Saturday, June 30, 2012

Alien 3 (NES)

While in the midst of reviewing the movies, I realized I also had a copy of this game sitting in my front room.  I had never played it before as it actually belongs to Jak and is just on loan.  I gave it a shot and turned the footage into a brief review.  Consider it a bonus to the marathon!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Alien vs Predator: Requiem

I don't like having to end a marathon on a bad note, but I guess that's often the nature of movies.  Franchises often end because the sequel is a clunker, not because the story reached a natural conclusion.  Movie studios will churn these things out as long as they make money off them and often don't stop to think about what made the franchises so good to begin with.

Alien vs Predator: Requiem is just a mess of a film.  It contains a fairly large cast of characters, and it even tries to provide us some kind of story for most of them, but the story is hollow and empty.  A young man returns to his hometown from who knows where, picked up by his friend who is now a cop and inquires about his younger brother and is told he's been getting himself into trouble.  A woman returns home from the army to her daughter and husband Sam Merlotte and apparently her daughter isn't too happy about her being gone for so long, but that plot gets dropped like a stone somewhere in the middle of the film.  The younger brother has a love interest and some bullies who bother him but they all get killed off so fast that it doesn't really matter.  As such, I don't care a bit about any of these humans and whether they survive or not.

As far as our big two species are concerned, the Predator apparently collected some facehuggers and put them in jars, which really doesn't make any sense considering they blew the whole pyramid up at the end of the last film.  The hybrid grows quickly and causes enough chaos that the ship crashes, which sends a signal to some other Predator to come to earth and clean up the mess.  The facehuggers get loose and create more aliens, and the clean up Predator is here to kill them and the hybrid.  This is all functional enough but not particularly interesting.  The hybrid has the ability to impregnate humans without an intermediary facehugger by simply shoving something down a human's throat.  That really makes me wonder how Predator reproduction works, but beyond that and his silly dreadlocks, there's no real difference between the hybrid and the other xenomorphs.  It's wasted potential, in my opinion.

Much like Predator 2, there was one scene that genuinely amused me.  When the little girl complains about monsters being outside, her parents don't believe her.  The dad walks up to the window and says, "See?  No monsters."   The xenomorph then promptly breaks through the window and kills him.  I'm probably supposed to be more scared than amused at that point though, so I think it's still a fail on the part of the filmmakers.

I have a nitpick, and this happened in the first Alien vs Predator as well, and I let it slide then, but now it's really bugging me.  In both films, a xenomorph walks up to a woman and snarls at her, having her recoil in horror, breathing heavy and afraid.  After we have this moment, it kills her.  This is an obvious callback to Alien 3, but the thing is, it doesn't make sense!  The xenomorph did that to Ripley because it sensed she was carrying the queen, and leaned in closer to make sure!  Xenomorphs don't tease their victims, they rip them to shreds!

At the very end of the movie, the people who have been told repeatedly by the government that rescue was coming are in fact blown up by them instead.  The two brothers and mother and daughter are on a helicopter at the time, trying to escape, and the explosion blows the helicopter off screen.  I really, really wish the movie would have ended there, so I could pretend they didn't make it and everyone in this miserable, pathetic excuse for a film was dead.

Congrats, AVP2.  You turned this usual "give it the benefit of the doubt" reviewer into a bitter, snarky critic.  There's an "uncut" version of the film that contains about nine more minutes but from what I have heard adds very little to the film.  AvP Galaxy breaks it down for those of you who are curious.

And that's it for the films.  There have been plenty of comics, novels, video games and even an action figure line that joined these two franchises together, but I'm not familiar with any of them.  To try to end this on a more positive note, I recommend you checking out Batman: Dead End.  That's an Alien vs Predator match up that's definitely worth watching.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Alien vs Predator

Having just seen Prometheus, watching this movie again it was really hard to not see the parallels in the storyline.  Both feature a crew of specialists sent to inspect ancient civilizations by the head of the Weyland Corporation.  Both insist that alien creatures played a hand in human development.  And of course, both involve incredibly naive scientists and businessmen making really bad decisions.  They both attempt to be prequels to the Alien franchise, so I suppose it makes sense that they would have at least some similarities, but I'm a little shocked they're so close to each other.

Also, it goes without saying that the two films simply can't exist in the same continuity.  It just doesn't work. Given the large negative reaction to Prometheus, I can't help but wonder if people are going to start thinking about that film as the alternate timeline rather than the proper one.

