Alien: Covenant (2017)

2017 #69
Ridley Scott | 122 mins | cinema | 2.35:1 | USA, Australia, New Zealand & UK / English | 15 / R

Alien: Covenant

Following in the footsteps of half the other Alien movies (and “following in the footsteps” is definitely a theme when it comes to this movie), Alien: Covenant introduces us to a group of people who are the crew of a spaceship. This particular lot are on their way to establish a colony when a mid-flight disaster awakens them to deal with the damage. At the same time they detect a distress call from a nearby planet — a planet that looks even more suited to supporting human life than the one they were headed for. Changing course, they find suspiciously human vegetation growing on the planet, but are soon beset by terrible things. Well, it’s an Alien movie — I’m sure you can guess where most of this is going.

I say it’s an Alien movie, but really it’s a Prometheus movie. I don’t think that counts as a spoiler, does it? It’s no secret that Michael Fassbender is back. Sure, he starts the film playing a new robot, but did anyone really think that meant his old character wouldn’t be rocking up too? Sorry if I’ve spoiled it for anyone, but, c’mon. Besides, it’s clear that — despite the initial set dressing — Ridley Scott is far more interested in the concepts that launched Prometheus than he is in creating another Alien movie. The franchise-friendly stuff powers the slow-burn opening and the final act adrenaline rushes, but in between Scott reconnects to themes leftover from the apparently-aborted Prometheus trilogy.

Fit to burst

Now, I’ve already professed to be avoiding spoilers, but suffice to say that if you put Prometheus, Aliens (as opposed to Alien), Blade Runner (yep), and Frankenstein into a blender, then poured the resulting mixture into a novelty tie-in glass from the Star Wars prequels, you’d get Alien: Covenant. Weirdly, it’s the Prometheus stuff in that blend that tastes finer than the Aliens stuff. In fairness, that’s because it’s complemented by the notes of Blade Runner and Frankenstein.

Still, it’s a mixed bag. The scenes of characters chatting hold more interest than the action sequences, which feel a little perfunctory, remixing bits of previous movies with little impact, and are too dark to really appreciate (though I should withhold judgement on that last point, because they looked gloomier in the film than they did in the trailer, so perhaps it was just my cinema?) There’d be no shame in Covenant working as just an action and/or horror movie, if well made — that’s what the films that originated this franchise are, after all — but Scott is interested in exploring something more profound. The problem is that the attempted profundity comes from characters standing around and explaining the plot and/or themes to each other. It’s further undermined by slightly sloppy construction, one that places a key flashback at entirely the wrong moment (coming much earlier than it should, thereby spoiling a later reveal), and a last-minute twist that will be easily guessable to anyone who’s ever seen another movie.

In space, no one can see you look worried...

Worst of all, however, is that this film just didn’t need to be made. As with Prometheus before it, do we want to know where the eponymous beasties come from? It ruins some of their mystique, especially as the answers feel oddly mundane. This is not something further films are going to fix, either; though at this point they may as well keep going until things join up properly to the original Alien, because hey, why not?

Alien: Covenant is better than Prometheus because at least the character don’t act like total imbeciles who should know better. On the other hand, it’s worse than Prometheus because it scrubs out any ambiguity that film left about the Xenomorphs’ origins. Sometimes a mystery is better than an answer.

3 out of 5

Alien: Covenant is out in the half the world (including the UK) now, and is released in the other half (including the US) from tomorrow.

Prometheus 3D (2012)

Rewatchathon 2017 #10
Ridley Scott | 124 mins | Blu-ray | 2.40:1 | USA & UK / English | 15 / R

Prometheus 3D

80 years in the future, a starmap found in some caveman paintings provokes a trillion-dollar mission to the other side of the universe so that the world’s stupidest scientists can (spoilers!) get themselves killed.

It is, by complete coincidence, 4½ years to the day since I first and last watched Prometheus, and this revisit has of course been inspired by its just-released follow-up, Prometheus 2: Extraterrestrial Boogaloo Alien: Covenant, which I’m seeing tomorrow. Frankly, most of my original thoughts on the film still stand. To summarise: it has some really good bits, but then it stops making sense and turns into a braindead blockbuster that doesn’t bother to properly explain its own plot, never mind the potentially-interesting sci-fi ideas it initiated early on. Apparently the Blu-ray’s deleted scenes do clarify some of the plot holes and gaps in character motivation, but other stuff is just plain stupidity on the part of the characters. Or, rather, the writers. Well, one of the writers, at least.

