The following reviews were actually completed over an eighteen month period in 2010 and 2011, which might explain things if I make the same points or (alleged) jokes.
The tag went “In space no-one can here you scream”, however thanks to hundreds of breakneck action movies (including this very film’s first sequel) nowadays a better one might be “for 90 odd minutes in space no-one can hear you yawn”.
That’s not the movie’s fault, if anything blame the reduced attention span that has meant I can watch a DVD in the ads of a sporting contest, while playing an Xbox game on split screen and absent mindedly net surfing on my laptop during load times and cutscenes.
And I’m only exaggerating just a little bit.
Alien showed that a quality film could be made using futuristic backgrounds and way out design concepts (by H.R. Giger; renowned lunatic genius), without a reduction in quality and realism. And with a horror theme to boot!
Alien finds the crew of the spacecraft Nostromo awoken from (let’s call it) hypersleep to find they are not near Earth, as should be the case, but still in the middle of nowhere. The ship’s computer named Mother has intercepted some sort of signal that has impelled them to cite a space directive saying they must reroute the mission to investigate.
The design of the ship is quite cool, things aren’t all immaculate like most sci-fi films, and the crew actually has two “blue-collar” boys who look after the maintenance and engines, (and whinge about it 99% of the time). The high-tech stuff probably looked high-tech in the 80s, now it looks as futuristic as an Atari 2600 would to a kid with a PS3.
So after some grumping (and some scenes that serve little else but to highlight the ranking order in the ship and an insight into each character) it is agreed that they must take an unplanned detour to look into things and investigate the signal. The landing does not go smoothly unfortunately and the ship is damaged on landing on the moon’s surface, three of the crew, Dallas, Lambert and Cain head off to find the source of the signal while Parker and Brett attempt to get the ship space-worthy, with Ripley and Ash staying aboard to supervise.
Now the action takes place with the research crew, as they near the signal they find an otherworldly structure, complete with what looks like a fossilized creature of some kind, and a lower area with hundreds of seed-pod looking things, only they are a metre tall and quiver when you near them. Cain accidentally falls into the pod area, and one of the pods opens in an ominous fashion.
(It should be noted here that the production design team showed amazing attention to detail, the sets are huge but never really seem to look like sets, they look like spaceship interiors and alienesque creations. Always.)
Cut to shortly after as the three approach the ship, Cain being carried by this point. After an animated “discussion between Dallas, Ripley and Ash regarding the suitability of allowing them access to the ship with a “something else” in tow, Cain is put into the medical bay where they can see exactly what the fuck is going on.
Cain has a massive creature affixed to his face. No other way to say it. In truth I’d be ejecting him from the ship right now, complete with a eulogy of what a top bloke he was, after all no good can come from a massive creature being attached to your face, be it alien, animal or Kirstie Alley, (I know, low blow on an easy target).
In looking at the creature Ash finds some startling facts (for those that haven’t seen the film nor any of its sequels), it has built in defense mechanisms, most notably acid for blood, and seems to be rummaging around inside Cain’s body…
And they are still on the fence about ejecting him!
The famous scene happens a little later, when Cain awakes seemingly no worse for wear, and the crew decide to have a little dinner party to celebrate a job well done before returning to hypersleep for the final leg home.
Commence Ash retching a bit, flailing for a few seconds, lying on his back and giving painful birth through his chest cavity to a bouncing baby alien, that looks about, has a quick scream to set the tone and promptly fucks off while the crew look at each other. Fair enough too, that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day.
The rest of the film involves the 6 survivors attempting to locate and destroy the being. They split into two teams initially (never a good idea), and set about hunting the thing down, perhaps in a large Tupperware container?
Now seeing this isn’t your ordinary pet it shouldn’t have come as a massive shock to find our little 12 inch buddy is now well over 7 ft tall, and all in a matter of hours, our little guy is growing up fast!
The scenes involving the gradual “thinning out” of the crew are quite effective, even if slow and deliberate by today’s standards of wham-bam thank you ma’am’s. The filmmakers utilize minimal music and allow the magnitude of the creatures development become gradually apparent to both the audience and the unfortunates who come across him.
There are a few “Boo! Oh shit it’s the stupid cat” scares along the way, but thankfully these are kept to a minimum and the bulk of the tension is well earned, all the way to the very bitter end.