Of course, the response to this film was also largely negative, and once again I'm in disagreement with everyone else.  I thought it brought together the two series in a way that made sense, and turned out to be a decently made creature feature.  We get likeable human characters, a fairly logical plot, and most importantly two of  the most bad ass monsters in recent movie history fighting each other and us.

Sanaa Lathan is an excellent Ripley replacement as Alexa, playing a strong woman with a good dose of common sense and the bravery to face these creatures.  It's great to see an African America hero who is female and yet not "sassy" or otherwise cliched.  It's also great to see Lance Henriksen return as the inspiration for Bishop, who ends up being a really interesting character.  He certainly has more depth than the Weyland we see in Prometheus.

It's not perfect, of course.  For some reason, both races are a lot bigger in this film, towering over the human counterparts.  It's just not necessary.  The alien lifecycle is also greatly accelerated, and the Predator ships look nothing like the ones we've seen before.  The alien queen takes her time asking her babies to free her, and that's solely because it adds a dramatic scene at the right moment to the story.  The Predators have also greatly advanced their technology in the last 14 years, though I guess that part is a little more believable.

But this movie is primarily meant to be fun, and that's exactly what it is.  We get callbacks to previous movies in both franchises, and we get to see lots of action.  Isn't that exactly what you want from this type of film?  And yes, I was still rooting for Momma when she took on the Predator.  Girl's been locked up and frozen for at least a hundred years, after all.  She didn't deserve defeat.

Alexa's acceptance by the predators is an obvious reference to what happened at the end of Predator 2,  but I must say I like the way it was done here much better.  She fights beside him and earns his trust.  It's the marking on her cheek that communicates to the others that she is meant to be left alone.

I remember when I first saw this in the theater, I was pretty blown away by that ending.  A hybrid?!  What?!  But for whatever reason, I never actually went back to watch the sequel.  I'll be remedying that with my review tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


" A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something."
(If a good portion of this review seems familiar, then you're one of the few who has been reading my blog a while!  This is a cleaned up review from March 2011)

It occurred to me while watching this film that I don't particularly care for Klingons or dwarves who tend to have very similar sentiments to that of the predator race. Of course predators are a little more concerned with hunting than just fighting, but all those races would rather die than surrender to their enemies. I think the silence of the predators makes them more appealing to me. Klingons and dwarves tend to boast a bit too much.

When I first heard about them making Predators, I was, as so often I find I am about movie news these days, cautiously optimistic. It certainly seemed like they were coming up with a proper followup to the original film. Most of the reviews weren't so good, so I didn't rush out to the theater to see it but I did rent it on DVD soon after it came out.

This film succeeds as an excellent followup to the original. Instead of taking the predator from the jungle to the city, this mimics the Alien to Aliens change in more than just name - we now have multiple predators and the planet they are on is basically just one giant jungle inhabited with other crazy alien creatures to really up the stakes. While the first film featured one tight elite military force sent in to get rid of the predator, this film features a cast of various killers specifically chosen by the predator race to be hunted. I really think that was a great idea and fits in very well with the mythology of the predators.  It also mirrors Aliens in that this sequel is more about action than the suspense of its predecessor.

While the first film stressed the bond between a team of soldiers, this one spotlights the tension between strangers in a dangerous situation, particularly when most of these strangers are just as equally dangerous. Nearly all of the characters are interesting people, even if they do fall prone to stereotyping. A Yakuza agent with dragon tattoos all over his back? Of course he knows how to use a samurai sword! I'm willing to overlook it though, largely because the sword fight between said agent and one of the predators was pretty awesome. Laurence Fishburne's part is great, and I thought Adrian Brody made a good lead even if I can't help but feel like his voice doesn't match his looks. Am I alone in that?

There's one element of the film that really annoyed me, but I can't honestly tell you if it is the film's fault or not.  The Netflix DVD sleeve spoiled the twist for me before I even watched the film. Now, I'm not saying you couldn't see the twist coming. The movie does provide you with hints all the way through. But to have someone flat out tell you before you start watching that "Hey! Something is going on here!" rather than just letting you go "Hm.. something doesn't seem quite right. But maybe they're just trying to mislead me?" is really quite annoying. As such the twist felt expected and cheesy and lost all possible dramatic weight it could have had.

