Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Not Again!" Double Feature: Aliens (1986) and Alien³ (1992)

Continuing our goal of finally seeing all of the Alien movies, a good buddy and I settled down for two late night viewings this weekend. Aliens picks up 57 years after the first film, with Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the only survivor of the vicious alien attack on an isolated space ship, waking up from prolonged hyper sleep to find overwhelming opposition to her "insane" story. Because for some reason the concept of finding new life on a distant planet is unbelievable to any other human being. When a small community on a rocky extraterrestrial colony loses communication with Earth, Ripley is sent with a military squadron to investigate the possibility of an alien attack (it's the same planet where the alien was initially found so suddenly maybe she's not crazy after all).

When they get there, they find that the scores of eggs discovered by Ripley's original team have been hatching and using the helpless colonists as hosts, and are ready to kill tons of nosy soldiers. They also find Newt (Carrie Henn), a young girl who survived, whom Ripley dedicates herself to protecting as she leads the remaining troops in defensive and escape strategies. Unfortunately, the evil company from the first film still wants a piece of these powerful alien lifeforms, and it's possible Ripley's plans will be sabotaged. But luckily, the sexy Michael Biehn and robotic Lance Henriksen are on her side, with guns! And smarts!

This movie is pretty darned cool. Weaver puts in another excellent performance as the badass, incredibly sensible Ripley. Yet again, the stupid people around her insist on doing the opposite of whatever logical thing she says, and they die because of it. We tried to keep count of how many times this happened. It was at least seven. Michael Biehn hangs out, being attractive (and sweaty), while his fellow Terminator franchiser Jenette Goldstein is possibly in slight brownface to play the Latina Pvt Vasquez (seriously, she's looked much paler in other movies I've seen her in, but I'm unsure of her heritage). It's an interesting time.

The intentions and inner machinations of the alien species are developed from the first film, giving Aliens more of a sci-fi bent than its fairly horrific slasher predecessor. It's still pretty scary though- James Cameron really knows how to create tension. I enjoyed the more complex story coupled with engaging action scenes and impressive animatronics. The characters are cool (mainly Ripley, hello) and it's always fun to add our own "I told you so!"'s to Ripley's many moments of superiority. Though its quite different in tone and style, this is a fantastic follow-up to Alien, keeping the thrilling and badass-lady aspects of the original and expanding on the mythology of both the human and alien groups.

4.5/5

Alien³ or (Alien x Alien x Alien) to the mathematically impaired was David Fincher's first film (what? I know right), and notoriously sentenced to numerous script re-writes, production complications, and overwrought editing. En route back to Earth after supposedly defeating the entire alien population, Ripley's ship crashes into a remote prison colony populated by gruff men who've found an apocalyptic religion and taken vows of celibacy. Once again, everyone thinks her alien story is crazy, plus she's antagonized by prisoners and warden alike for being all womanly. At least Clemens (Charles Dance), the soft-spoken medic, is nice to her and she gets to have sex for the first time in like a century. And wouldn't you know it, some needy alien was hidden on her ship, and now it's taking over the prison, which has no weapons and no means of escape. Yet again, Ripley has to lead a group of disrespectful dudes into battle against this thing while trapped in an enclosed space. But this time, she's suffering some mysterious sickness and the company is on its way.

This is very much just more of the same, but with less likable supporting characters and seemingly no purpose. Weaver is great, of course, but she can only do so much with the choppy script. The effects are noticeably sub-par, presumably because of inexperience with not-yet-fully-advanced CGI; the alien kept turning green, which is quite distracting.

The prisoners are underwritten and mostly annoying, and I didn't really understand their religion thing. Also, spoiler alert, the cool black guy dies. Surprise. Alien³ isn't an awful movie, it just isn't that great, especially in comparison to the first two, and the behind-the-scenes issues aren't hard to see underscoring the final product. The story is adequate, but the tension is gone, as is my interest. The ending is overdramatic and unfulfilling. I guess we'll get to Alien: Resurrection over winter break, and I do believe it's better?

3/5

6 comments:

  1. IMO, Resurrection is totes better. It is secretly awesome. Also, the cool black guy is Charles S Dutton, who is generally a cool dude. I recommend getting into him.

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  2. ok, so the ultimate question. Alien or Aleins?

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  3. I always like to think of Alien and Aliens as one, complete story. Alien3 is like extra and isn't really necessary and Alien: Resurrection is just an attempt to create a franchise so you can keep milking the cash cow.

    Or, at least, that's how I feel about it. :)

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  4. Benjy: Thanks dude I will look into Charles S Dutton. Also yeah I recall that you love Alien Resurrection but I've heard mixed things! Probably I will like it though.

    Tom: It's a tough one! I think I might go with Aliens, just because it's a bit more action-packed, Ripley's more in charge, and Michael Biehn is there. They're very close though.

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  5. I think Alien takes the cake because Scott made possibly the most atmospheric horror film ever made, with a killer cast -- you just can't compare Ian Holm, John Hurt and Harry Dean Stanton to "GAME OVER, MAN! GAME OVER!" no matter how much I love Bill Paxton's goofy ass -- and an interesting subtext about sexual androgyny. But I also adore Cameron's Fulleresque dialogue and I especially love everything about his take on Ripley. It's very close.

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  6. I am unwavering in my belief that "Aliens," not "Alien," is the crowning achievement of the whole series. "Aliens" is one of the most thrilling nail-biters I've ever seen, and it manages to combine kick-ass action sequences with characters we care about. This is the movie that made me fall in love with Sigourney Weaver.

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