The day that my cousin died, I came home early from work and I needed something to focus on, so when I saw AMC was playing the first two Alien movies back to back, it was kind of perfect. I could lock into several hours of mind occupying programming. Watching the first two movies, I had three thoughts:
1) There is such a thing as a well thought out and well paced action movie, so people who make excuses for $h!tty ones under the pretense that action movies don’t have to be smart are full of it.
2) The 1986 version of Michael Biehn was kind of hot.
3) I needed to see the following two flicks.
For some reason, whenever there are three (or four) movies in a series, I always managed to miss one. In the case of the Alien franchise, I had missed three and, although I had seen four, I had blocked it out of my mind, so it seemed like a good time for a rewatch.
But before I knew it, the rewatch turned into one of the longest ongoing painful cinematic experiences of my life.
Let’s start with Aliens3. I originally watched the theatrical cut of this and was sorely disappointed because . . .
1. They unceremoniously offed Newt and Hicks right at the beginning, which to me, was like bringing someone to their grandmother’s deathbed only so they can watch you pee in her face. Un-freaking-cool movie!
2. All of the prisoners in the movie were wildly interchangeable, save for Charles S. Dutton, and the pawlty attempts at humanizing them only served to be annoying. Sure, it was a nice idea to allow Ripley’s doctor boyfriend* a moment to sorrowfully recount how he came to be in the prison colony, but since he died almost immediately thereafter, I didn’t give a crap.
3. Even though they had had five years to work on the effects, the alien really didn’t look that good. In the previous movies, perhaps because of budget or perhaps because of pacing, you really didn’t see that much of the aliens in any sort of detailed or prolonged way and when you did see them, they looked a little softer and more organic like a real life animal would. In this one, you see the thing feeding and running around and practically the entire time, it has that horrible, shiny, hard-edged, George Lucasy, CGI look to it which is no good and made things less believable.
4. The story and the dialogue felt a little uneven. Granted, the director was working without a finished script and the studio was constantly sticking its fingers into things, but this is still a concern with a finished movie.
But it didn’t end there. Upon reading my disappointment regarding this movie, a friend of my friend Henry (the one who works for TIFF and who got us tickets to our ill-fated movie) insisted I watch the Assembly Cut of 3 because it was a far superior movie. Not wanting to be unjust in my assessment, last night I popped the modified version of the movie into my DVD player and gave it a spin. And you know what? It actually worked for me. It only added about 30 minutes to the run time, but just by adding a little more moodiness to the atmosphere, throwing in some extra reaction shots and playing up the religious aspect of the prison colony a bit more, it smoothed down some of the edges and made it a lot more watchable.
The same however cannot be said for Alien Resurrection. About half an hour into that movie, I realized why I had blocked it out: Because it is horrible. No matter what cut of this movie exists for me to watch, I cannot even begin to imagine it being even half way enjoyable.
And the sad thing is, it should have been.
It had Sigourney Weaver back as Scary Ripley. It had a Joss Whedon script. It had the talents of great backup character actors such as Brad Dourif and Ron Perlman (Ron Perlman!). But it didn’t work.
The atmosphere didn’t feel right. The characters sucked and were little more than their props or affectations (Toe Sucking Girl and CSI Guy with wrist guns, I’m looking at you!) and there were so many weird/dumb things going on it was just distracting.
I have come to believe the Christie was a prototype for those dumb dredlocked twins in the 2nd Matrix movie because he looked cool but was similarly useless.
1. The Company’s been bought by Wal-Mart? Exactly when did Wal-Mart become the hallmark for smart, technologically advanced things? Because from where I sit right now, that is a giant leap.
2. Why, when all of them went through the checkpoint and scanned positive for weapons, did no one actually take away the weapons? Did security think that it was no big deal that the scary faced mercenaries were carrying guns and missle launchers with them?
3. If Ripley was trying to be humane to her messed up table clone, then why did she set it on fire to suffer a horrible painful death instead of using one of their handy-dandy guns to shoot it in the head? Torch ’em later if you must, but cut the poor blob lady some slack!
4. How long can people in the future hold their breath underwater for? Did the movie go all Harry Potter for a moment and did everyone have some Gillyweed with them? Because that scene went on forever and nobody seems to go up for air.
5. Why did Christie kill himself? Sure, he’d gotten some acid to the face, but so did Hicks in Aliens and he sucked it up and kept moving. Was Christie secretly so distraught that his handsomeness was tainted that he couldn’t go on? If the gimpy French wheelchair dude could keep going, he should have been able to too.
6. How could Call fall all the way down the shaft and then get back up to the top and on the other side of the door in like two minutes when the only way up was supposedly up the tube on the inside? Does she have some magical I-Dream-Of-Jeanie blinky power that allows her to travel through metal plated walls through sheer force of will?
7. What was their logic for bringing the infected guy with them? He served no purpose aside from supplying some twitchness and a kill later in the movie.
8. How in the hell did the hybrid actually come to be? Because the Queen that was in Ripley died in her in three so were they crossbreeding backwards into another Queen or what?
9. What was the deal with Ripley and the hybrid caressing so tenderly? I mean aside from the fact that it looked a little bestial, Ripley was supposed to be its mom, so trying to slip her the tongue was creepy and needed to be shut down immediately.
10. If the wind was strong enough to suck the hybrid out the window and into space**, why did it not suck everyone else into space? I don’t even remember anyone covering the damn window***!
It’s like if V.C. Andrews was writing a space soap opera!
My friend Jack has tried to debate the goodness of this movie with me but no matter how he extoles its virtues, I cannot now, nor will I ever be able to see the value in it.
So now that I have watched what feels like an entire day’s worth of Alien movies, I put it out to the audience. What say you of the Alien movies? Do you like them all or, like me, do you find the later chapters taint the legacy of the franchise? Also, as a super awesome extra dose of geekery, who do you think would win in a fight: Sarah Connor from Terminator 2**** or Ellen Ripley?
*I’m sorry, but if she was going to knock boots with anyone, putting aside my weird Michael Biehn crush, it should have been Hicks because he earned it.
** Sorry if I spoiled this for you, but the movie is 12 years old so you’ve had your time to see it if it was important to you.
*** I’ll admit this could have actually happened during the movie and I missed it because I was wildly rolling my eyes.
**** I’m specifying in this case because if it were Sarah Connor in her pink tie dyed shirt and mom jeans, Ripley would be the obvious winner.