Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sci-Fi Sunday: Alien

Ooh look, alliteration. Kind of.
I felt like I needed some sort of themed-post thing going on so I've decided to create Sci-Fi Sunday. Every 3rd Sunday of the month (and what ever other Sunday that I have nothing better to write about) I'm going to write about something Sci-Fi related. Most likely movies. I like movies.

Anyway this weekend I watched the Alien films. All of them - Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection. Even Alien Versus Predator, and then later tonight I'm going to watch Alien Versus Predator: Requiem. I have a lot of things to not be doing.

I'd never actually seen an Alien (or Predator) movie before this weekend. I live under a rock, several thousand leagues under the sea. On Jupiter. Luckily for me though, my brother is slightly obsessed with them, owns them all on DVD, and has been bugging me since AVP2 was released to WATCH THEM ALREADY!
Fair enough. He did have a point. Or several.

I'm not going to go over each of the films in great detail because, well most of you will have already seen them, and those who haven't probably don't care. I know I never did. So here's a very superficial view of the franchise.

Aliens are cool looking. Except the chestbursters. They're a little... well... I giggled. The first time you see a chestburster, it's meant to be incredibly dramatic and like, totally scary, because like, nobody's like, ever seen one before, you know? I couldn't help it, it's entrance made me laugh. And then it ran across the table. Man, I was about to die I was laughing that hard. One could say that it was the result of forcing myself to sit through Batman & Robin just moments before - I found it very hard to take anything seriously after that. But the obviousness puppetry of it really took any of the scare out of what was meant to be a defining moment.


But back to the Aliens. I dig the design. If I had to be an evil space alien, I think I'd want to be one of them. Except for the mouth inside the mouth. I want to stay far far away from the mouth inside the mouth. It just continues the chestbursters' phallic imagery, which, to be honest, creeps me out. Don't look at me like that, you know you were thinking it too. If not, well... you do now. Sorry.

Alien was rather average, for me. It wasn't horrible but I never really cared about any of the characters, which made it hard to really care whether or not they got impregnated and eaten. Except Jones. But Jones was a cat, and therefore unlikely to be impregnated/killed. Although that theory didn't really pan out when in A3 an alien is inside a dog. Mostly I just wanted to make sure that Jones wasn't left inside his little catbox on board when the ship got blown to pieces. That would've made me sad.

Hiding skills superior to those of a human. Or aliens just don't eat cats.

Aliens was definitely a step up from Alien, at least in terms of characters I actually cared about, and ergo, suspense. And boy did they like the suspense. It's alive! No, it's dead! No, it's alive! We're safe now. No wait, it's still alive! We never saw that coming! Surely someone would think to check the ship for aliens and alien eggs! We also discover their fondness for air-locks. Sure, it makes sense, but after seeing it used for what felt like the billionth time in Resurrection, I really just wanted some good Kill It With Fire.
Most importantly, we see Jones get left behind when Ripley decides to go with the marines. What happens to Jones after that, seeing as Ripley never ever comes back? I'd like to imagine he takes over Ripley's little house-thing and spends the rest of his days in happy-cat-land. And yes, clearly my attention span is too short to be watching these types of movies, but I liked Aliens. There were believable characters and nifty turret guns, and she set fire to the Queen.

Alien 3 was... fairly good. I don't really remember much of it, to be honest, and I'm pretty sure I only watched it this morning. It started on rather a sour note for me, with the two and a half characters I actually liked being killed off in the first few minutes - Hicks, Newt and half of Bishop dying when their pod thingies hit the ground. Then we get to see Ripley be quite a bit more spacey as she discovers she's pregnant with a really ugly baby. The Queen! But dispite being on a space colony filled with murderous rapists, they're all actually pretty nice guys and all but one of them dies trying to save her. Aw. And then she dives into molten lead to kill both herself and the creepy beast inside her. Oh and she gets a haircut. Which makes me very happy because I've been bred on female leads who look pristine except the token bloody cheek in horror movies, and her hair was driving me a little insane.

After seeing her die in A3, seeing her reborn in Resurrection was a bit... eh. Didn't really care anymore. Interest peaked in the second movie and it was all downhill from there. Swimming aliens were a cool addition, as was Winona Ryder, but ultimately I didn't really care at all. Especially at the end with the birth scene and the creepy scientist fellow. And then more airlockage. Although I did like seeing the human-alien having it's innards pulled out through a small hole. Made me feel better about the whole experience.

"What a beautiful butterfly"

Seriously, did no one else think this looked like they melted E.T.?

