Alien: Ressurection

alienDirector: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Ron Perlman, Winona Ryder, Dominique Pinon, Brad Dourif, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott. USA, 1997. Budget: $60 mln. Box office: $160 mln. IMDb: 6.2. RT: 55%. My rating: 3/4. Xenomorphs… shaken & stirred.

– Hey, Ripley. I heard you, like, ran into these things before?
– That’s right.
– Wow, man. So, like, what did you do?
– I died.
(a dialogue from the film)

It may seem strange and irrelevant to write about ”Alien: Ressurection” more than 20 years after its release, especially given that it’s mostly known as a faulty sequel abruptly suspending the franchise for 15-20 years. Or less, it depends how you count. Plus it is the lowest rated movie of the franchise. So why even bother?

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Honestly, I think there was some misunderstanding. Mostly it happened for two reasons:

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  • The tonal mismatch tone of the new xenomorph’s movie was strickingly different from any other entry of the series and many couldn’t stand it… even considering that 3 previous movies was totally different flicks as well (namely: a horror, a blockbuster, a thriller). But in many ways ”Alien: Ressurection” was totally wicked and wry, as if Terry Gilliam directed it (hint: he didn’t, but the director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was directly influenced by Gilliam as a filmmaker).
  • Weak final which worsens the aftertaste of the film

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Lets also have a quick look at how the xenomorph’s formula works… worked:

  • Alien (1979) = 8.1 IMDb – $11 mln budget + $104 mln box office + 7 years till next sequel
  • Aliens (1986) = 8.0 IMDb – $18 mln budget + $130 mln box office + 6 years till next sequel
  • Alien 3 (1992) = 6.4 IMDb – $50 mln budget + $160 mln box office + 5 years till next sequel
  • Alien: Ressurection (1997) = 6.2 IMDb – $60 mln budget + $160 mln box office + 15/20 years to a real prequel

Then the franchise started to twitch all over, detox and show some remote signs of life thanks to 2 crossovers, namely…

As the detox period ended, cracked-and-close-to-dementia Ridley Scott started to sweat…

  • Prometheus = 7.0 IMDb – $120 mln budget + $400 mln box office + the wow effect  + because it really was quite a solid sci-fi thriller with a brilliant cast and cool designs
  • Alien: Covenant = 6.5 IMDb – $97 mln budget + $240 mln box office + unclear future of the franchise
  • Unknown Covenant sequel which will concentrate more on the A.I. than xenomorphs and will supposingly link the events to the original film

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I think that in its own wicked way, ”Alien: Ressurectioncould have easily been considered as one of the most creative and dazzling entries of the franchise. By no means the film is a masterpiece, but it’s not a cash-in, trying to blindly copy/rehash the success of the first two movies (like ”Alien: Covenant” just did). It does have its own style, full of grim grotesque, weird humour and surrealism. It’s not a balanced movie, but it’s exactly the case when you think ”oh at least they tried”.

 

15 years before Scott started digging his own shit again with ‘Prometheus‘ and 20 years before ‘Alien: Covenant‘, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (and Joss Whedon, whose contribution as a witer is important, even if he – in his own words – hated the movie) weren’t afraid to approach the creepy theme of genetic modifications and alien/human crossbreeding.

 

They had enough balls to modify the main character (the main reason why Marvel movies prosper so much nowadays – they’re not afraid to tweak, weaken or strengthen their characters) and dig deeper into the essence of human and xenomorph nature. While many wish the movie maintained a more serious tone, I think that given the whole ridiculousness of the plot, the tone set was quite right. Otherwise it just would be even worse.

C’mon, you cannot have a storyline like that and stay serious. That would be too much. That’s why I kinda like the movie – it knows its shortcomings, it dares to create something new and not simply rehash the old stuff, it has enough humour to smooth things over.

 

Without giving away too much of the plot, there are 3 particularly remarkable episodes that set the tone. I wasn’t too sure about the first one as it had really impressed me as a teen, but after rewatching it nowm 20 years later, I feel as good about it which rarely happens. Here we go, this is the episode where you see that xenomorhps can learn and adapt (just some GIFs as I don’t want to give away too much of the plot):

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Here’s another episode where we learn that Ripley’s character was ‘tweaked’…

It’s exactly what a sequel like this needs and what ‘Alien: Covenant‘ was missing. The lesson is simple, Ridley – if you can’t make it as creepy as hell, at least don’t be so serious. Please.

