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Friday Flix: Bigger Bangs for the Buck

September 23, 2011

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?


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  1. I agree with what you’ve said here. Plus there was too much melodrama (over-acting) in Alien 3. Maybe they just didn’t have any good ideas and only thought of the franchise as a huge money bag. The “let’s get this out there and make some money” attitude.

    I think you should check out the movie “Prometheus”. It is in pre-production and you can Google it now. The director is Ridley Scott (from the first Alien) and the story follows the downed ship that Ripley and others discovered on LV426–you know the one–it had thousands of eggs on it and a pilot that was a giant of some kind with a head that resembled an elephant.

    With Ridley Scott at the helm, I’m convinced that this movie has tremendous potential. They also may reenlist H.R. Giger who created all the art for Alien and in fact, invented the Alien. Anyway…you should tell me what you think after you look at the “Prometheus” website.

    • Come on, you know my opinion of prequels. Do the aliens need a tragic backstory? It’ll probably be like that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” where some do-gooder scientist creates aliens to help his people (somehow) and then they turn and destroy him or whatever.

  2. Damn. I think I mentioned this morning that I’ve been doing most of my viewing on my phone – it isn’t conducive to typing long, well articulated responses.

    But – I agree. Didn’t they at least make that a threat in the 4th movie? Aliens getting to earth, that is. I forget now.

    But I think shooting scripts in Hollywood for big properties are almost all done by committee. It’s hard to get sensical story arcs that way. Too many folks pulling the story in too many directions. Union rules and weird quirks of the industry (like building sets before there is a script, or even a director sometimes), makes disasters seem more likely. The more I think about it, the more I’m amazed that I see any good movies.

    • At the end of the fourth one they crash land on Earth, which is all destroyed, desolate, and unpopulated. Not sure if it was aliens or just run of the mill human destruction. That one was a little better because there were more aliens, though I felt bad for the half-alien/half-human one that just wanted its mommy and then Ripley sucks it out into space. Child abuse!

  3. Lisa Potts permalink

    I stopped after two because I knew they would just be f’d up. I think every franchise should stop after two and very few should go that far.

    • I would argue that but there are very few franchises with a good third movie. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter and Twilight some might say. And…that’s the list.

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