But despite my basic opinion not changing, I’m posting about Prometheus again because this was the first time I watched it in 3D. Hailing from those brief couple of years where the term “post-conversion” was blasphemous, Prometheus was genuinely shot in 3D — and, however good post-conversion has become since then, I think parts of this film make a case for why doing things properly is still best. But I’ll come to that.

Building busy bridges

In general, Ridley Scott’s 3D mise en scène is exemplary, almost always placing objects and characters at various distances from the camera to emphasise and clarify the sense of depth. The busy layout of the Prometheus’ bridge helps this no end, making scenes set there some of the clearest examples. Even on less populous sets, Scott finds angles and compositions that offer nice dimensionality without slipping into being a vacuous 3D showcase. He frequently uses glass to good effect, creating an obvious separation between the clear material — be it a window, a spacesuit helmet, or a sleeping pod — and what’s on the other side, almost casually adding extra layers to any shot they appear in.

In terms of show-off effects, Scott never breaks the ‘window’ of the screen by having things poke out at the viewer, but there are still scenes where the extra dimension is really felt. The storm sequences are a perfect example, with bits of debris flying around all over the place. In-film computer elements like holograms or displays have their own shapely presence in front of, around, and distinct from the physical world they’re part of, making them seem all the more real. Perhaps most of all, the room-filling Engineer star chart David discovers looks great in 3D. My memory of it from the 2D version is an indecipherable array of lights filling the screen, which is probably because it was all perfectly in focus for the sake of the 3D. With that extra dimension, it looks like something worth marvelling at.

Maps to the stars

Having been shot ‘for real’, the 3D just gives everything, even dialogue scenes, a sense of space and distance. You can appreciate the gap between someone’s head and the neck-back of their spacesuit; or, in close-ups, the distinct (but not in-your-face) distance between someone’s nose and eyes and hair. Perhaps the most impressive element are textures, like the hieroglyphs David finds cut into rock, or even characters’ skin — at times you can ‘feel’ its surface, its pockmarks and pores. However good post conversions are, I’m not sure they’re ever that thorough!

Watching in 3D is never going to gloss over Prometheus’ more fundamental flaws — it’s never going to make up for issues with the screenplay or the edit (that said, I’ve heard it makes Transformers 4 considerably more entertaining, so maybe “never” is too strong a word). What you do get is a sense that effort was made to make the 3D experience worthwhile. It may be an inessential component of the movie (a virtual necessity when there will always be people watching in 2D, of course), but it’s one that nonetheless adds an appreciable extra dimension.

3 out of 5

Alien: Covenant is out in the half the world (including the UK) now, and is released in the other half (including the US) from Thursday.

Alien (1979)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #2

In space, no one can hear you scream.

Country: USA & UK
Language: English
Runtime: 117 minutes | 116 minutes (director’s cut)
BBFC: X (1979) | 18 (1987) | 15 (director’s cut, 2003)
MPAA: R

Original Release: 25th May 1979 (USA)
UK Release: September 1979
First Seen: TV, c.2002

Stars
Tom Skerritt (Top Gun, Poison Ivy)
Sigourney Weaver (Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest)
John Hurt (The Elephant Man, Nineteen Eighty-Four)
Ian Holm (Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

Director
Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Prometheus)

Screenwriter
Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star, Total Recall)

Story by
Dan O’Bannon (see above)
Ronald Shusett (King Kong Lives, Total Recall)

The Story
The crew of the deep-space towing vessel Nostromo receive a distress call from an unexplored planet. Contractually obliged to respond, they find a derelict alien spaceship and a field of strange eggs. With one of the crew taken ill they return to their ship, but it soon becomes apparent something else has come with them…

Our Hero
Sigourney Weaver is second-billed as second-in-command Ellen Ripley, but it’s she who’s the voice of reason and, when ignored, the most capable to stand up to the alien threat.

