Sunday, October 5, 2014

Alien series

Since Alien: Isolation is coming out soon, I figured I might as well review the movies in the Alien franchise that I've seen. I was originally planning to dedicate this month to Resident Evil, but such is life.

Alien is a 1979 Sci-Fi horror movie directed by Ridley Scot, and starring Sigourney Weaver and John Hurt, long before his stint as The War Doctor. There were other people in the cast, but none of them were memorable enough for me to care. Actually, they were, but I can't remember their names.
The crew of the Nostromo pop out of cryo-sleep and touch down on an alien planet, where one of their members gets an alien-creature attached to his face. Later, during dinner a nymph of a Xenomorph bursts through his chest, killing him.
Despite knowing who the heroine was, I had a hard time picking out Sigourney Weaver. Probably because she looks a lot like a teenage boy in this.
It's a pretty sweet movie. I'd recommend watching it if you haven't already. It's a great sci-fi movie and a horror movie all in one. And I don't particularly care for horror movies in general.

Aliens is a 1986 followup to Alien. Why it took seven years to make a sequel is beyond me.
Ellen Ripley and her cat are found in the escape pod from the Nostromo and taken back to earth almost six decades after the original Alien encounter.
Ripley reports the incident to the marines, and they don't believe her since the planet has been inhabited for five decades without incident. And then they lose contact with it, so they send out Ripley with a team of Marines to check out the situation.
They get to the planet and find it wrecked.
Long story short, Aliens are obviously behind it.
And this is one of the best movies I've ever seen.
Seriously, it's a great piece of cinema. I know praise for Aliens isn't hard to come by, but I was amazed by how much I liked it. Usually when people say the sequel was better than the original they're wrong, like with Spider-Man 2, which was in no way better than Spider-Man. Not with characters, or development, or drama. Controversial, I know. I didn't like Spider-Man 2 very much, sue me.
It also introduces some of my favorite characters in film history. Corporal Dwayne Hicks, a laid-back, but level-headed soldier who wound up being my favorite character in the franchise, Bishop the android, a pretty cool character on his own, and Rebecca "Newt" Jordan, a girl Ripley and Hicks save from the planet.
The finale, the character development, the whole thing is just really good. Go watch it if you haven't seen it already.

