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I've Outgrown...Aliens

post #1 of 445
Thread Starter 
An interesting thing happened whilst I was watching the Alien Quadrilogy.

I adored the first film, as I always have. Alien is one of those magical films which just fascinates and amazes me whenever I watch it. And each time I watch it, I'm blown away by different things (this time it was the naturalism in the acting, particularly during the first few scenes of crew interaction).

I managed to get some more goodness out of Alien 3, it's a flawed film, but the Director's Cut at least gives it a sense of order and makes it into a far grander, near operatic, end to the series.

Even Alien: Resurrection was vaguely amusing. It's seriously a good song and dance number away from being a musical, horrendously awful but blessed with this wonderful visual panache which almost counterattacks Whedon's abomination of a script.

But Aliens, Aliens left me cold.

It just seems like such a juvenile piece of work, a masterpiece for the emotionally stunted. It's overbearing fascination with technology and its inability to deal with any emotions which don't fall under the flight or fight principle make the film utterly frustrating. It's interesting that the female characters in the film are either made masculine (Newt and Vasquez are both tomboyish, despite Newt's high pitched screaming) or maternal.

Why Cameron thought that following up a film which was famous for its slow build of tension and claustrophobic horror, with a sequel that was never particularly scary or tense is beyond me.

When I was a teenager I used to think that the Marines were the coolest characters ever, but watching the film now nobody aside from Ripley really seems all that human. They're all one note caricatures and cartoons, more suitable for comic books than celluloid.

I also find that Cameron in this film is quite irritating as a director, he keeps trying to ape other directors or at least visually reference his peers but by doing so he shows off his limited abilities as an artist (The Shining Reference in the Special Edition is a prime example of shooting yourself in the foot as a director).
post #2 of 445
Overlord is going to fuck you up, man.
post #3 of 445
Cameron was smart to enough to know that the scares involving the creature were out of the bag after the first film. It was time to find a new angle which he did.

ALIEN 3 tried to go back to more of a moody frightening approach but lacked anywhere near the amount of characters I could give a crap about that were found in the original.
post #4 of 445
What the fuck is this shit?
post #5 of 445
Thread Starter 
I know, I just need to know if this is normal...or if something is wrong with me medically.
post #6 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike Marshall
Why Cameron thought that following up a film which was famous for its slow build of tension and claustrophobic horror, with a sequel that was never particularly scary or tense is beyond me.
You lost me here.

I think some of your other points are valid, to a varying degree, but I still find Aliens to be both tense and scary.
post #7 of 445
Thread Starter 
I think the lack of tension is because I couldn't care for any of the characters anymore. And I think the only scary scene is the initial chestburster before the free for all. But even that is somewhat compromised by the fact it keeps cutting around the scene.
post #8 of 445
I think Spike's point is a good one. I still like Aliens, but I can see why it would get old. But, I still think Cameron's movie has merit The subtext of technology vs. nature is interesting, at least in the sense that Cameron shows us that all of our technology won't help us if we're faced with perfect, natural aggression.

Also I think the movie is scarier the first time you see it, in a loud movie theater. Ebert said in his review it was one of the most uncomfortable movie experiences he's ever had. Seeing it at home -- it probably loses something in the translation.
post #9 of 445
Yeah, but Ebert also had a big problem about them putting Newt in danger as a plot device, that may have been where his discomfort came from.

I imagine if you've seen Aliens enough times, it's like riding a roller coaster over and over again. After a while, the surprise is gone and you're left with nothing but the rush, and even that gets old, and even exhausting, after a while.

I disagree about not caring about the characters. In fact, I think that's one of its strengths. Cameron manages to introduce and individualize a pretty good number of characters in a fairly short amount of time, without bogging down the build up with a lot of talky scenes. Just the scene in the drop ship -- Gorman's inexperience, Vazquez's reaction to it, Hicks falling asleep, Apone's "Somebody wake up Hicks" -- really paints the characters well.
post #10 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike Marshall
It's overbearing fascination with technology and its inability to deal with any emotions which don't fall under the flight or fight principle make the film utterly frustrating. It's interesting that the female characters in the film are either made masculine (Newt and Vasquez are both tomboyish, despite Newt's high pitched screaming) or maternal.
I think you've contradicted yourself - it's Ripley's maternal emotions that give the film it's emotional depth (all the way up to and including the final battle) and give it more than just a 'fight or flight' ranking that simpler movies exhibit.
post #11 of 445
Hey, Spike!

post #12 of 445
Cameron is emotionally stunted and juvenille as a director...and I don't think that's a surprise, given his tastes/personality/career. He is different than other directors with similar issues, in that he really tries to achieve a level of emotional sophistication and even thinks he succeeds (I mean, is there any other explanation for the stilted love story at the heart of Titanic?).