Our Villain
The Alien, aka the Xenomorph, an ugly, dripping, phallic nightmare, that lurks in the shadows, strikes without warning, has the perfect defence system, and is nigh-on unbeatable.

Best Supporting Character
Ian Holm’s Ash is not all he appears to be… Holm made sacrifices for his art: he hates milk, but had to sit dribbling it from his mouth for take after take.

Memorable Quote
“I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.” — Ash

Memorable Scene
Dinner table. John Hurt not feeling well. You know the rest. And if you don’t, you don’t want me spoiling it for you.

Technical Wizardry
The Nostromo’s industrial-style production design is a world away from the slick, shiny spaceships of contemporary sci-fi like Star Trek. A lived-in sci-fi world wasn’t something new (Star Wars and the Millennium Falcon were two years earlier, for instance), but the notion of a spaceship that looks like a factory or an oil-rig or somesuch, and that is populated by the kind of people who would work in such an environment, continues to influence the genre today.

Truly Special Effect
The Alien, designed by H.R. Giger, built by Giger and Carlo Rambaldi, performed by Bolaji Badejo, is one of the most genuinely alien creatures the movies have ever generated. It’s terrifying, too, even after the initial disgust has been neutered by decades of over-exposure in increasingly-poor sequels and tie-ins.

Making of
The name of Weyland-Yutani, “the company” the crew work for, is actually “Weylan-Yutani”, as seen on monitors and Dallas’ beer can. It was changed to “Weyland-Yutani” for Aliens (and all subsequent films and media) because James Cameron thought it looked better with the D. It’s the little things, eh.

Next time…
Three direct sequels, two “vs Predator” spin-offs, a prequel (and a prequel-sequel), and a massive array of novels, comics, video games, and the rest. A new sequel is also in development.

Awards
1 Oscar (Visual Effects)
1 Oscar nomination (Art Direction-Set Decoration)
2 BAFTAs (Production Design, Sound Track)
5 BAFTA nominations (Supporting Actor (John Hurt), Film Music, Costume Design, Editing, Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles (Sigourney Weaver))
3 Saturn Awards (Science Fiction Film, Director, Supporting Actress (Veronica Cartwright))
4 Saturn nominations (Actress (Sigourney Weaver), Writing, Make-Up, Special Effects)
Won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation.

What the Critics Said
“It’s tempting to describe the brilliantly staged scenes of horror and surprise but it would be a shame not to allow the film to reveal its own secrets. Enough to say that the tension is savage and you are held in suspense right up to the end frames.” — Ted Whitehead, The Spectator

Score: 97%

What the Public Say
“in some ways it doesn’t betray its age, and it does indeed largely still hold up, but in other ways its utterly unlike contemporary films. Its middle-aged cast, its slow, deliberate pace, the ‘real’ sets grounded in reality, how it leaves so many things unexplained — in these respects it’s obviously an older movie, and better for it.” — the ghost of 82

Elsewhere on 100 Films
I reviewed Ridley Scott’s 2003 Director’s Cut back in 2009, summarising that “to fans intimately familiar with the film, the number of trims (there are rather a lot apparently) and new scenes (just four) make a huge difference, but for a more casual viewer they don’t significantly change how it feels. That said… I’d call the original as the superior cut.”

Verdict

Ridley Scott’s “haunted house movie in space” is one of those works that an awful lot of what follows in the genre owes a debt to, from the production design to one of cinema’s most iconic heroines. “Iconic” is a good word for the film as a whole, be it the realisation of the creature or scenes like the chestburster. Quite beyond that, however, it’s a terrifying horror movie in its own right, where slowly-built tension gives way to proper scares. Being a great of one genre is an achievement, but to be great in two at the same time (horror and sci-fi, of course) is something else.

#3 is not about Vietnam… it is Vietnam.

Alien³: Special Edition (1992/2003)

aka Alien³: Assembly Cut

2011 #14
David Fincher | 145 mins | Blu-ray | 15 / R

Alien3 Special EditionIt’s getting on for two years since I last (and first) watched most of the Alien Quadrilogy series, provoking some relatively lengthy (for this blog, anyway) debate on my reviews of the three sequels. I refer you to those at the outset for a couple of reasons. One, because a lot of my review of Alien³’s theatrical cut still holds true for this half-hour-longer version; two, because other points in that review may make an interesting counterpoint to the more positive thoughts I now have (“may”); and three, because some of the comments on the reviews also discuss this extended cut, which may also interest you.