Finally, the 3rd episode that I find particularly significant and valuable to the core of the franchise is when Ripley enters the crossbreeding laboratory. A perfect example of the new direction the franchise could easily take, especially considering the final part of the movie and Whedon’s ideas about the battle for Earth.

 

It has always surprised me that among all the cast only Sigourney Weaver has been considered as the core value of the franchise – each of 4 movies always featured strong and charismatic supporting characters, and I don’t see what was the problem of making a 5th Alien movie without Ripley (no, I don’t mean ‘Prometheus’ which I must admit did have a strong cast, I mean the real sequel). Lack of good ideas, probably, but not having Sigourney Weaver onboard is no excuse.

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The production. Before moving to the film itself, I’d love to mention some facts about the crew and the production. Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed several curious flicks such as ”Delicatessen” (post-apocalyptic black comedy), ”City of Lost Childern” (fantasy tale, also with Ron Perlman) and ”Amelie”. The script was created by Joss Whedon (”Serenity”, ”Avengers”) and it wasn’t an easy task – he wrote multiple versions of it, all of them denied by producers and Sigourney Weaver as well as she was not interesed in that kind of setting… The original script had a third act on Earth, with a final battle for Earth itself. Here’s what Whedon said in 2005 about the film:

“It wasn’t a question of doing everything differently, although they changed the ending; it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines…mostly…but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong that they could possibly do. There’s actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking, because everything that they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from the script, and people assume that, if I hated it, then they’d changed the script…but it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable.”

On the contrary, H. R. Giger loved the film. I’m with Giger this time.

Worth watching? So, what a paradox, if you think of ”Alien: Ressurection” in terms of pure geeky nerdy fun, I think it could easily qualify as one of the best sequels ever, because it’s not afraid to turn upside down and expand the original cult movies and very little sequels have enough balls to do so. It could have been much better, yes, but it is far from being as bad as many claim. I really recommend it, if you like wry humour and don’t sit and pray the whole day for the sacred 1979 horror (which is as delicious now as it was back then) and 1986 blockbuster (which in my opinion was an absolute breakthrough for its time, but from other point of view reduced the sense of danger coming from the xenomorphs, making them more similar to an insects…). Finally, it’s that kind of movie that even if you hate it, you can still enjoy it. Just know that it’s different.

Spectacularity: 3.5/4
Acting:  3/4
Directing: 3/4
Screenplay: 2/4
Final vote: 3/4

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Here’s a lovely poster of Alien 3 for those who don’t agree with my review.

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Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers” is way more subtle that may seem during the first viewing. I’ve watched it multiple times… the first time was at the tender age of 7, and I am still under its spell. Wonderful analysis, Jaime Rebanal.

”….it only ends up reinforcing its own cleverness here because if this is all that one sees, then a viewer has indeed bought into the propaganda that Starship Troopers has designed itself to “sell.” It sells a shallow idea that humans are good and aliens are bad, but because of the glamor present within the image, the exciting nature of the action sequences even becomes deceiving in the most clever manner.”

Works like a propaganda film, reflecting another sort of truth.  (✯✯✯✯✯)

Full post here: Starship Troopers – Review — Jaime Rebanal’s Film Thoughts

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Update.  Love this comment by The Celtic Predator of Express Elevator to Hell Blog:

”Something I discussed ad nauseum in my review of this film is how much flack it gets from fans of the Robert Heinlein novel it’s supposedly adapting. While Verhoeven’s nth hyper-violent social satire was undercut upon release by critics who ironically swallowed its fascist propaganda at face value, as you noted above, most of the ensuing criticism of this film I’ve encountered in the 20+ years *since* it’s release has been from bibliophiles, not cinephiles. You know how book-lovers are — they treat their source material like Scripture.

Look up Robert Heinlein if you haven’t already. He had the opposite life experiences of Paul Verhoeven, and most of his military predictions have come true in Western democracies, e.g. all volunteer service, male and female combat personnel, etc. He also had a rather privileged upbringing, served as an officer in the US Navy, and to my knowledge never saw combat in a foreign war — a stark contrast from Verhoeven’s childhood under Nazi occupation.”

TRON, TRON 2.0 and TRON: LEGACY comparison / sci-fi designs

As if I haven’t published enough posts about TRON universe just recently, here’s more of it. A quick comparison between ”TRON” (1982 movie), ”TRON 2.0” (2003 videogame) and ”TRON: Legacy” (2010 movie).

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(Am I the only one who thinks the images on the right look…just a little duller?)

However, the latter disc designs are an exception. They look pretty cool.

tron COMPARISON3Because the old version just makes me think of mosquitoes…

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The light cycles look awesome too. In all versions.

