ending after watching the whole movie.
After the ending of the third movie, the premise of this makes total sense. It was the only way to make a movie in the franchise while still including Ripley, which seems to be something that the studio demanded. The additions to the mythology in this movie made perfect sense given that the movie was about cloning. I think that Joss did a great job of referencing the first two movies (using some of Newt's dialogue and calling the ship's computer "Father" to tie it to "Mother" from the first movie). I think Joss went a little deeper than most people wanted him to by exploring what makes an entity worthy of life and compassion (Ripley/clone, Call/robot, Hybrid). I think this was also the first movie to really show the intelligence of the aliens. They figured out how to escape their holding cell. They used the button to release the freezing agent to kill the soldier. They set the trap with the eggs on the other side of the flooded kitchen. We've seen them track before, but never really think or plan. The idea of the hybrid, which seems to be a huge sticking point for people, was solid. The cloning process obviously made some changes in both Ripley and the queen. It makes sense that the queen's reproductive process would evolve. I think they could have either done less or more with the hybrid. They didn't leave any opening for it to show up in future installments, so I don't see it as being a big issue. Overall, I thought it was a really successful movie. I think fans of the series didn't like that it was such a departure from the earlier films, but people often have difficulty with the evolution of a franchise.
As a side note, I saw a few things in the movie that were probably precursors to Whedon's Firefly series, which made me very happy.
So now I'll move forward to the AVP movies. I'm glad that I finally took the plunge. I think I'm officially a fan of the Alien franchise. I've heard some pretty negative things about Prometheus, so I'll be waiting for it to hit Blu-ray before I give it a try. I wonder if this is a case of the movie actually being flawed or of people not liking the franchise that they know and love being toyed with.