They’re also relevant to highlight this point: it’s been two years since I watched Alien³ and I’ve only seen it once. Despite this extended version being 26% longer, that means I still found it hard to spot much of the additional material. I’m sure fans who’d seen the original multiple times in the decade between its theatrical release and this cut appearing in 2003 were able to spot changes much more readily. Nonetheless, a few obvious additions and modifications stand out: an extended opening when Clemens discovers Ripley on the beach; the Alien birthing from an ox (rather than a dog); the lack of a Queen chestburster at the very end. I could’ve turned on the Blu-ray’s “deleted scenes” marker of course, and I did consider that, but I thought it might just get distracting on a first viewing. And speaking technically, I don’t know what the new scenes looked like on the Quadrilogy DVDThe Alien (as I haven’t watched that copy, obviously), but on Blu-ray the added footage, 2003-era new effects and 2010 re-recorded audio are indistinguishable from the rest of the film.

Readers interested in the history and reasoning of this new, significantly longer cut may appreciate the introduction it had in the Quadrilogy set’s booklet (sadly nowhere to be found on the Anthology Blu-ray). I’ve reproduced the majority of it below:

Following its troubled production and controversial release, Alien 3 slowly became something of a curiosity among serious enthusiasts of the Alien series. Not only would its first-time director, David Fincher, go on to become of Hollywood’s most sought-after filmmakers but the film itself would generate quite a mystique thanks to heated rumours of creative interference, lost scenes and even a completely different cut of the film that supposedly restored Fincher’s original vision of what many believed to be a seriously compromised work.

Rumour control, here are the facts. There is no wondrous lost “director’s cut” of Alien 3. It doesn’t exist. Indeed, for such a dream to be realised, Fincher would have to be allowed to remake the film from scratch with complete creative control. What does exist is something perhaps equally fascinating.

For the first time, fans can now experience a restored and re-mastered presentation of the 1991 assembly cut of Alien 3. With a running time increased by more than 30 minutes, this Special Edition contains several never-before-seen sequences that offer a fascinating insight into the film’s difficult editing process. This cut also reveals a combination of vintage, previously unreleased optical effects shot and several newly-composited digital effects necessary to seamlessly integrate new footage into the body of the film…

The Alien 3 Special Edition offers fans a unique chance to witness the lost work of a remarkable director.

So there you go. As I mentioned, this version updates the 2003 one with some re-recorded dialogue.

On my original review, Matthew McKinnon commented that as he watched this new cut he realised “it wasn’t shaping up into a more coherent or purposeful movie… just a longer version with more of the same.” I agree that, to an extent, it’s “a longer version with more of the same”, but I found it more coherent too. While the major plot beats still occur at the same time and in fundamentally the same way, perhaps the myriad tweaks have made it clearer just what’s going on? Or perhaps I was just more familiar, having seen it once already? Either way, sequences and events that left me a bit lost last time seem to make perfect sense on this outing.

Paul McGann as GolicOne of the biggest things I remember being told about Alien³, before the Special Edition, was that most of Paul McGann’s performance had been cut; that originally he had a sizeable role that justified his fourth billing, rather than his cameo-sized part in the theatrical cut. It doesn’t feel like there’s an awful lot more of him in this version, though scanning through Movie-Censorship.com’s thorough list of changes one can see a lot of brief shots as well as one or two significant scenes featuring him. Again, despite the sense that little has changed, his character does feel more comprehensible, so maybe these barely-noticeable additions do make all the difference?

As a little aside, I sometimes feel a little sorry for McGann — since his acclaim in The Monocled Mutineer, numerous shots at bigger success seem to have passed him by. He gets a key role in a Hollywood blockbuster, but is then largely cut out; he’s cast as Richard Sharpe in a major ITV series, but is injured and has to pull out (and we can see where that led career-wise for Sean Bean); he’s cast as the Doctor in a big-budget American backdoor pilot for Doctor Who, which flops Stateside and goes nowhere… He’s undoubtedly talented, but these days seemingly forced into lacklustre supporting roles in the likes of Luther. Maybe he doesn’t mind, I don’t know (at least he got “the largest insurance settlement in British television history” for missing out on Sharpe), but it seems like he deserved greater success. Poor guy.