That being said, I think Aliens is one of his very best films--primarily because it doesn't reach for emotional complexity as much as T2, the Abyss* or Titanic do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike Marshall
(The Shining Reference in the Special Edition is a prime example of shooting yourself in the foot as a director).
I rented Aliens SE recently and I think this might be part of the problem your having. Almost all the extra footage in this cut is unnecessary and just drags the movie on, making it seem like there's more to the characters, etc. than there really is...the original is all at a breakneck pace and there's barely any time to realize how superficial every character, save Ripley, is.

In its original form, its a lean, mean, and scary ride. Watching it at night, in the dark, its claustrophobia and intensity rivals the Descent.

*not that there's anything wrong with the Abyss or T2
post #13 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
Cameron manages to introduce and individualize a pretty good number of characters in a fairly short amount of time, without bogging down the build up with a lot of talky scenes. Just the scene in the drop ship -- Gorman's inexperience, Vazquez's reaction to it, Hicks falling asleep, Apone's "Somebody wake up Hicks" -- really paints the characters well.
Yeah, that's what sticks out for me among the 4 films - the interesting/ sympathetic characters. Newt, Hicks, Ripley; Bishop, Vasquez. Hard to believe the following two films fucked this aspect of the films up.
post #14 of 445
WHAT THE HELL? You are off my Christmas card list, Spike!

ALIENS never ever gets old! Still the pinnacle of the series after all these years.

It's like when my younger brother decided he "outgrew" Bruce Lee movies. You're breaking my heart here, fucker!
post #15 of 445
You've got a cold cold heart if you can't feel for Lance Henriksen's Bishop.
post #16 of 445
Aliens has always been my personal least-favorite of the first 3 films.
I was never going to say anything, but now I can. Like a support group with two members.
It's just so 80's and SO shrieky, all the marine characters give me a massive headache.
post #17 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aquafresh
You've got a cold cold heart if you can't feel for Lance Henriksen's Bishop.
And he's also part of one of the greatest red herring endings ever. The acting, the music -- it sure felt like Cameron was wrapping things up. Then there's Bishop with a tail through his chest.
post #18 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Headless Fett
Still the pinnacle of the series after all these years.
It's not like I can revoke your opinion or anything and I am fond of the film, but the pinnacle of the series? Really?
post #19 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike Marshall
It's interesting that the female characters in the film are either made masculine (Newt and Vasquez are both tomboyish, despite Newt's high pitched screaming) or maternal.
I don't think it really is. This sounds to me like you're saying all the women are either feminine or kinda masculine. If you're going to boil things down to such a basic level, they have to fall in one category or the other. It's like saying the marines lack depth because they're all either cool guys or assholes.
post #20 of 445
I think this admission is grounds for a banning.
post #21 of 445
I mostly agree. I always felt underwhelmed by Aliens. I was shocked when I first read Ebert's review of it, maybe when I was 16 or so, and he said it was so good because it was scary. Aliens literally never scared me. I admire James Cameron and think he can direct the hell out of an action scene, but outside of The Terminator, I don't think he's ever made a good movie. I guess that's kind of odd since I consider The Terminator to be the scariest movie I've ever seen-it's given me more nightmares than any other movie and just about any other topic, period.
post #22 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChunkyLover53
I think this admission is grounds for a banning.
If we didn't ban Quarant for hating The Godfather, we're not gonna ban Spike for this.

Lower my filmic opinion of Spike, sure. But not banning.

When it comes down to it, I truly believe this is one of the few series to truly jump genres every single film. Alien is the horror film. Aliens is an action film. Alien 3 is a drama. As such, it makes the fact that Cameron doesn't inject the same sense of suspense or psychological fear into his film than Scott much easier to take as the film ages. It's the lesser of the three, yes, but that's like saying fucking isn't as good as lovemaking.
post #23 of 445
Could not disagree more. Aliens has the most sympathetic/likable characters of any of the films, including Scott's original (let's face it, were you really rooting for Lambert?). While it could never match the "scare factor" of the original, that wasn't its intent in the first place. Aliens, first and foremost, is a war movie. With monsters.

