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July 08, 2017

Saturday Evening Movie Thread 07-08-2017 [Hosted By: TheJamesMadison]

I’m not Saying it was Aliens…


alien agg.jpg


When I talk about the Alien franchise, I refer to the four movies made from the late 70s to the late 90s. I believe that the Alien vs. Predator movies were originally conceived as being in canon, but that idea never really stuck. I also remove the most recent movies by Ridley Scott as not really occupying the same space either. Nominally, they are the same franchise, but the combination of the amount of time that passed from Alien: Resurrection to Prometheus with the completely different narrative focus leads me to keep them separate.

So, let’s talk about four movies that make up one of the most interesting movie franchises in history.



Alien

alien-2.jpg

The first movie in the franchise is my personal favorite horror movie. Alien combines a smart, tense script, with very good performances, great design work, and a tight edit to create a tension fueled thrill ride that, by the time Ripley is trying to undo the self-destruct, I’m unable to look away from the screen. It was also made in a bit of a rush to take advantage of space fever brought on my Star Wars. I believe that the conversation between studio executives went something like this:

Executive 1: That Star Wars thing is real big and made us a bunch of money. We need more space movies.

Executive 2: We have this script for a space horr…

Executive 1: Green light it!

It's so completely engrossing and taut, that I get completely sucked into the movie every time that I watch it.

Here’s the plot: Ripley teams together with some blue collar types to fight an alien menace in an enclosed space environment.


Aliens

aliens.jpg


The second movie might be the single best example of the maxim that sequels should be bigger in order to be better. More aliens, more deaths, more action, more awesomeness. Fox really lucked out by hiring James Cameron right off of The Terminator to make this. For all of James Cameron’s faults, the man understands story structure so naturally, tension so easily, and character so well that, in retrospect, it’s hard to believe that anyone could ever doubt he’d hit it out of the park.

Here’s the plot: Ripley teams together with some blue collar types to fight an alien menace in an enclosed space environment.


Alien3

alien 3.jpg

If you ever wanted to go down the rabbit hole of development hell in Hollywood, Alien3 offers a textbook example of what you get when a movie is stuck there but eventually gets pushed out.

In some ways, the third entry of the franchise is my favorite. I don’t think it’s a good movie, but I definitely find it interesting. The earliest iteration of the movie was an expansion of the previous film, with more marines, aliens being used as weapons by one group of humans against another, and general bigness. That got scrapped. The next few scripts I don’t know anything about, but the next one I do know about was written by Vincent Ward, the man who eventually made What Dreams May Come. This is the one set on a small wooden world populated by monks. This is where the idea that alien had something to do with sin came from, an idea that sort of comes through in the two final versions.

And that’s really where the problems for the movie is. It’s a hodgepodge of different ideas culled from different versions of scripts. Instead of monks, they’re now religious prisoners. Instead of a wooden world, it’s just a prison planet. The movie was compromised from before they started shooting.

The first half is dramatically inert. The alien is running around killing people, but no one realizes it and no one does anything about it. Instead Ripley mourns for her dead costars from the previous movie (who were all killed off-screen) and begins an ill-fated romance with the prison doctor. Then, suddenly the movie switches gears to incomprehensible action sequences with no sense of geography. Seriously, I have no idea where the alien is supposed to be or how the prisoners are trying to direct the creature to the smelting room. It’s nonsensical.

And yet, it’s still, in some weird way, my favorite of the four despite being the worst of them.

Here’s the plot: Ripley teams together with some blue collar types to fight an alien menace in an enclosed space environment.


Alien: Resurrection

alien resurrection.jpg

Gone is the serious tone. Gone is the terror. Gone is the awesome action movie.
Now we have a comedy. Seriously, this fourth movie is supposed to be funny, and I think it largely succeeds for the first half. General Perez, played by Dan Hedaya, is pretty hilarious. There’s visual comedy along with one-liners that occasionally hit. Brad Dourif is funny and weird in that way he does so well.

And then, at about the halfway point, the movie stops trying to be funny and tries to be a straight action movie instead. This large section of the movie pretty much doesn’t work. It’s derivative, but dull as well.

This is also easily to most disposable of the four, despite, most likely, being actually better than Alien3.

Here’s the plot: Ripley teams together with some blue collar types to fight an alien menace in an enclosed space environment.


Common Elements

Why I chose to focus on the Alien franchise this week is because of what binds the four movies together. They all look great, especially on Blu-Ray. They are all testaments to using models for mid-range budgeted movies. Halfway decent models look better than halfway decent CGI.

As you might be able to tell, though, is that it’s really the idea that all four movies, despite some rather large differences in intent, genre, and quality, all have pretty much the exact same plot. Ripley teams together with some blue collar types to fight an alien menace in an enclosed space environment. The first has Ripley with space truckers in a space truck. The second has Ripley with space marines in a small space colony. The third has Ripley with space prisoners in a small space prison. The fourth has Ripley with space mercenaries in a space ship.

It really is amazing how different four movies with the same plot can be when given to four very different groups of storytellers.


Movies of Today

Opening in Theaters:
Spider-Man: Homecoming

Next in my Netflix Queue:
With a Friend Like Harry…

Movies I Saw This Week:
The Vanishing (Netflix Rating 4/5 | Quality Rating 3/4) Poster Blurb: “Solid thriller with a fantastic ending.”

Pan’s Labyrinth [Rewatch] (Netflix Rating 5/5 | Quality Rating 4/4) “A marvelous and tragic story of innocence and death.”

Independence Day [Rewatch] (Netflix Rating 4/5 | Quality Rating 3/4) “The best damn 1950s sci-fi B-movie ever made.”

Battle for Terra (Netflix Rating 2/5 | Quality Rating 1.5/4) “Simplistic and eye-rolling with surprisingly pretty animation considering the budget.”

Shaun of the Dead [Rewatch] (Netflix Rating 5/5 | Quality Rating 3.5/4) “Funny with a great little take on zombies.”

Hot Fuzz [Rewatch] (Netflix Rating 5/5 | Quality Rating 4/4) “Shows how loving your subject is the first step in making great parody.”


Contact
Email any suggestions or questions to thejamesmadison.aos at symbol gmail dot com.

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posted by OregonMuse at 07:35 PM

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