TRON designs comparison

Note that in 1982 they didn’t wear a helmet when riding the light cycle, but just the same helmet as in any other scene. The same applies to 2003.

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Let’s hope for the sequel, it seems we have all grounds for it now.

 

TRON 2.0 / sci-fi designs

I guess most people reading this post have watched (or at least have heard of) “TRON“, a 1982 movie produced by Disney and starring Jeff Bridges. It wasn’t successful at first, but it was a visual masterpiece with a very original and distinctive style, that had foreseen a lot in the technology development that came later.

The film had a commercially successful sequel in 2010, “TRON: Legacy“. Most of you have heard for sure of this one too.

But not many know that there was another release in 2003 and it was considered for a while an official sequel to the original 1982 film, just to be later declared non-canon right before the release of “TRON: Legacy” in 2010.

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This is how Internet was imagined like in 2003.

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The kernel and the antivirus guards.

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The virus has corrupted the system.

Here’s some background. In 1982, “TRON” performed worse than Disney expected – $33 mln box office with a $17 mln budget… The film didn’t appeal to the major public at its time since in 1982 the computers were not as wide-spread as now. It was too early. With years the film gained a cult following though… and it took just about 17 years before somebody started to consider making a sequel/reboot. In 1999, there were rumours that Pixar was interested. But the thing didn’t work out. And for a film, a much bigger budget was required, thus too much risk… So in early 2000-s Monolith Productions (“No One Lives Forever“, “F.E.A.R.“, “Blood“) initiated developing something else.

 

It was a 2003 videogame, “TRON 2.0“, and not only it contributed to and developed the TRON universe in a significant way (you bet it did, with +20 hours of gameplay vs 96 minutes of film…), but it successfully solved the main problems from which both movies suffered. The characters, the plot, the story.

It wasn’t my intention to write a game review, so I will just sum up main points:

  • Main characters were voiced by the same actors as in 1982 movie – Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan.
  • Sid Mead, who worked on designs of “Aliens” and “Blade Runner” developed the new “light cycle” designs
  • “TRON 2.0” is a very rare case when the game was developed not as a cash-in
  • The music, or rather the electronic ambient soundtrack, perfectly fits the digital world. It really makes you feel like you are inside, among the bits and bytes.
  • The style is a mix of a quest, role-playing game and action
  • It goes without saying that the visuals were stunning
  • Just like the original film, the game didn’t sell well, although it received excellent reviews and with years gained a cult following too. But for the most public it was something too original. It wasn’t a pure action, it wasn’t an RPG, and finally it wasn’t just a faithful adaptation of the original film, but the development of it, maintaining however the essence and the spirit.
  • Like the best cyberpunk game “Deus Ex” (2000), the world is full of details, secondary and tertiary characters, dialogues and it’s just up to you how deep you want to enter this world.

Due to an extensive gameplay and the technologies present in 2003 in our real world, the game expanded the whole concept of what it means inside the computer. You will find yourself sneaking through the firewall, literally portrayed as a giant red wall, escaping the disc format and fighting the viruses by joining your forces with a local antivirus program. Heck, there is even a level when you are transported to a PDA (anyone else here still remembers palmtops?!). Obviously, that level features a very minimalistic design and limited space. 😊

 

What happened next? Disney finally had the guts to develop a real blockbuster, with a score by Daft Pank, $170 mln budget plus Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles. “TRON: Legacy” received mixed reviews, but who cares, because it grossed $400 mln worldwide, thus being the first commercially successful product in TRON universe (although I am sure Disney expected much more). The film for praised for special effects, but you can also find it often in various top lists of missed opportunities. And I can understand why – it suffered from exactly the same problems as the original film.

 

The future of the franchise is unclear right now. A spin-off animated series “TRON: Uprising” premiered in 2012. Some sources say that “on February 28, 2017 during a Q&A session with Joseph Kosinski, he revealed that Tron 3 has not been scrapped, instead saying it was in ‘cryogenic freeze’. A few days later, it was reported that Disney is supposedly looking into rebooting the franchise with Jared Leto attached to portray a new character named Ares, who originated from the Tron 3 script. Disney has not officially announced as to whether a reboot is officially in development.”

Here I did a comparison of various TRON design versions.

P. S. Read an interesting opinion about Disney and their attitude towards TRON here: Disney/BVG didn’t have the balls to stick by their product and see it through the rough times…

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Event Horizon

Director: Paul W. S. Anderson. Starring: Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlan. USA, 1997. Budget: $60 mln. Box office: $27 mln. IMDB: 6.7. My rating: 3/4. Sci-fi/horror/thriller in deep space.