Quote:
ALIEN 3 tried to go back to more of a moody frightening approach but lacked anywhere near the amount of characters I could give a crap about that were found in the original.
Yeah, despite the growing geek-cred reputation it's been getting over the years, I still find 3 muddled, cold and lifeless.
post #24 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratty
Yeah, despite the growing geek-cred reputation it's been getting over the years, I still find 3 muddled, cold and lifeless.
That's kinda the point. The whole idea behind killing off Newt and Hicks is that Ripley has absolutely NOTHING worth clinging on to in the universe (same as everyone else on Fury 161), and the film is really about how one should spend a truly doomed life. It's a cold movie with a purpose, even in its cobbled together state.
post #25 of 445
I give credit to part 3 for the last 10 minutes. That stuff was gangbusters. Outside of that there is a severe lack of interesting and/or entertaining characters for Ripley to come in contact with. Charles Dance was okay. I like Charles S. Dutton but any attachment I have to him is based on the fact that he's Charles S. Dutton and doesn't have much to do with his character in the film. It's more a case of "I hope Roc lives. Damn, I guess he won't."
post #26 of 445
Much like letting your last scene feature a reprise of Kirsten Dunst singing, sending the audience home with that awful messianic green screen (and the grabbing the chestburster in a last-minute "I'm taking you to hell with me!" moment) was probably not the best call.
post #27 of 445
I tried to find a picture of the "This is madness" guy from 300, but I couldn't. So I'll just say it; THIS IS MADNESS!
post #28 of 445
What everybody else said.

I'm sorry, Spike. If the movie left you cold this time around, that's cool. But I basically disagree with every single one of your points.

Juvenile? In some ways, yeah -- you've got guys with big guns running around shooting monsters, it's hard to keep that from being juvenile -- but I think the Ripley/Newt relationship goes a long way towards counterbalancing that. Maybe I'm emotionally stunted, but when they hug at the end and Newt yells, "Mommy!" -- that gets me, man. Gets me every time.

As noted above, it's hard to reconcile your statement that the movie is unable to deal with any emotions other than fight or flight when you go on to mention Ripley's maternal instincts. And by the way -- c'mon, you've gotta hand it to the film on this score. What other action film have you ever seen that's about maternal instincts?

The movie is "never particularly scary or tense" -- I don't even know what to say to this one. What about the scene where Ripley & Newt are trapped in the medical bay and the Chestbursters are running around? That isn't scary or tense? Really?

What about the scene with the automated guns running out of ammo? The realization that the Aliens are in the ceiling above them? Bishop crawling through the pipe? Ripley's rescue of Newt while the clock ticks off the seconds before the explosion? If you didn't find any of these moments scary or tense...well, more power to you, man. But we're on different pages here.

"Nobody aside from Ripley seems all that human" - except Hicks, Newt, and Bishop, in my book. I mean, they're not spouting Chekov, sure. But they're not exactly one-dimensional, either. Or at least not any more than the supporting characters in any other "Alien" film.

Cameron irritating as a director - again, personal preference. But I can't say I recall being irritated watching it. More like, "Holy shit, I'll never be as good as this guy."

I guess we will have to agree to disagree.
post #29 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil!
Much like letting your last scene feature a reprise of Kirsten Dunst singing, sending the audience home with that awful messianic green screen (and the grabbing the chestburster in a last-minute "I'm taking you to hell with me!" moment) was probably not the best call.
I'll banter back and forth the merits and flaws of Alien 3 all night without complaint....but anyone who says an unkind word about Ripley's swan dive, in either cut....if I was a parent, I'd say you need to go to your room and think about what you've done.
post #30 of 445
Dude, trust me, seeing that movie back in the day with a crowd... The last 20 or so minutes the audience was going nuts. When Ripley finds herself facing the queen for the forst time, or when the Queen shows up AGAIN and rips apart Bishop, it was Amazing... And the "get away from her you bitch" line... THe first time you heard that, you felt it.

It's sort like the difference between seeing Kubrick's 2001 back in 1968, or today. They're great movies made for their time. That we're even talking about a 20 year old movie says it holds up pretty damn well too.
post #31 of 445
Plus, you watch it today, and you've got in the back of your head all the bad movies that copied Aliens.... When it came out, I'd never seen anything like it. Same with Die Hard....
post #32 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratty
(let's face it, were you really rooting for Lambert?).
Nope, but I definitely understood her. She's 100% real.
post #33 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
And he's also part of one of the greatest red herring endings ever. The acting, the music -- it sure felt like Cameron was wrapping things up. Then there's Bishop with a tail through his chest.
A double red herring! I love the way Bishop totally fails to screw Ripley over in any way, shape or form.
post #34 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seabass Inna Bun
A double red herring! I love the way Bishop totally fails to screw Ripley over in any way, shape or form.
Yes, Cameron nicely plays off of the audience's knowledge of the first film there.
post #35 of 445
Agreed. Great fake out by Cameron. Bishop just appearing in the dropship is one of the coolest scenes in modern cinema.
post #36 of 445
A friend of mine had never seen the first two aliens and last year he rented the four movies and watched them in a short period of time. He loved them all (yes, he loves Resurrection, he's got a boot fetish) except Aliens. I think there are two reasons for that:

- Aliens is tonally different from the others. It's a action movie with horror in it, the others are the opposite. It feels a bit out of the series.

- The director's cut is shit. It takes forever to get to the action. It's a long and boring film and I can't stand it. I very much regret buying that edition.
post #37 of 445
"I prefer the term synthetic human."

