So the other day I re-watched the entire Alien franchise (excluding Alien vs Predator because I enjoy life) and I figured I’d share my thoughts here. The Alien Franchise is quite an odd one, with huge gaps between films and containing not just one or two but four incredibly successful and well known directors. It’s also a series that has been widely reported to have been killed by what happens to be my second favourite film of the franchise. So here goes, in chronological order (in terms of film time).
A team of scientists go on an interstellar expedition to ‘find their makers’. They land on an undiscovered and promising planet but soon realise they have found more than they bargained for.
Prometheus isn’t widely liked by the public or critics and to be honest I can’t really put my finger on just why everyone seems to hate it so much. Sure it’s got flaws, but I found it gripping throughout and it contains some very strong performances: notably Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba and Charlize Theron.
I like Prometheus more than most but it does have problems. The characterisation is largely two dimensional (with the exception of the android funnily enough), and the dialogue has a tendency to slip into exposition mode which can get tiresome. But it is saved by the set pieces, which are in general spectacular and very entertaining.
A commercial space craft travelling back to earth makes an unexpected b-line towards an unknown planet. When the group goes down to investigate they bring an unwanted guest back on board with them.
Simply the best Alien film in every department. It’s tense throughout, it has likeable and fleshed out characters and is genuinely scary at some points. Actually I think what you can attribute the grand success of Alien to is the brilliant script written by the same man who wrote Dark Star (Dan O’Bannon) which gives the whole film a brilliant realistic feel which then allows the viewer to further relate to the characters. You feel like you get to know everyone and that ups the tension massively.
Sigourney Weaver is found 57 years after the events of Alien and is taken back to some form of space station where nobody believes her story and she is confined to her room for weeks. However when all communication is lost from the now-inhabited planet where the Alien was first found, Ripley is called out of retirement to accompany a group of space marines intent on destroying the species for good.
Where Alien was a Sci-fi mixed with Horror, Aliens is more out and out action. Now I don’t know if it’s just because I generally prefer the horror genre to action, or if there is just something inherently less interesting about soldiers compared to normal people I don’t know. But Aliens just never got going for me. There are parts of it I like and I think are gripping, but I just don’t think it stays with you very long after you’ve seen it.
I mostly like the evolution of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley that happens in Aliens, but unfortunately none of the other characters have anything near the level of development she gets. Overall, I just don’t really see the hype around Aliens. Sure it’s good, but it isn’t amazing.
Alien 3 (1992)
After having evacuated the events of Aliens Sigourney Weaver’s ship crash lands back on Earth near a prison block inhabited soley by males. They take Ripley in without knowing that they have also taken in a growing Alien.
Alien 3 is a mixed bag. There are things I really like about it, but there are also parts that are far too long and a little dull. The characterisation in general has taken a step up from Aliens, but the decision to use cgi over practical effects really dents Alien 3’s promise. Because there is nothing worse than really getting into an action sequence and seeing a shoddily rendered cgi Alien. Having said that one of the later scenes in the tunnels is one of the highlights of the series.
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
200 years after Ripley’s death in Alien 3, she is revived as an android by a group of scientist keen to use the Aliens as a weapon. They extract the queen Alien that was living in Ripley’s chest and grow it until it is too powerful for them and it starts breeding, releasing havoc upon the institution and a group of space pirates who just happened to be passing through, or is it as coincidental as it first seemed?
Resurrection is the most ridiculous of the Alien films, caring more for crazy plot points and twists than character development or substance to be honest. Now that may sound overly negative but believe me compared to the seriousness of Aliens and Alien 3 to have a film this fun and stupid is quite a relief. On paper it’s probably the worst of the series, but I have a soft spot for it because it contains the final form of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley: total badass. It’s a mess of a film, but a damn enjoyable one.