Final Rating – 8 / 10. Undoubtedly a landmark in sci-fi and film in general, but so was the invention of the wheel more noteworthy at the time. Compared to what has come since this is still a solid 8 though.
Aliens is as good a film as there has been over the last 30 years, better than almost everything that preceded it and 99.99% of what has come since. Even with all the advances in technology and filmmaking techniques James Cameron’s own opus Avatar is a couple rungs lower than both this and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the only action/sci-fi films that I deem this near to cinematic perfection.
Aliens again alongside T2, proves that some sequels can actually be superior to the original works, and that sci-fi films when seriously handled can be both credible and immensely entertaining.
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After the shambles that occurred aboard the space vessel Nostromo in the original Alien film, the only survivor Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her cat floated aimlessly for many years in the escape pod until they were found. 57 years in fact. This meant that Ripley had actually outlived her daughter and all known relatives, so she was handed back to her employer as the nearest thing to next of kin. After some initial questioning the company decide to pin the disaster on Ripley, conveniently ignoring all references to a 9 foot tall drooling creature with acid blood as the fanciful ramblings of a lunatic.
(There is no reference to whether the cat was charged also.)
Not long after her return to the real world, Ripley’s former employer sends a representative Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) to ask for help. It turns out that the deserted planet on which the alien life form was found had been colonized, and until recently regular contact was made with the 70 families entrusted with trying to make the planet more inhabitable based on the planet. But recently all contact was lost…
After much soul searching Ripley agrees to go on the search mission, as long as the one priority is to wipe out any non-human located. She joins a bunch of bonehead soldiers, along with Burke, and soon finds that one of the crew is an “artificial person” named Bishop (good old robotic Lance Henricksen). Ripley, remembering the fun aboard the Nostromo, is none too pleased.
The soldiers are not actually the normal faceless mob who happen to be wearing the same colour, but rather than describe them all the ones that live longest are:
- Corporal Hicks (Michael Beihn) – Level headed by the book career soldier.
- Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) – Stereotype meathead, all bluster and brag… initially.
- Private Vasquez – To call her a tomboy would be a disservice to most guys, a butch tough talking he-woman.
These guys and I think about half a dozen more are all lead by Sergeant Apone, a cigar chomping black guy with a booming voice who leads by example. Once on the planet surface the “ferry” ship maintains safe distance and the ground crew proceed in a massive armoured troop transport vehicle, initially everything goes smoothly. There are signs of struggle, no evidence though of survivors, and everyone performs in a militaristic (natch) and precise manner. After being deemed “safe” Ripley, Burke, Bishop and the mission’s inexperienced overseeing Lieutenant head in.
Out of the blue contact is made, though not deliberately. A young girl, perhaps 9 or 10 is located on surveillance equipment, after a brief chase Ripley grabs the girl. It appears that she has been surviving on solely her wits for many weeks by darting in and out of nooks and tunnels to escape notice. Her name is Newt, and she and Ripley immediately bond under pressure in a sort of proxy Mother/Daughter relationship.
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Unseen and largely untraceable, the Aliens set upon the soldiers, taking out over half of them in quick time, including Apone. Ripley, again aboard the troop carrier decides to step up as the Lieutenant proves useless. She saves the day (for some) and from here on in it is basically “Ripley & Co”.
Safe for now, the survivors formulate what seems a simple plan. Of course this is almost immediately compromised and the remainder of the film has them warding off the Aliens, and internal forces at times while they attempt to desperately get themselves off the planet safely.
There are simply too many classic things to mention here but the frantic pace steps up yet again once they discover that automatic emergency measures have triggered the self destruct sequence and the whole facility is primed to blow… soon. From here the last 40 minutes runs in practically real time, with an automated warning system calmly counting down till things go boom-boom. Ripley simply starts kickin’ ass and taking names, and the final battle ends with a massive showdown that has become very well known for the 2 gangly female protagonists, one impossibly tall, gaunt and ferocious, the other an Alien-Queen.
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The Aliens are far better realized this time round, meaning that they can be shown in full and don’t come off like a skinny guy in a suit. The mechanics that run the head SFX are especially realistic, meaning there are some great lingering shots with Aliens and prey face to face, or at least in close proximity. As they appear for the first time they are obviously more fluid and flexible, moving with disturbing ease and grace before unwinding to attack in savage fashion. They are single minded, vicious and as it turns out, smart, they stop at nothing to locate the survivors so that they can basically “use” them as cocoons to build more drooling acid-bleeders; and what might you think is responsible for the eggs?