– Where we’re going, we don’t need eyes to see.
(Dr. Weir)

– You will never be alone anymore. Now you are with me. I have beautiful things I want to show you.
(Dr. Weir’s dead wife)

Darkness, space, hell, madness and obscurity. Such a cheerful company. Welcome on board of the “Event Horizon”.

Before Paul Anderson entered the endless Resident Evil epos, he did some other notable films as well, like “Mortal Combat” and “Event Horizon”. We all know how his films look, right? I suppose almost every teenager (well, I speak mostly for boys) had a period, when he is eager to watch stuff about zombies, strange creatures, space and stuff. So what happens when these boys grow up? Some make movies, others watch them. Mostly, without being too serious about it. If there is a movie for each occasion, so for me these movies are perfect to watch late on a Friday, when the brain protests against any kind of work. Or after a late party, when you come home late but still not sleepy. But… “Event Horizon” is not exactly what you would expect from a typical Paul Anderson’s film.

It’s also has a very curious and bleeding produciton history, probably one of the best I’ve ever read together with ”The Island of Dr. Moreau”.

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Female sci-fi costumes & sexism in modern cinema

Let’s start at the very end.

Exposing various female body parts is a recurring motif in cinema and science fiction. It’s cheap. But if the movie sucks, how else you attract the guys in cinemas?

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Now let me explain how I came to this…

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Jumanji 2 / childhood tales mutating into mindless blockbusters

Another tale of the childhood is turning into a mindless blockbaster. Directed by the guy who did “Sex Tape” and “Bad Teacher”. Why!?

I know, I know – the first one could be also considered a blockbuster with CGI animals and a decent $65 million budget. Pardon my nostalgia rant. However…

…it had an original time-reversing plot with love story that made sense and was believable.

…it had the director Joe Johnston who has worked as effects artists on the original Star Wars trilogy and art director two Indiana Jones movies and you could easily feel that influences in Jumanji too. Maybe it was a blockbuster, but at least it didn’t feature trivial sexist jokes like here:

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If “Jumanji 2” was a genre deconstruction like “Cabin in the Woods”, this would have made sense. Sadly, it doesn’t.

…and it had Robin Williams.

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Now we have another obtuse action-based blockbuster with dick jokes. Hell, they even don’t roll the dice since there’s no board (the final scene of Jumanji actually had a clue that the original board wasn’t destroyed). And what is the audience of this movie? The teens didn’t watch the first part. Those who did would be barely interested in this reboot.

Maybe I am just too old for this shit and don’t get something?

“What, are you crying? You don’t cry, all right? You keep your chin up. Come on, keep your chin up. Crying never helped anybody do anything, okay? You have a problem, you face it like a man.” (Alan Parish, Jumanji, 1995)

P. S. Express Elevator to Hell movie blog made a hell of an analysis about the modern blockbuster culture and how they influence smaller films here. Check it, it’s really worth reading.

Peter Stormare / Constantine

While “Constantine” wasn’t a perfect movie, Peter Stormare’s performance there was a true delight, as always.

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It’s funny though that in a Keanu Reeves’ film – Tilda Swinton, Rachel Weisz and Peter Stormare weren’t even mentioned on the posters – he was easily outplayed by their performance. I think the best Stormare’s role was as a cold-blooded weirdo in “Fargo”, and that was wa-ay different from “Constantine”.

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Well, Reeves’ eternally doleful and dismal face expression barely changes from one movie to another. But we can forgive this guy everything for “The Matrix”, don’t we?

Kong: Skull Island

kong-skull-island-posterDirector: Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson. USA, 2017. Budget: 185 million. IMDb rating: 6.9. My rating: 2.5/4. Giant gorilla vs. giant everything.

– Kong’s a pretty good king. Keeps to himself, mostly. This is his home, we’re just guests. But you don’t go into someone’s house and start dropping bombs, unless you’re picking a fight.
(John C. Reilly’s character)

It’s interesting to note once again the Hollywood’s tendency of last years to invite young indie directors for blockbuster production – Garreth Edwards/Star Wars, Colin Trevorrow/Jurassic World, James Gunn/Guardians of the Galaxy – probably hoping they will deliver a fresh breath.

And forget the bearded romantic from New Zealand, who was responsible for his own beautiful and canonical version of King-Kong. Peter Jackson, of course, was relying on the classical King-Kong story of 1933, even though with a more modern and refreshing approach. New Kong is several times bigger, stronger, more dangerous and more… boring.

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