Overall, it's a pretty strong action film with a decent story arc that works as a good followup for the original.  I'm not sure what people didn't like about it, but for me it hit the right notes.

Tomorrow is Alien vs Predator.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Predator 2

I always try to give movies a fair shot, regardless of how they are critically rated.  When a movie is universally regarded as bad, I take that knowledge in hand and lower my expectations for the film.  The concept alone of Predator 2 pretty much told me that it would be ridiculous, so I was hoping that if nothing else it could be cheesy and fun.  What I'm telling you is I tried really hard to like something about this movie.

I suppose it's not all awful.  When Danny Glover's character punches a reporter in the face, it made me laugh out loud.  The special effects are of good quality and I think the Predator design is pretty stellar.  It also worked well as a kind of time portal that took me back to the late 80s and early 90s when these kind of over the top action movies were common place.  Nudity for no reason?  Check.  Racial stereotype bad guys?  Check.  Kid who almost gets caught in the crossfire?  Check.  Old lady making snarky comments to provide humor in the middle of the action?  Check.

While it started off in a way that I could have called it "so bad it's good," by the time the kid was offering the predator a piece of candy, it was past good and back to bad again.  People tell us over and over in the film that Danny Glover's character is a loose cannon, but besides some cursing and that punch to the reporter, he actually comes off quite tame.  His team is made of of generic characters you don't really get to know, with the exception of Bill Paxton's character that I wanted to smack the hell out of.  I can't be the only person who finds him incredibly annoying.  It's his voice, it just grates on me.

Having Paxton here makes the obvious Aliens ripoff plot device all the more noticeable.  I will say that it makes more sense for our military to want to use Predator tech than to think they could control a xenomorph, but it still looks like a stolen plot, especially when we see the xenomorph skull in the Predator's trophy room.

But more than anything, this movie manages to make its meager one hour and forty five minute running time feel way too long.  The scenes in the meat locker felt like an ending, but no, we have to watch a painfully slow fight between Danny Glover and the Predator on the roof of a building.  Then for no apparent reason, falling through the hole in the building leads him to the Predator spaceship where apparently 9 different Predators are just sitting around chilling letting their one guy go out and kill people.  And when Danny Glover gets one lucky move, they decide that's enough for him to earn their respect and they'll just quietly leave now.  Seriously?!

Remember how I said the final scenes with Arnold and the Predator worked so amazingly well without dialogue?  Danny Glover mutters to himself constantly during this movie's final moments.  What he's saying offers no contributions what so ever ("Birds... damn birds!") and I think they were probably going for a Die Hard effect.  But he's not John McClane or even Roger Murtaugh here and it just lacks charm.  Also, calling the Predator "pussy face"?!  This is not wit.

While I applaud their attempt to try something different, I just can't recommend this movie at all.  Considering that the series basically went into stasis until the eventual Alien vs Predator films, I'm clearly not alone in that.  Before we get to the crossovers though, I'm going to talk about the more recent attempt to revive this series, Predators.

Monday, June 25, 2012


After talking about a lot of films of differing quality, it's nice to talk about a truly great film once again.  While I don't love Predator quite as much as I love Alien, there's no doubt that for what it is, Predator is truly great.

It's easy to see why someone once thought of combining the two franchises, as the basic set up is the same - alien killing machine species preys on humans, picking them off one by one until only one person is left in a final showdown.  But that's really where the similarities end.  Predator takes place in the dense jungle of Central America and our prey here are elite soldiers.  It automatically makes the Predator seem more dangerous and imposing, that he is able to so easily take out these well trained killing machines.

But what really makes it work is that these guys aren't just kill happy grunts (like, for instance, most of the marines in Aliens) but men who actually care about each other.  The friendship between Blain and Mac (played by Jesse Ventura and Bill Duke) may be one of the closest friendships I've ever seen portrayed in any creature feature/slasher film.  You could easily think that a film where military men are the fodder could end up portraying them very badly, but this works well as a tribute to our men in uniform, both in the bonds they form with each other and the sacrifices they are willing to make to save others.

After watching the Rocky films and going back to watch Predator again, I had to laugh a bit.  What is it about Carl Weathers that he has to start off acting like a bad guy and then turn into more of a hero?  I  guess that's what you call typecasting. Regardless, he's fun to watch, and the way he and Schwarzenegger play off each other is also well done.  It's easy to want to disregard the "rescue the hostages" subplot that starts the film when it's all just a ruse, but I think it helps to keep the film going and establish our character's personalities.  Though I can't help but think it would have worked better if we hadn't seen that opening shot of the spacecraft coming to earth.