Alien 3 is one of the very few movies I've ever seen that completely ruins any and all potential it had within minutes of pressing "Start" on the DVD player.
It does that by killing off three of the main characters (Corporal Hicks, the android Bishop and Rebecca "Newt" Jordan) from the previous movie in a fashion that seriously messes with the head. Let me get my initial criticisms out of the way. I stated earlier in the review how much I liked Hicks, Bishop and Newt. Hicks was one of my favorite characters in Aliens, and his presence in this movie would have easily fixed a few issues with the plot, and the way the characters handle the Alien.
Now, I might as well get this out of the way. Pretty much the only thing I know about Colonial Marines is that Hicks is still alive in it. Back when I heard that, I hadn't ever seen an Alien movie, so I had no context for that statement.
I wasn't part of the group that followed the news about Colonial Marines. I remember reading one thing on Yahoo games a few years ago about it and thinking that it looked pretty cool. Later on I heard that it got released, but it wasn't until I heard from NecroVMX and Jim Sterling from The Escapist about how bad it was. Later on, I watched a couple of ProJared's videos on the game and I was surprised at how much seemed to have been cut from the final product. The original script sounds like an epic masterpiece of videogame storytelling, as a tale of tragedy and interesting characters in addition to an epic action game.
The reason I bring this up is because I'm pretty sure that's the process this movie went through in development. And because of an idea I have about the events of this movie and Resurrection that ties into the events of Colonial Marines.
So anyways, after having killed off two of the main characters in the intro, they wind up having to introduce some new people to back up Ripley. Granted, she didn't need any backup in Alien, but they had to introduce characters to be killed off by the Alien. Ripley's ship, the Sulaco has caught fire, for.... Some reason.
Apparently two Alien eggs got onto the Sulaco, SOMEHOW. The ship crash-lands on Fury 161, an abandoned prison planet full of Double Y Chromosone prisoners. Not necessarily full of, but they're still the only people who live there. Hicks and Newt are dead because beams from the ship pierced through their pods and impaled them. Yeah, just go ahead and kill off Ripley's adopted daughter and her only equal in badassery. That's not a sick and horrid thing to do to a character that's been through the kind of crap Ripley's experienced!
Granted, I'd rather Newt be dead than raped by the prisoners, but that's only because it would be even MORE cruel to Ripley and more sickening for the audience! And it would make this movie even harder to watch!
*Ahem* Moving on. Let's not talk about the death of my favorite character in the series too much, because that would just pad out the review.
Instead, let's talk about the leadup to the death of my other favorite character in the series.
Now, I could easily get into the scientific misconceptions this film has about what having two Y chromosomes does to a person. An extra three inches of height, a little more acne as a teenager, an IQ that
may or may not have a significant difference depending on who you talk to, and a normal sex-drive and fertility rate. It does not:
-Turn you into a sex-crazed maniac.
-Make you extremely violent and blood-crazed.
And also, according to Wikipedia, they had to specifically mention that "Aggression is not seen more frequently in 47,XYY males."
So that's the entire premise of the prison planet setting demolished by a seventeen year-old highschool boy with a computer and an internet connection. Twenty-two years after the film was released, so that means it's probably already been deconstructed and debunked by numerous people with scientific backgrounds. I still felt the need to bring that up, because it was bugging me throughout the entire film.
So Ripley has the prison doctor perform an autopsy on Newt (And presumably Hicks as well, but that wasn't shown on screen) and they don't find a chest-burster inside her. Making her death and the autopsy entirely pointless aside from attempting to make the viewers cringe and deliver on the "Horror" aspect of the "Science Fiction-Horror" crossover promised by Wikipedia.
Which is something that the movie doesn't continue doing for I can't remember how long. It stays in a bizarre dreamlike state for a really long time before any action starts. In fact, the whole movie has a somewhat hazy feel to it.
I'd talk some more about the plot, but it's so sparse. Ripley befriends and sleeps with the prison doctor, she pulls Bishop out of the trash to read the Sulaco's black-box, and finds that there's another Xenomorph running around the prison.
Now, the concept of being trapped in an abandoned prison with a homicidal insectoid creature and a bunch of violent killers without any weapons could lead to some pretty cool environmental defenses if there hadn't been so much executive meddling in it. Alien 3 was actually being rewritten during filming because there were so many changes dictated by the studio, who then took the footage they had and redid the entire film in the editing process. And as a result, the movie seems too slow and schizophrenic compared to Alien or Aliens.
Now, I might as well note that the alien looks like crap. I don't know how they made it, but it looks like really cheap CGI, and never really seems to be there, unlike the aliens in the first and second movies. As such, it never seems threatening.Why didn't they actually have the alien on-set with them?
Ohh who cares. Anyways, they actually try to  reclaim the horror and science-fiction aspects of the series later on, setting up for some cool environmental defenses that never get used, because all creativity left this film the moment they canceled the original Alien 3, which sounds like a much more interesting movie.
They set it up to kill the Alien, and then Weyland Yutani shows up to try to get the Alien Queen out of Ripley. Ripley commits suicide by diving into one of the worst chroma-key effects I've seen in my entire life.
Remember the ending of Terminator 2, where they lowered the T-800 into a vat of molten metal. It was sad, it was heartbreaking, but above all it was brutal because it seemed real. And that's something that this movie lacks. Nothing really seems real. AT ALL. It all seems like a crazed fever-dream someone had after staying up too late.
This movie isn't very good. It spent too long in production, it had too many people working on it, and it made back three times its budget.
THREE. FREAKING. TIMES. A hundred and fifty MILLION dollars! One of the worst movies I've personally ever seen and it made a bundle of money.
Alien 3 took everything that the first two movies had going for them and ruined it. It made the whole struggle of Aliens pointless. And just to drive home the fact that we could have been watching a better movie, it ends with Ripley's last lines from Alien.
And do you know who I felt most sorry had died? Jonesy. Ripley's cat. She left him on Earth in Aliens and I was looking forward to her reunion with him god-dammit!