The film is especially quotable even 20+ years on:
“That’s it! Game over man!”
“Get away from her you BITCH!”
And it also features some great character performances, Beihn is strong in his role as the determined soldier (even though he doesn’t have to do much but clench his jaw and look serious), Reiser is especially weasely and unlikable as Burke, and Newt does the job, that being simply to not be an annoying and distracting “cutesie” kid. But it is Paxton who steals the show as Hudson, the first half of his performance is all bravado and cockiness, but after he sees what they are up against he turns into the funniest whiner in a looong time.
The miniature work that is used to show the spacecraft, explosions and terrain is all first rate, CGI is all well and good but I’ll take this stuff any day of the week (even when you can clearly see Bishop’s (supposedly) severed legs near the end). The movie is 2 ½ hours long but nothing is wasted or dull, in fact the final scene comes to an end and the credits start rolling almost immediately (as it should be).
Aliens was ahead of its time in 1986, and I would argue that it still is, as even with all the CGI and high budget stuff being churned out these days nothing comes close to having the visual (and visceral) impact that Aliens still pulls off.
Final Rating – 9.5 / 10. Set’s the bar for all other sci-fi actioners to aim for. So far aside from T2 they are more limbo stars than high achievers.
Alien 3 has been (I think) unjustly panned over the years. Sure when compared to the All Time Classic that is James Cameron’s Aliens it – and practically all sci-fi flicks – pale by comparison. Also when compared to the original groundbreaking sci-fi horror that was Ridley Scott’s Alien, Alien the third comes across as neither original or too groundbreaking…
In truth newbie director (at the time) David Fincher’s Alien 3 is a far more faithful sequel to the original film than Aliens was, which was essentially an especially brilliant space creature shoot ‘em up when you think about it. Alien 3 shares many similar elements with the original, many hapless outmatched victims in a confined space being hunted down by a single-minded killing machine, and despite the undeniable similarities with the first film I think Fincher brings enough new elements and flourishes to the table to make Alien 3 worthwhile, and in snippets compelling viewing – even though when you think about it all the Alien films are basically space monster films.
Taking place immediately, only decades after the events of Aliens – but decades in hypersleep – the escape pod harbouring Lt Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Newt, Hicks and Bishop crash-land on Fury 161, a remote prison planet with a staff/inmate population of about 25ish. After all the shit they went through in Aliens only Ripley survives, which if you think about it means she would have been infinitely better off declining that mission in the first place as she wisely did initially.
Ripley comes to to find that as well as being the only survivor of the last mission, she is now surrounded by various rapists, murderers and plain old nasty types. The fact that the planet is also infested with lice and that all inhabitants must routinely shave their heads bald just seems unfair.
The early stages find Ripley coming to terms with her situation and taking steps to discover is there were *other* stowaways on board the escape pod, including a graphic-without-being-graphic autopsy of young deceased Newt, carried out by Fury 161’s Doc Clemens (Charles Dance), who Ripley swiftly decides to be one of the only sane and non-dangerous members of her new community, leading to the first scene involving nudie hijinks in an Alien film, even though there are no onscreen shenanigans.
The remainder of the inmates have not so much as seen a fully functional woman in decades, and some harbour nefarious thoughts toward her – even when Weaver is mannish to begin with and bald to boot! Sensing this the Head of the facility Andrews immediately requests an evac of Ripley off the planet, and is astonished to find that his request is not only acknowledged but fast tracked.
So with the impending pick up looming all that is left is for Ripley to stay put and keep out of the way of those that might do her harm.
But that’s before the inmates start to go missing.
In desperation Ripley consults the remaining half of Bishop who was unceremoniously dumped on a scrap heap, using him to hack into the escape pod’s onboard black box to ascertain if they were truly alone. Now if you don’t think the fact that the film is called “Alien 3” is a clue to the answer then stop reading this and go and bang your head against the wall for a couple hours.
(Side Note: There are two versions of this film. The cinematic release had the Alien baby born of a dog, the Director’s version released years later on DVD from a cow – why the colony would have a cow was never addressed. I have seen both and really don’t see a huge difference in the two versions, definitely not such a difference that apparently Fincher wanted his name removed from the credits at one time he was so pissed at the perceived studio interference.)