Just when all hope was lost, then came Alien Versus Predator. Oh sweet merciful entertaining movie. The whole premise of it was a little overdone but after watching my thousandth airlock death it was a breath of fresh air. I went into it expecting to be rooting for the aliens. I had for most of the other movies, so I saw this one as being no different. However, I definitely found myself on the predators' side. Sure, they're massively ugly, but they have cool weapons. And they're actually pretty nice fellows too, it turns out. The two best parts of this for me were that 1, there's an ass kicking female... who's not Sigourney Weaver. As much as I liked her "I can kill it" attitude, Ripley was beginning to really grate on me with her spaced out-ness in the later movies. And 2, the set design and dressing. All the symbols and the sacrificial tables and most importantly, all the bones. Bones bones bones bones bones. Very pretty. Bonus points also for bringing back Bishop as Weyland, the man who takes them out to the remote arctic post in the first place.

My brother tells me Requiem is just as good, but my memory of the trailers is that this one is set in a wooded area, rather than sacrificial pyramid for death games, so I might not like it quite as much. But what I do like is pictures like this:

There's a few of these in the series, and I think I have The Art of Darkness blog to thank for posting a link to them, although I'm not entirely sure. If I'm wrong, hit me. Or better yet, shove me out an airlock.


Ghoul Friday said...

Being an old woman *wink*, I am generally weary of reviews of older movies by people in their teens. To be honest, I usually read the first line and have to turn away before I poke something in my eye.

I DO make exceptions for youthful folk I consider to be intelligent, and who have an eye for things macabre (that's the closest I get to mushy. Sop it up and move on).

So I had to read your review just to see what your take is.

First, let me say, I'm glad you picked up on the fact that Ripley is a character to be respected. She's probably my favourite female hero. She's smart, tough as hell, and while Sigourney Weaver is fit, she isn't given perfect makeup and a leather suit to entertain the 15 year old boys (and men who are still 15). She looks tired. Worn. Pale. And she talks like a person. Probably because the character was originally written to be played by a man.

And when they shave her head...well, that's worth watching the third movie.

I know watching the movie now - with the scene of the alien bursting through the chest - it looks cheesy. And yes, it's obviously a puppet (a puppet that seems to be turned on a stick). But back then...back when the movie came out...that scene was impressive. Realistic. And you totally bought into it.

When watching older movies, I try to keep in mind when it was made, and judge it by those standards. Sometimes the effects still suck. But sometimes it's almost mind-blowing when you compare it to other movies made at the same time, and when you consider the special effects tools they had.

For example, the effects used in John Carpenter's version of The Thing still kicks the ass of many movies made today, nevermind movies made in the same decade. And I appreciate it ten-fold because of when it was made.

As for the later Alien movies...pretty weak. I wish they just let Ripley get away in part 2. Or at least let her stay dead at the end of 3.

This is one of those conversations I'd like to have in person.

thecadaver said...

Ghoul Friday, I do agree with you on quite a few points. Especially the first one about people my age reviewing older movies. It was something I was wary of as I was writing it that I would probably never be able to give it the reception it deserved. I've been spoiled by years of digital animation and CGI everything. So thanks for sticking it out and reading the whole thing.

I definitely like the fact that Ripley is Ripley, and that they didn't overglamourise her, but by the 3rd movie I found myself wanting her to just get a break already. She was acting like someone with post-traumatic stress, granted, but I still wanted her to act a bit more... normal? I guess.
And she did pull off bald pretty well.

My main problem with the chestburster effect was that I felt that it could have been so much better, even considering it was made in '79. The alien itself (and the facehuggers) looked cool, so the fact that the chestburster didn't was kind of a let down. Although to be honest they still looked rather fake in the rest of the series, just not quite so puppetlike.

The Thing is one of the movies on my list to watch, for the reasons you've said.

I ended up watching Requiem last night. Let down. Although it scared me slightly more as I do live in a small town surrounded by wooded areas, and is thus more likely to happen to me than the ones in space or the arctic, where I will probably never go.

One of the things that I always have trouble getting across in writing is that I did actually enjoy the movies, all in all. Being my own biggest critic I would say I'm definitely overly critical of things - especially when I wanted them to be good. Because I did really want to like all of the Alien movies.

And I definitely agree. I shall meet you in the batcave.

Ghoul Friday said...

It's ok. You don't have to like the chestburster puppet on a stick ;)

I don't think I actually saw Requiem. Not interested in just seeing the two creatures battle it out in various locations. You're a more patient person than I.

Yeah, it's hard to like ALL the Alien movies. Tolerate, perhaps. Enjoy as a time filler. But that's about it.

Enjoy The Thing. It's one of my top 5 horror movies (now I'm setting the expectation too high!). It's got a good plot, solid acting and great props.

To the batcave!