Alien: Resurrection is a 1997 followup to the baffling success of Alien 3. It's set I can't remember how many years after Alien Cubed, and follows the events of some new company that isn't Weyland Yutani who wants to use the Alien for genetic engineering. Because it's been almost three-hundred years and WY, Walmart and whoever the new people are haven't learned, after who knows how many people have been killed by Aliens and Predators over the centuries, that they should just nuke them and leave. Because they're run by whoever survived the Umbrella Corporation I suppose... And with that awkward tie-in to Resident Evil month, let's talk Firefly.
Joss Whedon wrote the script for this movie, and it really shows. This movie came out five years before Firefly, but the space-pirates in a sweet ship are essentially Serenity 0.5. In fact, aesthetically the ship they run around in is essentially a more busy version of Mal's beloved Firefly class freighter.The captain is like an underwritten Malcom Reynolds with less morals and a little more disregard for human life.
Johner, played by RON FREAKING PERLMAN of all people is like a lot like Jayne Cobb if he had less restrictions on how evil he could be because everyone else is just as insane as him. And as usual, he's one of the best parts of the movie. Seriously, how does an actor like Perlman keep getting these kinds of roles?
Anyways, while most of the characters that Whedon lifted from Alien: Resurrection into Firefly were a lot better, Johner suffered in the transition into Jayne Cobb. For one thing, he's not played by Ron Perlman, and for another, his crazy-streak is a lot more plotting and malicious in Firefly, while in Alien to the power of four he could have been played a lot like Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z.
On the other hand, they're both so obviously Vegeta clones that it's not even subtle or funny anymore.
I feel that if they'd just played up Jayne's aggression it could have been funny. Also, Jayne is a lot dumber than Johner. Not sure where I was going with any of this, but there you go.
Annalee Call, portrayed by Winona Ryder is the Kaylee Frye of the group. She's an android. Her performance is pretty good. It's one of the redeeming factors of the movie. Sure, it might be misinterpereted as bad acting, but if you've ever seen Star Trek: The Next Generation you know how good her performance as an Android is.
I don't know anybody else's opinions on the character, but personally I think that if they'd done a little more with the characters, gone back to the Aliens they used in Alien and Aliens as opposed to the horrible CG they used in Alien 3.
Which is unfortunately not what they did. They kept the plastic Xenomorph, but at least the story is a little better and the action is a little more consistent.
For the most part.
The crew of the Betty, the ship that looks suspiciously like the Serenity but certainly isn't haul out a cargo to the USM Auriga.
Now. For some reason it's taken a future society that was already over a hundred years ahead of our own society three-hundred freaking years to develop cloning. Why did it taken them TWO HUNDRED YEARS after Ellen Ripley died for them to try and clone her? I figured Weyland Yutani would have been trying it from the moment she died!
Apparently the new people are on the eighth Ripley, but that doesn't excuse the 200 year gap....
Maybe it's the fact that cloning in the Alien 'verse is illegal, but Weyland Yutani doesn't care about the laws of the United States! We know that from about the time they let the United State Colonial Marines go off to a planet full of Xenomorphs to be killed!
Off topic, it's interesting that the only Alien movies that were made in the same decade were the two worst.
Anyways, back on topic. After they show off some of New Ripley's Xenomorph moves with the crew of the Seren- I mean The Betty, Call finds out that the ninja-fast supernatural is a clone of Ellen Ripley, she attempts to kill her. But in one of the weirder scenes in the movie there's a little bit of...
Not lesbianism exactly, more motherly concern I think. Considering how Call and Newt look similar (Hair notwithstanding) I wouldn't be surprised. Unfortunately, they never mention the fact that Call looks like Ripley 8's original self's adopted daughter. Something that could have easily served as decent character development. Or maybe Winona Ryder looking like Carrie Henn is just a coincidence. But that doesn't explain the almost motherly affection...
Okay, maybe "Affection" isn't the right word, but let me just put it all this way. Throughout the movie, there are a ton of moments between Ripley and Call, and I'm pretty sure there's not a single moment where the address the fact that Call looks a lot like Newt.
And then I found out that Winona Ryder has natural blonde hair. Like Newt.
How did they not notice this? It was right in front of them. And they didn't address it.
Granted, it has been a while since I've seen the movie, but I couldn't find anything on the Alien Vs. Predator wiki, or Wikipedia addressing it, and I'm pretty sure that little thing would have been noticed. Even The Nostalgia Critic didn't address the likeness if I remember correctly.
Anyways, they have some classic Alien confrontations. Unfortunately, the new people from Smeyland Smutani haven't learned that if they plan to keep an Alien in the room, they need to keep them restrained and inside layers of calcium. It's simple chemistry, baking-soda and calcium neutralize acid, so why wouldn't you build a Xenomorph cage that can actually HOLD A FREAKING XENOMORPH!
One alien kills two others to get out of its cage, because the new people trying to weaponize them haven't figured out that an alien that bleeds acid and is really freaking strong probably can't be restrained and SHOULD NOT. BE. STUDIED.
In Aliens, it made sense. They knew very little about the Xenomorphs. Alien 3? It was pushing it quite a bit, but it wasn't treated as stupidly as it was in this movie. I don't want to give Alien 3 any credit for anything, but these people have no self-awareness, and are GRASPING THE IDIOT BALL WITH ALL OF THEIR MIGHT. Granted, the consequence of Ellen Ripley not making it back to civilization at the end of Aliens thanks to the events of Alien 3 could be part of it, but they lost a whole planet full of people. And an entire squadron of Colonial Marines. They should have at least sent one scout out there, if not the entire freaking space-navy!
So that's one thing about the movie I didn't really like, but also wasn't exactly thinking about during the film.
It's mostly straightforward from here. They even have a few rediculous things that got my mind off of the fact that the remaining crew of the Sulaco, four of the best characters in all of film, were brutally killed in the last film.
It's fine up until the point of which Call gets knocked into the water during a fight between the Aliens and the crew of the Not-Serenity, and then is somehow up at the top of the tallest ladder in the room. Okay, that's weird but I'll roll with it.
Then comes the time when Call insists they save a guy with a chestburster in him as opposed to killing him. Ripley 8 didn't even have one in here and Call was perfectly willing to slit her throat! Why did she go out of character for that? Maybe it was because Ripley 8 convinced her that even the doomed deserve hope.
Or something.
Ripley gets kidnapped by the Aliens, and the following scene is about as fever-dreamy as the opening to Alien 3. It's weird, comes straight the hell out of nowhere, and seems to have very little bearing on the events of the rest of the movie.
Ladies and gentlemen, a big-lipped xenomorph moment!
A hybrid.... THING gets birthed by the Alien Queen. It looks like a cross between a human and an alien, obviously.
Why obviously? Because screw the viewer, that's why. It doesn't make much sense.
Anyways, the hybrid thing follows them into the Betty as they escape and Ripley 8 breaches the hull, venting it out.
And it was actually kinda sad. Because she freaking tortured it.
So it's not a great movie, but it redeemed the Alien franchise with some pretty cool ideas, and by not being Alien 3.
Now, let me get to my idea.
These two movies have a really surreal tone to them. The opening to Alien 3 is a lot like the dream-sequence Ripley had in Aliens. It's so weird that it barely seems real.
Now, inside a dream time passes in a really weird manner. A minute can seem like an hour, etc. Go watch Inception for a cursory representation of what I'm talking about.
Dreams are infamous for their inconsistency, and we've already established that Ripley has nightmares about her first encounter with the xenomorphs.
And Alien: Resurrection has a lot of weird things in it that seem like something cooked up inside my head after staying up for twenty hours and a night of browsing the Aliens wiki.
And we already know that Hicks survived Alien Cubed thanks to Colonial Marines.
So the hypothesis I'm presenting is that Alien's 3 and 4 are dreams that Ripley had on her way back to earth. Grisly, bizarre dreams where people you love are dead and your old enemies come back to haunt you aren't uncommon, and I say that watching Alien 3 and Resurrection from that perspective makes them better movies. Plus, it means that the heartless bastard that wrote the deaths of Hicks, Newt, Bishop and Jonesey into Alien 3 doesn't need to be hated as much! Because Alien 3 and 4 never happened.