Once again, the slow reveal of the creature really helps build the suspense.  We get POV shots of its heat vision, images of it fully cloaked, and then slowly see its menacing claws and weapons.  When we do get the full shot, it is of course wearing its helmet, which makes that moment when he takes it off and reveals his face all the more meaningful.  I also think its pretty funny that the movie spends a lot of time avoiding the F-bomb just so Arnold can drop it at that moment.

But for all the camaraderie and strength of its characters, this movie really shines when it gets down to just Arnold and the Predator.  Dialogue is non-existent as we watch them both prepare for their final battle, but your eyes remained glued to the screen.  Their final fight sequence is just fantastic and you really feel like either one of them could be the victor.

Before doing this marathon, I'd never seen more than a scene or two of the sequel.  Having heard a lot of bad things, I set my expectations low. You'll see how I felt about Predator 2 tomorrow.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Sometimes when I go to see a movie, I immediately want to jot some notes down so I can write a proper review.  In the case of this film, I decided to sit on it.  There were lots of thoughts running through my head, and I was a little conflicted.

Visually,  the film is gorgeous, from its sets to its creature design.  I had no problems with the pacing, soundtrack, or mood.  I enjoyed all the characters and I liked that we got a larger crew with varying levels of importance.  I felt like even those with tiny parts felt real.  I also really enjoyed the story arc.  No, I had no doubts that it was two hours well spent, and that the bloated ticket price I had been forced to pay for IMAX 3D was also worth every penny.

I was conflicted because I'm writing this review in the context of the Alien series, and I don't really know what to tell you, or how to entirely reconcile it in my own mind.  I knew that we weren't getting a straight up prequel and that this wasn't just another Alien film, so I wasn't anywhere near as disappointed as I think a lot of those angry reviewers ended up being.  But I'm still just not sure if I entirely like this new mythology that's been added.

I've seen people nitpick that the technology in this movie is more advanced than in the original movies, and I really hope they were jesting.  When you're talking about films made over 30 years apart, it's natural that you're going to have to update the technology to make sense in what we now have in modern times.  I felt like enough of it still made sense, and I liked that David was not quite as convincingly human as Ash and Bishop later were.  Really, David is probably the most fascinating character of the film.

The main problem with this rather large cast is that we barely got to know a lot of the characters.  I feel like I need a prequel to this film just to fully understand more about the character Meredith Vickers and what her motivations were.  What we did receive was fascinating, but I wanted more.  That could be said for a lot of the supporting characters really.  Damon Lindelof showed talent for building a diverse and complex group through Lost, but he didn't have enough time in this film to tell us all about them.  I just realized that we even get to see flashbacks of Shaw's life, much like a Lost episode.

Further analysis requires spoilers, so you have been warned.

I like the idea of the Engineers creating us and also creating the aliens.  It doesn't make much sense to me that our DNA would be an exact match when they're clearly much larger than humans, but I'll let that slide.  What's strange to me is that they seemed to be suggesting that the creatures we saw here are predecessors to the xenomorphs; at least that's what I assume that final scene was all about.  So we're supposed to believe that either the snake or the giant octopus eventually evolves into a facehugger, but that the chestbursters/xenomorphs only have a few cosmetic differences.  It doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

By the way, this doesn't mean I didn't love seeing  those creatures.  I loved the snake-like creature, and I loved the way the biologist reacted to it.  There's a part of me that would think a brand new life form is adorable too, though I probably wouldn't stand so close.  Also, I may have gotten giddy when it went after him.  What can I say, there's a part of me that's still siding with the creatures, regardless of what they look like.

The scene where Shaw cuts the alien creature out of her was just a fantastic piece of film.  Wonderfully tense and squirm-worthy.  Another wonderful tense moment is when they wake up the Engineer and face him for the first time.  They are all so desperate for answers, and the fact that he immediately attempts to kill them all is kind of beautiful to me.  It reminds me a bit of Dr. Frankenstein being confronted by his monster for the first time, as the Engineer seemed to have no real interest in interacting with its creations.  Of course, his real feelings are left up to our own interpretation, as the survivors are left still not knowing why they were created or why they were going to be destroyed.  Personally, I'm of the opinion that we were only meant to be hosts for the xenomorphs to begin with - a sort of intermediate species to help facilitate the growth of the weapon.  But the beauty of it is that you can decide whatever you want here.

