Friday Flix: Bigger Bangs for the Buck
A couple months ago (and I think we’re almost to the end of ideas I came up with while on summer hiatus) I bought the four “Alien” movies because I thought: I really like the second one and the first one a little less, so why don’t I own them? So I bought the four-pack off Amazon since it was about as cheap as getting the two separately, plus it had the extended editions for all of them!
To finally get to the point, I watched the first two and then came to “Alien3” which I hadn’t watched since about 1992 and then most of it in fast forward. It occurred to me that the problem with “Alien3” (other than crappy special effects) is that they thought too small.
In a previous entry I argued that sequels shouldn’t just be MORE explosions and whatnot, that they should deepen the story and characters. The obvious problem is that “Alien3” begins by killing all the survivors of the last movie except for Ripley because I guess they couldn’t afford to bring back Michael Biehn and the kid who played Newt would have been like 18 or something. (Yeah, I’m sure Michael Biehn’s schedule was really full of…something. I mean a superstar like him doesn’t come cheap—sarcasm intended. As for the girl, it’s really hard to find a blond/blue-eyed kid in Hollywood—more sarcasm.) Poor Bishop was already half-dead anyway, so I guess that was a moot point.
The next mistake then is marooning Ripley on a prison planet with no weapons and few people and just one alien. This is where the thinking too small comes in. Now maybe they wanted to get back more to the slasher movie feel of the first one. Or maybe they were too cheap to do another Cameron-style action extravaganza. The problem for me (and I assume most other people) is that after you’ve done the huge James Camera action extravaganza with sweet machineguns mowing down scores of aliens and robot suits fighting the big queen alien, it’s really disappointing to go back to using homemade flamethrowers against one piddly alien. I mean come on, what is that?
It occurred to me was that what they should have done is take the next logical step and introduce the aliens to Earth. Instead of a slasher movie, make more of a “Dawn of the Dead” type movie where hordes of aliens are running loose on Earth and our heroes are the survivors who have to try and find somewhere safe. You could have brought Ripley back or you could have gone with other actors—cheaper ones—if you wanted to save money that way.
Maybe that wouldn’t have made the story or characters deeper like I’d prefer, but it would have at least followed logically. When you’re adding sequels you generally want to keep making them bigger and deeper, not shrink them down. Because with each successive book you build expectations in the audience’s minds and they’re going to demand a bigger payoff with each book.
Or to paraphrase from “Last Action Hero” when the Ahh-nold character Jack Slater laments, “I started out wanting just to be a good cop but I kept getting sucked into all these crazy adventures” his kid sidekick says, “These are the sequels, everything has to get harder!”
The thing with sequels is that you can’t go back; you have to keep moving ahead.
Monday: Does Your Story Feel Fresh?