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I really like Alien 4. There will never be another film as good as Alien or Aliens, but as far as sequals go, this is a good one. Perhaps part of the reason I like it so much is because it wipes the slate clean, it cleanses the pallet from the prior film. You see, I hate Alien 3.
I once heard someone say that if you really like a character in a horror movie – especially one who survives, then you shouldn’t ever watch the sequal, because something horrible will happen to them. Alien 3 gives us this in spades, killing off EVERYBODY. It renders that rousing escape in Aliens practically pointless. Newt and Hicks don’t even get an on screen death. It’s horrible and it taints the entire movie for me. I hated the dog alien too. The rod puppet just didn’t work nearly as well for me as the puppets and suits Cameron used. I realize this is David Fincher’s directorial debut and there are a few good beats, but it’s riddled with stupid things like killing off beloved characters and getting Ripley laid because as the producers put it “It was about time she had a man.”
What really burns is that there were far better sequals avalible. Check out the novels (or graphic novel adaptions) of Earth Hive, Nightmare Asylum and earth War (or Female War). This is a far more satisfying follow up to Aliens and actually can fit in nicely between Aliens and Resurrection.
That’s one of the things I really liked about Resurrection. It wipes the slate clean. It’s a fresh start, without really trying to connect itself as firmly to the previous sequals as 3 did.
One of the big complaints I hear about this film is what they did to Ripley. She doesn’t act like Ripley, she doesn’t feel like Ripley.
This is a clone grown from Ellen Ripley’s DNA, with perhaps a race memory. A few actual seeming memories surface from time to time as well, the cloning process is strange and imperfect, but make no mistake; this is NOT supposed to be Ripley. The characters call her that, and she has Ripley’s face (to appease a studio that wasn’t certain you could make an Alien movie without Sigorney Weaver) but she has a radically different set of memories of growing up. She’s really not even quite a mature adult. In fact….she’s not actually human. That Alien DNA infects her.
Sigorney Weaver did some amazing things as this clone character. She got it. She plays it with hesitation, confusion and an animal bubbling just under the surface. Her character is conflicted, confused and actually more aggressive than Ripley ever was. It’s best represented in the final line of the film where they descend to Earth and she says “I’m a stranger here myself.”
Trust me, you’ll like this character a whole lot more if your remember this. She’s not Ripley. In fact, this was one of the things I was happiest about. I was tired of Ripley. I can deal with her running into these things once….hunting them down the second time, but Aliens isn’t ABOUT Ripley and I was ready to move on. I’m glad this did. In fact it brought a great new cast of characters for us to move on with.
This is another sore point with some people though. In a lot of ways, you can see the template for Firefly here. Joss Whedon has said as much, and he has complained that the direction was completely opposite to the tone of his script. There are a lot of people who think Whedon can do no wrong. They hate this move because he says to hate it.
I’m not one of those people. I Like his work, but find him completely capable of missteps. Moreover, I’m a fan of Alien. I want this to be an Alien film, not a Whedon film. It doesn’t need his quirky sense of humor. It doesn’t really need his distinct touches, this has always been an industrial, slightly dystopian future. It’s scary. Not cute scary, but rather dirty scary. I like the story he came up with. I prefer Renaut’s directorial vision. If a Whedon movie is all you are after, then I understand your dismay at what has been described as a kind of bastardization of tone from Whedon’s vision. Then again, movies are always more about the directors vision as opposed to TV which is all about the writer’s ideas (remember that difference we talked about a couple of months ago in Star Trek 5!). To everyone else, I simply suggest going into this as an expanded universe Aliens film.
It really does have that almost comic book expanded universe feel to it. Winona Ryder’s character in particular feels that way to me. It’s a well done character wit ha back story I really enjoy. It fits well in the Aliens world ….and I’m not usually one of her fans. In a lot of ways, she tries to take the place of Ellen Ripley, though she comes off as a little too young (I know she’s not, but she sure feels that way) and impetuous. Ron Pearlman (who in fact, really CAN’T do wrong) is his usually excellent self and I love seeing Michael Wincott and Brad Dorff chew the scenery.
It holds up a little better these days due to the disdain the AVP films get. Check it out again with some fresh eyes, and while you’re at it, try and track down those novels to see how different the Aliens universe can be without Alien 3 and Ellen Ripley.