Tuesday, March 17, 2009


My cable package keeps showing me these movies. Can't argue with that.

First, let's forget Alien: Resurrection ever happened. In fact, I might call Dr. Howard Mierzwiak just to get that junk removed from my brain.

And those AVP movies? In the word of Bill Lumbergh: Yeah ...

This is how The Film Official's Alien rankings stack up:

1. Alien

2. Alien3

3. Aliens

Yeah, you read that right. Alien3 > Aliens.

Sure, sure, in some circles, the James Cameron-helmed 1986 sequel is considered better than Ridley Scott's 1979 original -- part of that "which sequels are better than the original?" debate that often involves the first two Godfather and Terminator movies, too*.

*Although, strangely, Caddyshack II never seems to work its way into that discussion.

Aliens even has a healthy contingent of irrational fanboys and fangirls, intent on destroying everything that dare go up against their precious movie.

Well, bring it on.

First, though, let's say that the original is clearly the best -- a Hall of Famer for sure. It's bleak. Quiet. Almost slow -- just to maximize the dread. You don't really like the characters -- a seven-person crew of some towing spaceship -- but it's not as if you completely hate them. They don't have weapons or, it seems, any hope of surviving when that unmistakable alien finally shows up on their ship.

It's the kind of film where you can know everything --and I mean everything -- that happens before seeing it (that's how it worked for me), and yet it's still wholly terrifying. Even the infamous chest-bursting scene* is intense and surprising, no matter how many times you see it. And come on -- Alien even has a lovable cat as one of the good guys.

*No, not this one.

But now for the real alien-fight: Sequel No. 1 vs. Sequel No. 2.

What I can say about Aliens (which, strangely, received copious Oscar nominations despite being a sci-fi actioner) is this: It's a nice, mostly exciting shoot-em-up. It's certainly not bad -- definitely entertaining, with some intense scenes and nice effects for 1986. Sigourney Weaver does a fine job as our hero, Ripley. But that's about it. The script tells you exactly which characters will live and which will die. And gee -- Paul Reiser's character ends up being a bad guy all along? That's so obvious, I didn't even tag it with SPOILER ALERT.

Alien3, meanwhile, is all about atmosphere. The David Fincher effect -- this was the Se7en/Zodiac/Fight Club director's feature debut -- helps it rise above what is a somewhat simple script, even though Fincher (supposedly) dealt with considerable issues while filming.

That's not to say the story is bad. After escaping the Aliens situation, Ripley finds herself on an all-male penal planet, and one of those alien things is with her again. There's not too much action -- like in the original, the prisoners have no weapons -- so the film relies mostly on mood. Although the final chase-ish scene is chaotic, that's the point. Love the ending, too.

Now, for one, final, spoiler-filled note:

In Aliens, two of the characters who (quite predictably) don't get killed off are Hicks (Terminator star Michael Biehn) and, of course, the Cute Kid (also known as Newt, played by Carrie Henn). At the beginning of Alien3, we find that these two have died in some sort of incident.

Some -- it's even said that Cameron himself used these words -- called this decision "a slap in the face." And that sentiment is understandable. After all, Hicks and Newt were quite likable*.

*That's why they didn't die in Aliens ... duh!

So if you share that feeling, here's what you do. Go back to your Aliens DVD and make like me with Alien: Resurrection -- as in, pretend it never existed. Then, leave those of us in the vast, vast minority to enjoy Alien3 for what it is -- a dark, bleak, brooding film that gives you that sweetly sick feeling while you watch it.

You know, like the original.

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