Also, I know I'm not the only one who gasped when that chair rose from the Engineer's platform, right?  While watching the original Alien I was wondering where that creature had come from, and it was pretty cool to get an answer, even if this isn't the same chair or spaceship. (I've seen people say this was spoiled in the trailer, but I guess I missed it.)

Prometheus is not a perfect film by any means, but I still think it's a good one. I've read lots of analysis since I originally saw it, and I'll admit I can't disagree with a lot of the problems people had with the film in terms of its unanswered questions and strange motives of the characters.  But I still think there's enough good here that I can overlook it.  In terms of the series as a whole, I think I would rate this behind Alien and before Aliens for me, though I'm not sure it's entirely fair to judge it by those merits.  I  think it belongs in a class by itself, and feels much more like a different series in the same universe.  Which is in contrast to another series that was forced together with this one just for the sake of having a little fun.

Oh, did you think my marathon was over?  Nope!  But before I look at the crossover films, I'll be taking a look at the Predator series.  Predator is up next!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alien Resurrection

There are times when I think people were right in telling me to stay away from Alien 3, but I can't say I agree when it comes to Alien Resurrection.  And yet, I'm also highly divided on this film.  Bringing Ripley back to life after that emotional death scene is one small problem, and the fact that this movie takes place 200 years later creates a hugely different mood.  I'm never quite sure if I like it or not.

Ripley is not quite herself, though that's certainly understandable in the context of the story.  Honestly, even without the fact that her DNA is now mixed with the queen, Ripley has every right to be indifferent and pissed off at everyone around her.  The government brought her back as a host for creatures that ruined her life that they now want to train as soldiers.  The mercenaries only keep her around because she knows how to kill the things.  But despite it all she still respects human life and wants to save it.  I'm glad they didn't try to make her evil because that would have just come off ridiculous.

Of course, the script was written by Joss Whedon, so the fact that both Ripley and Call are portrayed as strong characters here is no surprise.  There's also some touches of his humor peppered through the film in the way the mercenaries talk.  Could they have been an influence for the Firefly crew?  It seems likely.  Nearly all the characters manage to remain likeable with the exception of the two evil scientists we're meant to hate.  Brad Dourif is particularly slimy in the best way possible.  I also like that Call manages to be a completely different android from both Ash and Bishop.

This is our first real exposure to CGI aliens, and I have to admit,  I don't hate them.   They were only used during full body shots, which explains why these aliens have much thinner legs than any previous ones. However their movements feel much more natural than anything we saw in Alien 3, and I like that we also get to see them swim in this film.  The moments where the scientist attempts to train them are also fun to watch.  I find it pretty authentic that they would have no problem slaughtering one of their own in order to escape their prison.  The only real question is why they would taken that long to do it.

The scene where Ripley encounters clones 1 through 7 and then kills them is appropriately horrifying and wonderfully acted by Sigourney Weaver.  Huge credit should also be given to the special effects department  for making those awful looking creatures.

I am okay with the idea of the queen also being changed by the cloning process, and suddenly being able to give birth.  I'm okay with the creature she creates being a strange hybrid, and that it kills the queen soon after.  It is part Ripley, after all.  But there's still something not quite right about the hybrid which is what truly makes me divided about the film.  They go through painstaking effort to give it these sad, sympathetic eyes, yet it also crushes someone's skull without so much as a thought.  I suppose the idea is that the creature itself is completely divided on its own reality.  Perhaps I'm supposed to be just as horrified and unsettled by its existence as I am by the 1-7 clones.  If so, the movie certainly does exactly what it's supposed to, and the moment where the creature looks at Ripley and she regards it with sadness is a great moment.  But I think it's almost a little too unsettling for me to say I truly like the film.

Tomorrow I will talk about Prometheus I suppose from a timeline perspective this one should have come first, but I decided to go with release order.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Alien 3

As I mentioned previously, I was once urged not to watch this film.  That it was rubbish, a tarnish to the franchise, and not worth my time.  I've never been one to take other people's opinions on fiction as the final word though.  I love Van Helsing, after all.  So while I wasn't expecting much, I went into this film with an open mind.