Still, McGann’s performance here is exceptional, even if it’s still brief. He’s just one member of an outstanding British cast though, many of whom are recognisable for the excellent work they’ve done since. Actors with a PUnsurprisingly, therefore, they’re almost all totally underused. Charles Dance gets the biggest slice of the cake and is as good as ever, but doing little more than show their face we have Pete Postlethwaite, Phil Davis, Peter Guinness, Danny Webb (they don’t all begin with P…) Alien³ is 19 years old now, no one could’ve predicted the future; but viewed with hindsight, the volume of under-utilised talent is almost astounding.

Hindsight also affords other interesting perspectives. Dance’s death is still very effective, for instance. It’s not surprising once you’ve seen the film more than once — obviously — but killing off really the only character our hero (and, by extension, the audience) has become sympathetic to at around the halfway mark? Not unheard of, true (see: Psycho), but still rare enough to be a shock, to disconcert and wrong-foot the viewer.

Plus, we can now look at it in the context of Fincher’s following work. Even though he had limited — often, no — control over much of the project, there are still signs that link it with his later films. It’s stylishly shot for one thing, most of the locations either soaked in shadow or cold light, with an often fluid camera. Darkness litters the film thematically too: setting it on a prison colony for murderers and rapists, the violent attempted gang rape of Ripley, the death and autopsy of a 10-year-old girl… Even if we see no real detail on screen (thank goodness this wasn’t made in recent torture porn-obsessed years), the implication and the emotional connection is harrowing enough. Then there’s the Alien itself, from its ugly birth to its violent murders. Fincher may have not turned so explicitly to horror since, but that brand of darkness does flow on into most of his best films: Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac.

Ripley rapeIt’s also, perhaps, interesting to remember this being Fincher’s first film. He might seems like an odd choice, a first-timer paling beside the experienced hands of Scott and Cameron. But that would be to forget that, for both, their Alien films were only their second time helming a feature*; and while Cameron’s previous had been sci-fi (The Terminator), Scott’s was period drama The Duellists. A first-timer — especially one versed in commercials and music videos — isn’t all that different, really, and Fincher has certainly gone on to show his worth. Indeed, his very next film was the incredible Se7en.

Alien³’s Special Edition didn’t strike me as massively different from the theatrical cut, despite some obvious changes, with the exception that I now found it to be more intelligible. Whereas before I thought it started well and became less coherent — and, consequently, less good — as it went on, with this version I felt I was following the story and characters throughout. As a result, I enjoyed it more. Perhaps it also benefitted from my viewing situation: the first time I watched it within days of both Alien and Aliens; this time, I chose to watch it in isolation. Whatever the reasons, this Special Edition earns Alien³ an extra star from me.

4 out of 5

* Cameron’s name is on Piranha II, and it is a fun joke to think such dross was his directorial debut, but his version (at least) of the behind-the-scenes story suggests it should in honesty be ignored. If you prefer, imagine I said Aliens was only his second major feature.

I watched the Alien³: Special Edition as part of a David Fincher Week. Read my thoughts on all his films to date here.

What price a ‘Definitive Cut’?

Provoked by, of all things, the Blu-ray release of The Wolfman (this started out as the opening paragraph of my review of that — oh how it grew), I’ve once again been musing on one of my ‘favourite’ topics. No, not “what’s TV and what’s film these days?”, but “which version of a film is definitive these days?”

I apologise if I’ve written extensively on this before; I think I’ve only had the odd random muse in a review, at most. So, much as I got the TV thing out of my system (a bit) in that editorial, here’s an attempt at the “definitive cut” one:

The age of DVD has managed to throw up all kinds of questions about what is the definitive version of a film. Never mind issues of incorrect aspect ratios, fiddled colour timing, or excessive digital processing — these are all potentially problems, yes, but usually quite easy to see where the correct version lies. The question of a ‘definitive version’ comes in the multitude of Director’s Cuts, Extended Cuts, Harder Cuts, Extreme Cuts — whatever label the marketing boys & girls slap on them, Longer Versions You Didn’t See In The Cinema is what they are. But are they better? Or more definitive? Does it matter?

