In space no one can hear you scream
The Alien Franchise is a pretty good example of how to make a successful film into a franchise and then destroy it.
Ridley Scott’s Alien. By Gods is this a good film. One of the Top Sci-fi Movies that rewote the genre. Described as a horror film with people trapped in the house of a crazed killer this puts a spin on the idea putting our characters into a space setting with people trapped on a ship with an Alien that is trying to kill them. It is also a “hard sci-fi” film with a large vision in story and production. It is tense and atmospheric and ultimately feels real because there is a lot of improvisation throughout the movie with acting as Ridley Scott pushed his cast to really go for it. They are genuinely surprised as they are splattered with blood as John Hurt’s chest bursts open because they didn’t know what was coming. We have another scene in which Sigourney Weaver is slapped hard across the face on Directors orders to get a “genuine” reaction and we have arguments between the cast in real heated moments that make the viewer all that more uncomfortable because there are real emotions and anger between cast members getting pissed off at each other. So you might call this “A bunch of angry people on a ship” because the story focus is quite rightly about them and how they deal with this thing that’s killing them off one by one. Of course ‘Alien’ is easier to sell.
The Alien is the storm that is ripping through the mining ship. It is disgusting and never seen quite fully till near the end and for me I find that a lot scarier because you always are afraid of the unknown, the unseen danger that can spring up and kill you anytime and when the Alien finally does appear the look of it is frightening enough to match that fear. The Alien was designed by H.R. Giger and is in a way very sexual as are a lot of his art works, but it’s highly suited to this film where the Alien facehugger impregnates people through the mouth. The Xenomorph Alien itself is oozing with slime as it’s mouth comes out of another mouth. Utterly disgusting but gives the idea that it’s going to screw you with it’s mouth.
The Alien is not the only sexual thing in the film though. At the very end of the film Ridley Scott completely captures the audience by having Sigourney Weaver slip down to her undies. This might make people think they are getting their money shot/fan service moment but it’s a genius move as it complete distracts us, making us take our eye off the back ground which has the Xenomorph Alien hiding within it!
Favorite Quote: “You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.” – Ash
Aliens is James Cameron’s take on the franchise 7 years later and comes at a time where he is still an unknown director as The Terminator hadn’t even been released when he took on Director duties. ‘Aliens’ this time is sci-fi action in space and while it retains a lot of the atmosphere of the first film it does make the character of Ripley an action female character of the likes that had not been seen before on film. Aliens was actually the first Alien movie I watched but I would still rank ‘Alien’ at the top for it’s realistic feel and drama about people just doing their job and getting screwed. Aliens makes it a bit easier for the action to take center stage by having our main characters be marines. It takes away from the drama but adds to the action.
Cameron knows how to make an action film and the action and level of threat that he makes the viewer feel is light years ahead of the likes of ‘Avatar’ with it’s clean CGI dancing Aliens. That’s where we’ve gone from. From the terrifying Xenomorphs to dancing blue aliens that look like cute kittens. Ok, the aliens in Avatar are the good guys but they spend too much time pissing around flying on big birds and making love with their tails.
Anyway. Alien and Aliens are films that give you that “wow” factor after having seen them. The design of the films are inspired as are the ideas beihind them.
Favorite Quote: ” You know, Burke, I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage” – Ripley
Alien 3 was a troubled production from the start and we start to see how studio interference screwed these films over. One of the original ideas was to have Aliens on Earth. Now, to me that’s a good way to escalate the level of danger. The first movie is 1 Alien, the second has got lots of Aliens. The 3rd takes this threat to Earth, which makes sense because in the previous two movies the motivation behind Ripley’s actions was to stop the Alien threat from reaching earth because she knows that if they ever got loose on Earth it’s game over. That has been the character’s greatest challenge because she not only had to fight the Aliens but had to go against her own people who wanted to bring it to Earth and turn it into a weapon. One wiped out her crew, dozens a colony. What could they do to Earth and how could that be stopped? Unfortunately when this idea was presented to the studio that runs the Franchise 20th Century Fox they basically said “no, we’d rather just do it in space again” and so once again the idea of playing it safe kills the potential of a movie because nobody wants to see a rehash of a film do they?
The other Alien 3 concepts were to have it on a Wooden monastery floating in space. Another on a prison. The Wooden planet monastery is an interesting concept visually but for story I don’t find it that interesting a setting. The final film was a blend between those ideas having Ripley’s escape pod crash land on a prison colony self governed by inmates who had found God. The concept goes back to basics as it’s once again, one alien that picks people off one by one and Ripley wants to stop the Company “Weyland-Yutani” from taking it to Earth. The same company that has wanted to do the same thing since the first film. James Cameron reportedly was disappointed to see the characters he had developed and saved in ‘Aliens’ being killed off in the first 5 minutes of Alien 3.
The film is less impressive all around. It does have some interesting story points and there is a nice homage to a scene from Alien in which Ripley mistakes pipe working for an Alien, a reversal of a scene in ‘Alien’ where the Xenomorph hides among the circuitry. Alien 3 was a troubled shoot and Director David Fincher has basically disowned this film due to the constant studio interference he had while making it. In addition the story is more formulaic and the addition of a CGI Alien for the first time takes away the tension and fear of the movie.
Favorite Quote: ” You’re all gonna die. The only question is how you check out. Do you want it on your feet? Or on your fuckin’ knees… begging? I ain’t much for begging! Nobody ever gave me nothing! So I say *fuck* that thing! Let’s fight it!” – Dillon
H.R. Giger described the humanoid Alien design that appears at the end of Alien Resurrection as looking like a “piece of sh*t”. I would go one step further and say that’s what the entire film looks like. It’s sad to see where this franchise started from and where it ended up with having everything watered down into a basic shootem up alien film. We no longer have real characters/people in this film. We have characters created to appeal to the “Ohs MYS GODS!!1 THATS EM COoL!!1″ crowd. Everything has been dehumanized. The character of Ripley is not Ripley, a clone yes but this has nothing whatsoever in common with the Character we knew and liked. It’s played differently, all she has is some memories of the character we knew and in the film Ripley has some Alien super strengths and abilities one of which includes acid blood. The (un)coolness factor again. Every character is bordering on comical with one liners and not so witty dialogue. They might aswell just wink at the bloody camera as they say it. Joss Whedon wrote this script and criticizes the execution of his dialogue which he says remains unchanged. He says everything else is wrong with the film except his script. No Joss, what’s also wrong is your script where you try to shove your idea of science fiction characters (basically a pre firefly type crew) into a film franchise that had it’s beginnings with a crew of normal working people who didn’t have expertise in guns, weren’t making ironical comments every 5 seconds and were actually just normal people facing a problem that was beyond them. What Whedon brought to this franchise was the “shootem up” Aliens in space which lacks anything original or creative. He just gave his characters strengths, tools and muscles with which to fight the Alien Monster.That kind of Dialogue doesn’t belong in this kind of movie. It works for a character like Iron Man in ‘Avengers’ who is already an “Iron-ical” character to begin with. The Xenomorphs too who were once hidden within shadow to make them scarier are on full display here completely desensitizing them. Alien Resurrection was almost the first Alien movie I watched in the cinema but thankfully I didn’t get to see it until I rented it on video and was so glad that I didn’t watch it on the big screen as it would have been an embarrassing collective experience to watch Ripley get sensual with the Humanoid alien that looks “like a piece of shit” at the end.
Least Favorite Quote: “You’re a beautiful, beautiful butterfly” – Suder from Star Trek Voyager