Prometheus is a 2012 prequel to the entire Alien franchise.
It's not as bad as Alien 3, but it's still pretty damn nonsensical.
It's weird.
It's crazy.
It's even more dreamlike and feverish and psychedelic than Alien 3 and Alien 4 combined. It's got an interesting premise, it's not as insane as Alien 3, but it just doesn't seem like they had enough time in the movie. Like maybe something severely got cut out during production.
Or maybe it just didn't need to exist. That's possible. The problem is, it seems very poorly thought out.
Now, does that detract from my view of 2012 as one of the best years in cinema? No. One mediocre movie does not a bad year make. And it doesn't detract from, say, MIIIB, The Amazing Spider-Man, Les Miserables, Jack Reacher, The Avengers, or The Hunger Games. I gave The Hunger Games a lot of crap in my review, but it was a decent movie at heart. It had a lot of great music, some good flow, and again, despite what I said about it, it certainly could have been worse.
I don't mind Prometheus, but I could have easily gone my entire life without seeing it and I wouldn't have missed a damn thing. Now, I've definitely seen worse movies. Hell, I've seen worse Alien movies.
Now, maybe I'm being easy on it because it's not Alien 3. And maybe that's not fair. But I'd certainly rather watch Prometheus than, say, Sharktopus. Granted, I'd rather be watching... Almost any other movie in my collection. Or be playing a videogame. Like Chronicles of a Dark Lord, Final Fantasy VII, Fire Emblem Awakening, etc. I have too many games to be watching bad movies.

So all in all, I'd say you should avoid all of the Alien movies listed here aside from Alien and Aliens. They're not worth your time.