So I’m not here now to recommend another film, but instead a tetralogy of films (often referred to as a quadrilogy). A tertaology that is about to become a pentalogy.
Not only that, but it’s the best tetralogy that has ever been made(that is, until they make a ‘Jurassic Park 4’). I am of course referring to the ‘Alien’ films.
This tragedy-in-four-acts details the consequences of a stowaway extra-terrestrial monster haunting the life of a female protagonist both physically and mentally.
A friend of mine once expressed distain for the original ‘Alien’ film by implying that it was “boring”. Yes, I’m looking at you Alie of 250filmstudent. I guess deep psychological horror isn’t exciting to you, but it is to me. For all those others out there who have not seen any of the original Alien films, or skipped some along the way, follow me as I take you through the reasons why you should give each one of them a go. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as best I can.
Now, I will not be recommending the films in the order in which they debuted, but rather in order of best to worst according to moi.
Jesus Christ, what a film. I’m not recommending this movie in a “I do declare, Citizen Kane is true cinematic genius” kind of way. I’m also not saying this film was “good at the time”. I’m saying it’s actually dead-fucking-scary and entertaining. Watching ‘Alien’ for the first time on a large screen with the sound up high and the lights down low is one of the most self-inflicting adventures you can undertake. I mean that in a good way.
The film is actually less sci-fi horror and more horror-noir, at least in terms of the cinematography. Sharp contrasts and dark shadows create an unsettling atmosphere which leaves you on your toes. Combined with this is a claustrophobic set-design intended to compound the audiences fears of being trapped with the creature itself. A creepy score serves to remind us that the worst is still ahead and helps to emphasise the nihilistic nature of the story. The tagline of the film really does capture it’s essence:
“In space no one can hear you scream.”
Alien 3 (1992)
This film is something of a controversy. It was the debut film of a first-time director named David Fincher. Grappling with the studios about trying to put his own stamp on it, he eventually lost the battle in the editing room and disowned the project altogether. There doesn’t seem to be a person in the world who thinks this film is worth it’s title, exceptme. I really love this movie.
I know it’s a bastard child born out of a war between artistic licence and commercial dictatorship, but it’s fucking awesome!
Set on a prison planet, Ellen Ripley crash-lands to find herself surrounded by an all-male cast of violent offenders. Threatened with rape and violence several times, she manages to hold her own and out-testosterone the boys. It’s clearly the most butch we’ve ever seen her, with a shaved head and a no-tolerence attitude to boot. Of course, since it’s an Alien movie…there is also an alien.
I don’t care how much Fincher wants it to disappear, I think his vision shines through the corporate re-edit. No doubt, the so-called “Director’s Cut” of some years ago is a much better film and I would love to see Fincher’s original version.
Even so; the story is solid. The characters are flavoursome and memorable with their own ripe unique dialogue. The symbolism of the cinematography has also prevailed. Submerged in deep browns and greys, the movie has a very rustic feel. Appropriate, given that the characters are all living in one giant prison cell.
“The bitch is back!”
With James Cameron comes action-adventure. Thankfully this film isn’t a cartoon like ‘Avatar’, but it certainly does away with the claustrophobia and noir aspect of the other films in the series.
The pulpiness gets ramped up in this 1986 sequel to the first ‘Alien’. That’s fine, not my preference but it’s fine. More aliens, more victims, more gore, more robotics, and more special effects than the first. Is that what you want? Well, you got it.
James Cameron certainly has a way with production design and splashy entertainment, and he delivers in barrel-loads. The finale to this film is certainly more extravagant and eye-popping than in any of the others, and for that it gets a huge thumbs up.
“This time it’s war.”
WORST…BUT NOT ALL BAD
Alien Resurrection (1997)
Alright, firstly I need to say that I love the idea of ‘Alien Resurrection’. In fact, it’s more than that. I love the story of ‘Alien Resurrection’. Unfortunately, story and plot are two separate things. Not to mention acting, effects, atmosphere, and production design.
The whole concept behind Resurrection is “let’s bring it all back”. It’s integral to the plot as well as the title. The wackiness of the story is off-the-wall. Joss Whedon (creator of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Firefly’) wrote a brilliantly twisted script which did a wonderful job of reuniting Ripley with the alien when it seemed utterly impossible. Not only did he reunite them, he quite literally blended them. The problem isn’t so much in the script, it’s in the directing.
They took a wacky script and gave it to a wacky director; Jean-Pierre Jeunet. You know the guy who made ‘Delicatessen’ and ‘Amelie’? Yeah. That’s right. This film ended up being less Alien and more “French Alien”. It’s so french.
There’s really no other way I can explain it. The film has some beautiful lighting, but bizarre cinematography choices and absolutely horrendous acting. The characters are weird. Except they’re not good-weird, they’re bad weird. They look weird. They’re actually awkward to look at and listen to.
I wish the alien tetralogy had ended with a bang, but instead it went out with a whimper. Good effort initially, but it was too bizarre and shoddy. Never-the-less it’s certainly worth a watch to complete the series. You never know, you might like it overall.
“Witness the resurrection.”
EPISODE 5: A NEW HOPE
And now we come to the reason for this entire post. 20th Century Fox has just released the full trailer for the upcoming Alien prequel ‘Prometheus’. Have a look:
That’s incredible. I am now officially more excited about this than I am about ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. This movie seems to be going back to it’s roots, quite literally. They brought back Ridley Scott, the director of the first alien, to give us a deeper understanding of how the original Space Jockey came to be. It looks dark, it looks tense, and it looks epic. It appears, from the trailer, to be everything an alien prequel needs to be. Now, the only question that remains is if we’ll get to see another alien. Who knows? I have my fingers crossed.
If you haven’t seen all of the above films then I suggest you watch them before going to see‘Prometheus’. I promise you it’ll be a better film experience when you know the history. I’ve already given you the reasons why, now do your part. Treat yourself to a night of shrieks and thrills.