Prompted by next weeks release of Alien : Covenant, my A L I E N 1-4 binge revealed a lot and improved them all.
I was not alone in disliking Alien3 and Alien : Resurrection at the time of release. They were, and remain, grim experiences but for different reasons.
From the outset Alien3 has everything against it
- The worst premise of any movie sequel in history
- Lousy effects
- 3rd hand script (who are those characters at the end?)
- Stupid pacing and development
- Only character worth identifying with, Charles Dance's Clemens, dies in first half
- Needlessly Sadistic tone - Autopsy on Newt?
- Abuse of a great director to be in David Fincher
This is a funereal movie, because it hints heavily that THIS IS THE LAST ALIEN FILM. There is obviously a real determination to finish the franchise on a particular tone. (Completely undermined by the cynicism of A4 but we'll get to that)
Fincher really created an atmosphere comparable to Scott's film, and like Alien it is immeasurably better on a big HD screen. Suddenly we can appreciate breathtaking set design, a great setting and some riveting performances.
We still can't escape the flawed concept and the production hell which resulted but separated from the two previous movies this would be a cult classic. A London Shakespearean version of Outland?
If you picked a scene at random someone who didn't know and turned off the audio it does look like an extremely radical Shakespeare adaptation - but what play?
Midsummer Nights Tale
As You Like It (???!)
(We can safely say it's not Hamlet unless the dog/cow alien variant is Hamlet)
This comparison falls apart quickly. Shakespeare's plays stand out because they are the vision of one man from conception to execution. Part of the magic of Elizabethan theatre, is that the artist produced work directly for mass audience with no filter.
The average Hollywood script which reaches the screen is more like a monstrous hybrid of committee ideas that have absorbed and corrupted the world of many talented contributors into a series of experiments until something accidentally stumbles onto the screen.
Let us bow our heads briefly to
Vincent Ward's Alien3
William Gibson Alien3
In fact the best 'Assembley Cut' of this movie was only put together by someone else, Charles de Lauzirika, as David Fincher absolutely refused to return to the project - so actually my Shakespeare comparison could not be farther off, Elizabethan theater is the complete opposite of Alien3, and it's similarly compromised sequel.
A vast improvement over the original release, which makes the most of a great setting and provides a reasonably coherent storyline from one of cinema histories great production car crashes.
"..decision to film outside of England was influenced by Weaver, who believed that the previous films' travel schedules exhausted the crew".
In tone it tries to recapture the action and emotion of the James Cameron sequel, without unfortunately any unconvincing action or emotion.
Unlike Fincher's doomed movie it seems to have a lot going for it from the credits
- Soon to be great screenwriter Joss Whedon (I am another priest of the church of Whedon)
- Great experienced director Jeunet (go and see Delicatessen and City of Lost Children immediately if you have not already)
- Great cast
- Not terrible concept - the human alien hybrid is even worse than the aliens.
But, and here is the main issue, Jeunet's great gallic sense of humour might have transfered to Pinewood but it sure doesn't fit in LA. Right from the off the 'bug opening' gives it a definite Abbot and Costello tone, which was a slur ironically applied the first Alien vs Predator film, and I think we can now comfortably say that was a real step up on virtually every level from this.
The LA shoot obviously killed this movie right off the drawing board. Looked at now the movie functions like a two hour ad for Pinewood Studious and British effects crews. Whole production screams cheapo exploitative LA knockoff, Roger Corman's Alien - but without anything like AIPs panache, featuring fake looking firearms and occasional model shots that would look unconvincing in Blakes 7.
Not that the script is without blame. I've not read the original and I'm a massive fan of Whedon so I'll go easy but this is even less satisfying than the butchered schizo tale in Alien3. I'be heard Whedon defenders its best seen as a dark episode of Firefly but it wouldn't even be a good episode of Firefly. We get the least convincing 200 year time jump ever, with only slight changes in costumes and hair style over centuries. Bare hints that Earth is a hellhole are never explored.
Perhaps most irritating, if you are directly comparing with previous installments, the Alien's acidic blood, a major plot point from the first movie, is selectively forgotten about.
At worst this produces a jokey self referential fan film tht shouldn't be seen outside a scifi convention. Most obvious in jokey self referential dialog which I just don't have the enthusiasm even to repeat.
like Alien3, we just have to accept it, on some level, to get over it. and we can. Alien Resurrection is a far better a horror film about great concepts and characters exploited by a cynical movie corporations than it is about fictitious characters exploited by fictional aliens and corporations.
Like '8' herself Alien Resurrection is a abortive experiment which should probably never happened but did. The self referential quote we should be referencing a quote from Aliens
"You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage"
When the Newborn butchers the Alien Queen we are forced to conclude human cynicism is even more powerful than the Aliens themselves, but by then the existence of the movie itself has made that obvious. It appears the only way to go after undermining the honest desolation of Alien3 is jokey cynicism on very level, and the jokes aren't even funny.
Ironically the best scene, when '8' finds her predecessors in room 1-7, hints at the creative waste and loss behind the scenes. You can almost see ruined sequel concepts and great ideas suffering in the background and perhaps Ripley/Weavers realisation of how much she has exploited and tortured a character that built her acting career. It's the best scene in the movie by a light year, perhaps because it is the only scene with Weaver seeming to care.
I'm obviously not a fan of this movie but the changes made in this version at least make it more Jeunet, so it is at least more honest. Apparently the painfully un-amusing 'bug' opening scene got Jeunet the job. "Jean-Pierre Jeunet allegedly secured his position as director by explaining the "bug opening" he planned to incorporate to 20th Century Fox executives. Ironically, the sequence was ultimately cut from the theatrical release of the film due to budget constraints"
Jeunet at least gives us Earth - and Paris! I bet they can see the Luc Besson museum from there
Surviving actress from classic movie is granted greater and greater creative control over subsequent installments allowing some bizarre selfish creative decisions (Alien3) and some selfish production mistakes (Alien : Resurrection badly shot in a murky LA shed because transatlantic travel deemed an inconvenience).
Haggling over money before committing to Alien3 killed at least two promising scripts (William Gibson's Alien3, featuring Newt and Hicks without Ripley was a casualty) and her subsequent commitment to Alien4, for a bigger paycheck, undermines most of the final funereal intent of Alien3.
Alien 'Directors Cut' and Aliens Special Edition