Says it all.

(Forgive me if I paraphrased.)
post #38 of 445
"I'll go. Believe me I'd prefer not to. I may be synthetic, but I'm not stupid."
post #39 of 445
Spike, the film is a ride picture. It works on the level it's meant to, plays with a crowd, everything said previous. But there's no hidden depth or anything like that, so don't feel bad, just take some time off from it, and maybe watch it in five years. When it came out on video I must have watched the thing somewhere between 30-100 times. I don't think I've watched it more than twice all the way through since the DC hit LD. Such is life.
post #40 of 445
Was Aliens the first movie to do the thing with the map, showing the enemy approaching? I'm watching Prisoner of Azkaban right now and they're doing it here.
post #41 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by stump
Was Aliens the first movie to do the thing with the map, showing the enemy approaching?
I think Ridley Scott made a movie called ALIEN where he did something like that.
post #42 of 445
fuck. i saw aliens first, around 12 maybe, and it always eclipsed my memories of alien, including the birth scene.
post #43 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seabass Inna Bun
A double red herring! I love the way Bishop totally fails to screw Ripley over in any way, shape or form.
Good point.

I'm in the (lonely) camp of thinking none of Cameron's films are aging all that well, though I really enjoy them to varying degrees. I really enjoy the rides, but I often don't get when his name is mentioned alongside the names it often is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crow
I'll banter back and forth the merits and flaws of Alien 3 all night without complaint....but anyone who says an unkind word about Ripley's swan dive, in either cut....if I was a parent, I'd say you need to go to your room and think about what you've done.
I only saw the theatrical cut. Narratively, I love the swan dive. Such a potentially great moment dramatically underserved by a distracting process shot, and harmed further by her catching it and not letting it escape. Maybe John Hurt was a real pussy, but c'mon.
post #44 of 445
I'm with Spike. This movie isn't anywhere CLOSE to as good as Alien or as visually interesting as Alien 3. Fuck this movie.
post #45 of 445
Spike, I'm ususally in your camp so my opinion may be regarded as meaningless but I totally agree. Ever since I saw the original Alien, Aliens always felt like a mindless action romp (mind you above average in that regard), but it didn't even seem to bother doing right what the first did and feels like it might as well be the superior entry in the Xtro series. A crowd pleasing where it should have been chilling affair.
post #46 of 445
Not that this has any bearing on quality, but I feel more personally attached to Aliens, as it's among the first movies I ever saw. Why would I be allowed to watch an R-rated movie full of terrifying creatures at age 4? Because it's awesome, that's why. Plus, there was a kid in the movie to relate to, and I think monster movies are most effective at that early age, where we're just as facinated as we are frightened. As such, I just think the Queen is one of the coolest, most disgusting things ever put on film. I don't really think the characters are any better drawn in Alien, in fact I like the characters in both because they're human but not totally sympathetic.

I've seen all of them on the big screen except for Alien 3, and I think that if there's one thing working against Aliens it's that it's not much to look at compared with the others. Alien is just a gorgeously lit, brilliantly designed movie full of really nightmarish imagery that plays off a lot of common sexual hang-ups. Aliens is just about as hardcore as it gets, plus I don't think enough credit can be given to the relationships between the four characters that survive. Alien 3 is a huge, bleak mess, but it does have some nice moments, especially toward the end. Alien Resurrection is goofy as all hell, but it's got style and energy to spare...at least until Ripley falls into that pit of xenomorphs and things totally fall apart.

Now if only I could find a week to set aside so I could actually watch all the extras on the Quadrilogy. I've had that thing for four years and I've only watched the different cuts of the films, nothing else.
post #47 of 445
Cameron makes popcorn movies with unrivaled visual acumen, and envelop pushing FX. I don't think any director uses special effects as well as Cameron, not even Spielberg. Cameron's movies are always heavy on the FX but he's so careful about how and when he uses them that his movies (as effects dependent as they are) still hold up amazingly well.

I'm not one to be easily wooed by empty attention grabbing popcorn flicks (I don't like Michael Bay or Tony Scott except for three or four of their films), and I don't think that's what his movies are. So Cameron's movies are relatively shallow? They're not lowest-common denominator shallow. They're just not high-brow. They're cool action packed stories, well told.

And as Johnsamo said, Aliens was a pioneer. You can't charge it's characters as being stock caricatures when it invented them.
post #48 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
Yes, Cameron nicely plays off of the audience's knowledge of the first film there.
It would have been even better if they got the original actor that played Bishop in Alien to reprise his role.
post #49 of 445
Ian Holm doing the knife trick and being impaled by an Alien Queen's tail would kinda play differently.
post #50 of 445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Ripoll
Fuck this movie.
Whoa now, let's not get crazy and say things we can't take back.
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