Let’s beat this dead horse one final time by taking another dead horse (in this case lists) and beating it to death. I promised myself that i would get Prometheus‘ review out before doing the obligatory ordered list of my faves, i did just that and now i can have some fun.
So this is my ranking for the proper Alien franchise (from last to first):
I suppose the only reason this would be surprising to anyone reading this list would be if you despise Alien ³. Well, there’s nothing that can be done about that; as Resurrection wins the bad Olympics by a country mile.
However it’s not for a lack of ideas, as the movie is filled with interesting kernels of inspiration; Ripley being half alien, the newborn, the queen being half human, the new droids, the human government and their motivations, etc, etc. Too bad it settles on just mentioning these, or using them for the barest amount of set up; this is especially so with the newborn, as an entire movie could have been done with it along with Ripley’s pull to the creature.
It doesn’t even work as an action movie either, as its various scenes are far too zany in execution to hold any tension; with the ladder shoot out getting the dubious prize of worst action scene in the entire franchise.
Lastly Alien Resurrection failed in its namesake to bring back the series, and after watching it the reasons are quite clear: Good ideas, mediocre execution; by all parties involved.
Being so low on the ladder might have someone believe that Prometheus is a bad film; it isn’t, however it’s undeniably flawed.
While it is visually stunning at times it suffers in the wake of its director’s trimming shears; with Ridley Scott bulldozing important information in hopes of keeping the audience’s attention, and obscuring necessary information in an effort to provoke more audience interpretation.
It’s not a failure in doing either, but perhaps the results aren’t in the film’s favour given the mixed response upon release. It doesn’t help that the movie really tries to distance itself from the Alien series proper and explore a tangential idea (the Space Jockey’s) instead, and while i consider that admirable again it’s brought down by sloppy execution.
Again, not bad, but divisive; and Scott’s direction would yield much better fruit in the future.
I know that some people will probably stop reading this list upon seeing this revered (to say the absolute least) title so low on the list, but that can’t be helped at this point. It’s not remotely a bad movie, it’s far better constructed than many of the other films in the series; as it hides its contrivances well, it pays off its set ups, it’s a proper story with themes and a moral, it’s filled with great action scenes, and has superbly crafted tension.
But in the end i simply don’t find Aliens very interesting in comparison to the other entries in the franchise. Perhaps that’s due to over exposure, to it and what it influenced, as a buddy posited to me recently, and that does hold some water upon reflection. But i’m not going to place Aliens higher based on how i felt 20 years ago; that would be lying to myself and i’m not going to do that.
Lastly I completely agree that Aliens has a legitimate case for being better than its prequel Alien; for the sole reason that it’s so entirely different from its predecessor that the two barely resemble one another. Making it a classic case of comparing apples and oranges.
So which one do you prefer? In both cases it’s an easy answer for me.
Alien ³ (Assembly Cut)
It’s no wonder that Alien ³ was so accursed when it arrived, after all did you watch that trailer? They make it come off as some high octane action movie, loaded for bear with set pieces and explosions, while implicitly stating that the Alien Queen is back. What a bitter disappointment that must’ve been for opening night viewers.
I must underscore that when i praise Alien ³ i praise the new assembly cut and not the theatrical version, and while i haven’t watched the theatrical release in many years my memory satisfactorily places it below Resurrection. With that being said however the extended cut of this film was a bit of a revelation when i first watched it, and upon a second viewing it cemented itself in my mind as a film worthy of the franchise.
Yes, Hicks, Newt, and Ripley die. Yes, the film’s very existence debilitates Aliens‘ optimistic moral. Lastly, yes, the film’s set up is incredibly contrived.
But looking past that we have a film that evokes the tone of Alien (which is the proper tone for the series) so well that i can forgive all of that. It should also be said that i can’t find a reason why any fan of Fincher’s work wouldn’t like Alien ³; as it’s rich in metaphor, visually impressive despite its griminess, and despite him leaving production during the editing it’s a minor miracle that it slots in perfectly with his pessimistic view on life.
Just give it a shot, i know it’s hard, i know we have bad memories and feelings associated with being told that fear, loss, pain, and death are going to be omnipresent in our lives. But i say it’s worth looking at the ugly bits of life for some reflection, in fact it’s healthy and necessary.
It’s a minor miracle how well AC turned out, given that recent sequels have been nostalgia laden remakes, Alien Covenant easily could’ve followed the same path (like Alien 5 was likely going to).
Thankfully it doesn’t, thankfully the film makers decide to flout audience expectations and forge ahead with a new set of ideas for the franchise; as it tells the story it wants to, and the results speak for themselves. While it does take some of its ques from “Alien” (the shower scene being the most obvious) “Alien Covenant” by and large comes out as a refreshingly unique chapter in the franchise, perfectly keeping with the wild shifts in tone and direction (though less so when compared to “Prometheus”) that every sequel has provided. All the while acting as a proper improved sequel to its sloppy predecessor, by clearing up some misconceptions, and evolving into its own beast.
The quality of those ideas is why it’s better than Aliens in my book, and the film’s lack of tact or “respect for the series” is why i would say (hypothetically) it’s a better sequel than Alien 5 would have been.
I know that ruffles feathers, and i know that AC has issues, but Alien Covenant is what it is, and i think it’s and excellent addition to the series.
Of course the original would be in first place, after all if people are going to argue about how objectively Aliens is better by pointing out how much it influenced (likely disregarding how much Alien ³ influenced as well), to which i would then point out that anyone making that argument should concede that Alien is superior, as it spawned the whole franchise.
But a simple fact like that isn’t really why Alien is the best of the series, as it holds the crown for best ideas along with stellar execution. Alien is a reaction against Star Wars and Star Trek, where adventure and excitement are rewards for the brave and curious. Indeed Alien warns us that whatever waits for us out in the cold void may best be left alone; and the people living in those times likely wouldn’t care about what’s out there anyway.
Coupled with unnerving scenes of violence, discomforting sexual undertones, and (at the time and still has) a deep sense of mystery, the film creates a lasting creepy atmosphere; which holds my attention far longer than the action thrills provided by its sequel.