But to be clear, Alien is not shock cinema. It is a patient, transfixing exercise in tension. Certainly one of the best films of its kind ever made, if not one of the best, period. A+
Ridley Scott was interested in a singular, isolated terror, and James Cameron was interested in an army of destruction. Both films work, even if it’s for different reasons. And by giving Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) something to fight for (little girl Newt), Aliens is wrapped in a heightened intensity. I will always prefer Alien, but I can’t think of negative thing to say about Cameron’s film. It’s also worth noting that the conclusion to Aliens (“Get away from her you bitch!”) is damn near as iconic as the chest bursting scene from Alien. Aliens is right up there with the best sequels ever made, and that itself will allow the film to live on. A
Alien 3 (1992)
Ripley’s aircraft crash lands on a massive prison that houses deeply psychotic men. Initially, she fights to protect herself from the lunatics who inhabit the prison, but once an alien appears, the group comes together to beat the beast.
To be fair, there are things worth taking away from Alien 3. In fact, aside from its lazy opening, the film isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation claims. I watched the longer Assembly Cut for this post, and I found quite a bit worth liking. The look and design of the film, for one, is very effective. The movie takes place entirely in a wet, dirty, shit-colored hellhole, and you really feel like you’re there. Alien 3 is dirty by design, and I can see small signs of Se7en’s grim aesthetic already turning in Fincher’s mind. While not a worthy of following up Alien and Aliens, it isn’t fair to label Alien 3 as a complete misfire. C
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Alien: Resurrection is self-aware studio trash. Everyone seems in on the joke, including the talented supporting cast, and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who went on to direct Amélie. And it’s worth noting that this movie ends with one of the most gruesome deaths in the entire franchise, as a half human/half xenomorph beast is slowly sucked out of a tiny hole on the spaceship. Alien: Resurrection rarely takes itself seriously, and it should be viewed with that same level of sincerity. D+
Alien vs. Predator (2004)
After the financial success of Freddy vs. Jason in 2003, the suits at 20th Century Fox quickly greenlit Alien vs. Predator in hopes of cashing in on the mashup frenzy. Alien vs. Predator is big budget/low level studio garbage. The acting is hilariously one-note, the photography is flat, and the atmosphere, tension and production design so prevalent in the franchise’s first three films is completely absent. But hell, the movie is disposable fun. And much of that fun is in wondering who – the Aliens or the Predators – will be the real enemy. Who has cognitive thought and understanding? Who is more man than beast? We get that answer, but it isn’t nearly enough to make the movie worthwhile. D
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
Very little in this movie makes sense, and it is baffling that 20th Century Fox would allow a film this bad to share the genealogy with the original Alien. The only interesting thing about Requiem is that it raises the following question: if Aliens and Predators attacked a town in 2004, why has no one on Earth heard about them in Alien, Aliens, Predator, and so on? Perhaps I’m thinking too much into it, certainly more than anyone involved with the film. F
But I get it. It’s not really an Alien film. (Or not as much as it could have been.) It’s a film about archaeologists and scientists trying to discover the origins of humanity, with the Alien franchise loosely connected throughout. For Alien purists, I understand how the continuity of Prometheus could be upsetting. But for those interested in a thrilling sc-fi flick, Prometheus holds up just fine. B
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Covenant has plenty of notable moments, most surprising is the patient, character-driven scene of David teaching fellow robot Walter (also Michael Fassbender) how to play the flute. The scene is captured mostly in one shot, and it is a testament to Fassbender’s boundless skill as an actor. There’s so much going on in this moment – they can learn, they can think, so what now? And Katherine Waterston does an great job slipping into the character type Sigourney Weaver made so famous. However, Covenant is receiving its fair share of flak, and that’s for good reason.
The final 10 minutes of Alien: Covenant are so lazy, I’m dumbfounded the movie concluded this way. The final fight between David and Walter is so poorly edited that virtually all the tension of the moment is erased. And the survivors settling into happily ever after mode is a narrative “trick” that has been wildly overdone, and it’s shocking Ridley Scott decided to use it. Because of the clunkiness of these two scenes, it’s very easy to predict the final twist. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the film. It’s satisfyingly grim, and I am curious to see what comes next. But the cheap ending cannot be ignored. I’ll be waiting for the next one, with cautiously optimistic eyes. B-
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