So many consumers hold off for the DVD these days, especially with the added quality offered by Blu-ray, that the old answer of “what was released in the cinema” doesn’t necessarily hold true any more. Filmmakers know some will be waiting for the DVD, so are less concerned with releasing a studio-mandated, shorter, mass audience friendly cut into cinemas when their fuller vision can be found on DVD. Equally, the PR people know that “longer cut!” and “not seen in cinemas!” and other such slogans can help sell DVDs, and so may be forcing needless and unwelcome extensions onto filmmakers. Then there’s all those older directors who think they’re doing a good thing finally getting to tamper with their film 30 years on, who may well be misguided.

Some make it nice and clear for us. Ridley Scott, for example, is particularly good at this: Blade Runner has taken decades to get right, but The Final Cut is quite obviously the last word on this; he was well known to be unhappy with the theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven, and was vindicated when the aptly-titled (for once) Director’s Cut received much improved reviews; conversely, he’s been very clear that the Director’s Cut of Alien and Extended Cut of Gladiator are not his preferred versions, just interesting alternate/longer edits.

On the other hand, Oliver Stone has now churned out three versions of Alexander [2015 edit: now four], each with significantly differing structures and content. None have received particularly good reviews. Is one the definitive cut? Or is it just a very public example of the editing process; what difference inclusions, exclusions, and structural overhauls can (or, perhaps, can’t) make?

The issue is somewhat brushed aside by two things, I think. Firstly, most stuff that suffers this treatment is tosh. Who cares which version of Max Payne or Hitman or Beowulf or either AvP or any number of teen-focused comedies is ‘definitive’ — no one liked them in the first place and they’ll be all but forgotten within a decade or two, at most (well, not AvP, sadly — its connection to two major franchises will see to that).

Secondly, more often than not both versions are available. Coppola may have vowed never to release the pre-Redux Apocalypse Now ever again, but the most recent DVDs [and, later, Blu-rays] include both cuts — listen to him or go with the original theatrical cut, it’s your choice. The same goes for Terminator 2, or indeed a good deal of the rubbish listed above. Rare is the film that doesn’t fit into one of these two camps, or the third “it’s been made clear” one.

So, with all that said, does it even matter? If we can choose which version we prefer, is that the right way to have things? Because, having gone through the options and examples I can think of, it’s not often that there’s not an easy way to resolve it — by which I mean, if the film is good enough to want the clarity of “which version is final”, we tend to have a way of knowing; and if the film’s tosh, well, what does it matter which we choose? There’s every chance no one involved in the production cares anyway.

There remains one argument for clarity, I think. How does one guarantee that, in the future, the ‘correct’ version remains accessible? With new formats always coming along, there’s no assurance that every cut of a film will be released; with TV showings, there’s no assurance the preferred version will always be the one shown (though there’s another argument for how much the latter matters considering they already mess around with aspect ratios and edits for violence/swearing/sex/etc.) But then, even if a filmmaker makes it clear that their preferred version is the one that only came out on DVD/Blu-ray, what chance is there that unscrupulous disc / download / unknown-future-format producers or TV schedulers won’t just revert to the theatrical version by default?

Sometimes one longs for the simpler age of a film hitting cinemas and that being that. We wouldn’t have had to suffer Lucas’ Star Wars fiddles, for one thing. But then nor would Ridley Scott have been able to redeem some of his films, or Zack Snyder treat fans to an improved Watchmen, or Peter Jackson truly complete The Lord of the Rings. If some level of uncertainty is the price we have to pay for these things, then it’s one even my obsessive nature is willing to pay.

There are 20 different films featured in this post’s header image.
Anyone who can name them all wins special bragging rights.

Alien vs Predator – Part 3

Having already published my thoughts on the two franchise starters and the remaining films in the Alien series (crikey, has it really been three months since that?), this is the concluding entry in my coverage of the Alien, Predator and Alien vs Predator franchises.

This time, I’ve covered the sole Predator sequel (to date [2015 note: times change]), and how the franchises fared as they came together to move into the new millennium. Be warned: things only get worse. Much, much worse.