Back to the action; in any case the new lone Alien grows and develops quickly. Very quickly. It soon learns that it is there for one reason only, that being to chew through each and every inhabitant on the prison planet. Hey you gotta stick with what you know I guess.
Once Ripley realizes that they are not alone she starts delivering warnings left and right. As is always the case with these films the warnings are taken as they usually are… until the Alien starts a’chomping.
The rest of the film has Ripley and the various riff-raff of staff and inmates standing around wondering who is to be picked off next and saying “FUCK” a lot. In fact that word is uttered so frequently and so forcefully in this film that I can’t help but wonder if the crew had a competition to see who could deliver the line with the most conviction – and spittle.
Alien 3 is not particularly gory or violent, with a couple of notable exceptions in the latter stages of the film, but even in the early going David Fincher knew that a trickle of blood can go a long way and provoke as many squirms as any graphic onscreen violence. There are a great many speeches in this film, with various characters getting their shot at standing up and delivering impassioned demands with impressive musical accompaniment – often just before they are chomped on. Ripley is a little less ‘hands on’ in this film, what with only one Alien to face, and a special little secret of her own to deal with.
I was impressed with the dinginess and depressing elements of Alien 3, there was none of the flashiness, snappy dialogue or hooky elements of Aliens – which by no means results in this film being better, just different – I liked the adherence to tone and the willingness of the actors to get down and dirty, and again the acting is quite solid for a space monster movie.
This might be the worst of the first three Alien movies (but it slaughters Alien: Resurrection), but it is not the lame duck that the critics and punters have made it out to be over the years.
Final Rating – 8 / 10. A return to the thematic and plot elements of the first Alien means a change of tempo and style, but when considered on its own merits Alien 3 is still a fine – albeit familiar – film for fans of the series.
200 years on from the events of Alien 3 – and the death of Ellen Ripley… and she’s back, cloned from DNA retrieved prior to her death aboard a massive spaceship.
Why it had to be Ripley and not some random? Who knows aside from the obvious cinematic reasoning, but after a few tries #8 comes good and supplies the diabolical scientists with what they are seeking – a Queen alien.
After it is surgically extracted and the former host Ripley #8 is patched up she calmly tells the giddy scientists “It’s a Queen… she’ll breed… you’ll die.”
Now if a clone 200+ years into the future knows what lies ahead (maybe she has seen the first 3 films?) we shouldn’t be too surprised that she is right.
The scientists eventually decide to keep Ripley #8 alive and she exhibits miraculous healing powers and almost superhuman tendencies – the fact that they use basketball to highlight some of these new abilities lead to a scene best described as uncomfortably corny.
Once the aliens put their heads together and come up with an embarrassingly easy escape the usual modus operandi begins, only this time more than a dozen aliens are criss-crossing the ship in search of tucker. In the early stages everyone able to escape does just that, for the rest it is every man, woman, android or cloned-alien/human hybrid for themselves.
There is a cool underwater sequence that looks particularly cool (and as usual in film everyone can hold their breath for around 4 minutes). The Queen seems a lot bigger this time out but gets minimal time onscreen and even less to do when she finally arrives and a finale that leaves me on the fence, it is either plausible or lazy – I can’t decide.
Aside from dredging out the same basic formula of Ripley + stragglers once again the main problem is that Alien: Resurrection is spectacularly miscast. The ship’s commander is Dan Hedaya and he’s just wrong – but believe it or not he isn’t the least appropriate – that would be Winona Ryder as Call, a member of a group of less than honourable space cowboys. The team are allegedly tough, rough and dangerous to know, and with Ron Perlman and the excellently gruff Michael Wincott among their number some of them are – but Winona and a physically challenged and over-acting guy named Vriess it’s more of an impractical eyebrow raising joke of a crew in reality. Some of Winona’s dialogue sounds plain bizarre when she says it.
Team that with a cartoonishly over the top Brad Dourif as a cuckoo scientist and you have a higher ratio of perplexing decisions than you have realistic characters, never a good thing.
In reality this is a 6.5 – a film with a couple of marginally entertaining moments but overall a patchy disappointment, but I owe Aliens so much that I can’t bring myself to do that to Ripley, so…
Final Rating – 7 / 10. (But read the paragraph above) Alien 4: Resurrection is far and away the least of the series, but it has a couple of decent moments. Ripley – even a cloned hybrid Ripley – deserved better.