My guess is that the ire comes largely for two reasons. The first is that the characters we became so attached to by the end of Aliens, Corporal Hicks, Newt, and Bishop are killed off almost as soon as the story begins.  We see an egg attached to the ceiling of the spaceship to justify this, but that really makes no sense.  The alien queen never got anywhere near the ship in order to lay eggs.  I suppose you could try to claim that a xenomorph carried an egg in there and left it, but it's just not very believable.

The other thing that I imagine pisses people off, because it certainly bothers me, is that there is no real explanation for how Ripley could have been impregnated with the queen egg.  There's just no point where it could have happened in Aliens, and there's no where in that opening scene where it happens either.  It's just a chosen plot device that we have to accept for the movie to keep going.

The development of Alien 3 is actually a pretty fascinating story, as there were multiple scripts created and then rejected: Some starring Corporal Hicks with Ripley having a minor to nonexistent role, and others where no original characters but the aliens remained.  With time running out before the movie was to be made, the producers took bits and pieces from existing scripts to make their own, and Fincher also added additional details while shooting with the help of writer Rex Pickett. (I'm no doubt leaving out some details here.  I highly recommend doing the research yourself.)

What they ended up with is not what I would call a good film.  The pacing is a bit drawn out at times, while Ripley clashes with the all male "Y chromo" residents of the prison, and slowly realizes that she has the queen inside her. What I assumed was a CGI alien was apparently a puppet on blue screen, but regardless it doesn't work. The movements of the creature in this form are far too springy and just plain fake looking.  As such any real scares are gone.  A lot of the kills rely on slasher cliches that we've seen too many times before.  With the exception of Dillon and Clemens, none of the prisoners are likeable characters and we really don't care if they live or die.  Dillon's sacrifice is supposed to be noble, but makes absolutely no sense and is only there so that Ripley can last until the end of the film.

However, I do think there are some good moments here.  While I'm not happy to see the dog used as fodder early on, I do think it's interesting to see a slightly different xenomorph based on the fact that it had a different species as host.  I wish it would have been a little more different, but I'm glad they at least tried.  I also think Ripley's journey as she realizes the sacrifice she has to make is worth watching.  I also like the way they bring in another Bishop to try to gain her trust, and that Ripley is having absolutely none of it.  While it's sad to see her plunge to her death, I also feel a swell of pride as she wraps her hands around the chest burster's throat, guaranteeing it will die with her.

While getting the disc out of my Alien Anthology set, I had to shake my head at the movie tagline: "3 Times the Terror."  However, I do think that if you're a fan of Ripley as a character, it's worth giving a try.  It's really more mediocre than bad, in my opinion.

Tomorrow I will talk about Alien Resurrection.

Also, I own the NES adaptation of this film, so I did a quick video review of the game.  Check it out here!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


This is technically the second time I've ever reviewed Aliens, but I spent most of the time focusing on Ripley as a character for that one.  I'll do my best to not repeat myself here.

While Alien was a suspenseful horror film, Aliens is more of an action movie with horror elements.  Not only are we dealing with so many more of the xenomorphs here, we also have a lot more fighters to combat them.  I think it's natural that most people are going to prefer one of these films over the other because they are so different, and I think you've already seen where I fall in that matter.  But that doesn't mean I dislike the film.

While it's an action film, it's not a dumb action film.  Lots of time is spent letting us get to know more about the Weyland Yutani corporation as well as the alien species.  There's also a lot of character moments.  We not only see Ripley grow as a characters from the previous film, but we really get to know the marines who join her on the quest, as well as the weasel known as Carter Burke that comes with them and little girl Newt who is the only survivor left on the planet.  I also think it's great that with Bishop we find out that not all "artificial people" are inherently evil.

I've expressed my dissatisfaction with James Cameron in the past, and I think a large part of that is I feel like with the exception of when he's building strong female leads, his characters tend to be one note and cookie cutter.  While not many of  these characters are three dimensional here, they're still endearing.  When bumbling leader Gorman and tough chick Vasquez hold hands as they make the sacrifice that saves the remaining members trying to get out alive, it's a sweet and touching moment.  And Corporal Hicks may be just a little too sweet and noble at times, but that doesn't make me adore him any less.  With the exception of Burke, who's such a jerk you yearn for his come uppance, and Hudson, the ever present whiner, you really want these guys to make it out alive.