2009 #17
Predator 2

“I’ve talked about the Alien sequels dramatically switching genres, but Predator 2 leaves them looking as if they couldn’t be more alike. Where Predator is a behind-enemy-lines/covert mission/jungle/war actioner, Predator 2 is an urban drugs crime police, erm, actioner… though both with a sci-fi twist, obviously.” Read more…

2009 #18
AVP: Alien vs. Predator
(Extended Version)

“Anderson manages to amalgamate a popular and acclaimed film franchise, its almost-as-beloved stablemate, and an equally popular and acclaimed comics & video game series, and then decimate all three in one 85-minute (without credits) swoop.” Read more…

2009 #19
AVPR – Aliens vs Predator: Requiem

“By not withholding the monsters, the characters’ dull lives become even duller. One of the Alien series’ strengths was in making the extraordinary (space travel!) seem mundane (space truckers), but AVPR makes the ordinary seem mundane, and that’s no achievement at all; in fact, that’s a great big failure.” Read more…


And that’s it.

Except not for long, because at some point I’ll surely share another three-film entry covering the various extended versions of the three Alien sequels. And then, of course, Robert Rodriguez is working on a Predator continuation/reboot, supposedly still called Predators, not to mention the much-discussed Ridley Scott reboot/remake/prequel of Alien. Each project has good people involved, but it remains to be seen if any of them can pull it off.

Still, you can’t get worse than AVPR, right?

Though, they said that about AVP

Alien vs Predator – Part 2

Five weeks ago (crikey, time flies) I began my series of reviews of the Alien, Predator and Alien vs Predator franchises with my thoughts on Alien: The Director’s Cut and the original Predator, both of which I’d seen before. Over the past few days I’ve moved on to the remaining Alien films, all of which I viewed in their original theatrical cuts and all of which were new to me.

Here’s a handy summary of what you may’ve missed, then, if you somehow had something better to do on a sunny summer weekend than check blogs every day.

2009 #14
Aliens

“Where Alien is a Horror Movie — but in space — Aliens is a War Movie — but in space. The central characters are a team of marines, as opposed to the original’s ordinary guys; where the first film’s design was dark, shadowy and oppressive, here it’s all gleaming tech, tanks and guns and spaceships and the like; and, just to underline the point, the score is full of military drums.” Read more…

2009 #15
Alien³

“Even if in some ways 3 combines the first two — single Alien, claustrophobia, unarmed heroes; but there are lots of them, most with experience of killing — it adds enough variety, especially stylistically… it soon turns dark, dirty and decrepit, abandoning both the the military sheen of Aliens and the old tanker grime of Alien.” Read more…

2009 #16
Alien Resurrection

“the most notable differences are its black humour, where the tastes of both [writer] Whedon and director Jeunet make their mark, and how grotesque it is — almost two extremes walking hand-in-hand. The deformed, perverted Ripley clones; the Hybrid; the Ripley-Alien sex scene — there’s nothing like this in the other films, and that’s a grand thing.” Read more…


In the third and final part of this series I’ll be setting my sights on the allegedly-underrated Predator 2 and the much-hated pair of AVP and AVPR.

Alien vs Predator – Part 1

If you happen to keep an eye on my coming soon page or have been following me on Twitter, you may’ve noticed that I recently watched all eight films in the Alien, Predator and Alien vs Predator franchises, the majority of them for the first time.

As I’m sure you know, I normally only review films I’ve not seen before. In the interests of being thorough, however (and following in the footsteps of Casino Royale, Cube, and the first three… well, really, all the Star Wars films), I’ve also reviewed the only two I’d seen before — perhaps unsurprisingly, Alien and Predator themselves.

2009 #13a
Alien: The Director’s Cut

Alien feels unchanged. It’s been said many times before but, first and foremost, it’s a horror movie — it just happens to be one set in space with plenty of sci-fi trappings… Whatever effect Scott’s trims may have had, they haven’t made it any less effective in this regard” Read more…

2009 #16a
Predator

“it’s an entertaining war flick that turns into a sci-fi/action/horror skirmish thingy — but it doesn’t have the same finesse that imbues Alien and its sequel.” Read more…


Reviews for the remaining six films won’t be too far behind.