Yet at the same time, I still love my xenomorphs.  The design here is different from the previous film.  I dislike the changes made to the heads here, but I have to admit they still look fantastic.  And we still often only see bits and pieces of them, making that moment where the large number of them are crawling at our heroes in the vent wonderfully creepy.  Even the queen is revealed to us bit by bit, and when we see her in full it's to point out just what a huge creature Ripley must overcome.  I still root for "Momma" by the way.  I love Ripley, and she fights bravely, but the queen's just doing what she has to do for her species to survive.

You can read my other review here if you haven't before.

Tomorrow I talk about Alien 3.  Bring your torches and pitchforks if you must.

Monday, June 18, 2012


With Prometheus, the "is it or isn't it" prequel now out in theaters, it seemed the perfect time to take a look at one of my favorite film series.  In reality I don't really need a reason to watch or talk about these films again.  I love the aliens and I love Ripley and that's all there is to it.

If there was ever a movie that I wish I could erase from my pop culture knowledge before watching it, it's the original Alien film.  The film leaves us as much in the dark as the characters until the various details about what they are facing are revealed, and I really wish I could have seen my first facehugger, chest burster, and xenomorph while watching this film.  Even knowing what was coming it's still chilling, so I can just imagine how strong it would be blind.

The Alien series is just something I remember always being there when I was growing up.  The original film premiered two years before I was born and the sequel came to theaters when I was five.  I'm not sure how many years later it was when it had its television premiere, but I remember they made a big deal about it, and for some reason a very young me decided I was going to sit down and watch it.  I think seeing Newt in the commercials somehow made me think it would be okay to watch.  I didn't get very far before I turned it off from fear.  My other main experience with the creatures was during The Great Movie Ride in Walt Disney World, where I may have screamed when the alien dropped down out of the ceiling.

Fast forward quite a few years, and I was an adult and ready to watch again.  It was pretty much love at first sight.  I adored it so much that even when some people tried to urge me not to watch Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection, I told them I already knew I would.  But I'll be letting you know what I think of those films soon enough.  For now, the masterpiece.

I don't like smattering reviews with hyperbole anymore than I like overly snarky ones, but with this film I can't really help it.  The sets are gorgeous and help set the mood perfectly.  The pacing is fantastic, from the slow beginning as we meet the cast of the Nostromo, they get redirected on their way home, and then run into a strange creature which attacks one of their crew members.  But once the alien is fully developed, the pace picks up considerably and moves constantly as one by one the crew is killed and only Ripley and Jonesy remain.

I love that this movie has a cat, and that everyone on the crew seems to genuinely care about him, and that he isn't just used as a way to kill something and make the audience feel bad like so many animals are in these types of films.  I also think it shows you something of Ripley's character that she insists on going back to save him rather than just hightailing it out of there alone.

I hesitate to call Ripley a hero in this movie though, because she's really just more of a survivor.  I think that's one of the things that makes this film work, that the entire crew (well, except for that one pesky android) are just normal human beings.  They react largely how any of us would in this type of extreme situation in all that they want to do is get out there alive.  Ripley does show the potential of being a hero however, in that she's not afraid to question orders and she's always looking out for the safety of the crew.

Something I noticed on this most recent viewing was the obvious influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  That's mostly because I hadn't watched that film before my previous viewings, but I think it's obvious that both the ship's computer Mother and android Ash were influenced by Hal, and the slow mood as we scan through the ship reminded me greatly of similar shots in that film as well.  Now of course so many other films have been influenced by Alien, so it's sort of nice to see the connective threads between them all.

Another thing the movie gets right is showing us just the right amount of the alien at any given time.  It's a truly gorgeous creature, thanks heavily to H.R. Giger's designs, but the fact that its gleaming head, spindly tail, metallic teeth and long fingers are only revealed to us slowly make it all the more menacing and freaky.  While it's a masterpiece of special effects to be sure, I think a little too much of it would make it all the more obvious that we were dealing with a man in a suit.  As is, I remain ridiculously giddy whenever it appears on screen, and that never ceases regardless of how many times I watch this movie or the sequels.

It's worth noting that in this film my sympathies are largely with the crew, wanting them to survive against this seemingly indestructible creature.  That doesn't apply so much in the later films...

If you haven't seen this film before, you absolutely must.  If there's any movie that lives up to its hype, this is it.

Tomorrow I will look at the first sequel, Aliens.
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