Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Myopia Movies: Ranking the ALIENS Film (Except for The AVPs)

For those of you not in the know, I'm a regular participant in the film podcast Myopia Movies (formerly Myopia: Defend Your Childhood, but we haven't done the "defense" part in a long time) and we have a Patreon page. We did a Patreon-only series devoted to the Alien franchise, culminating in the most recent film Alien Covenant. At the end of the episode, podcast host Nic asked us to rank the films in the order we most enjoyed. I was first to go, but I was also very tired and might not have been at my most coherent, especially compared to the other three gentlemen.

(The Alien vs. Predator films have been left out because we haven't done the second yet, and the episode on Predator 2 hasn't been released yet. These are the Patreon-only films.)

So here are mine:

1. Alien-Very well-done, very atmospheric. And since the cast is so small, we can get to know them better and care more about them.

2. Aliens-Although I was visiting friends in D.C. when this episode was recorded, I remembered a lot of well-done bits from when I did see it, like Ripley's power-loader battle with the xenomorph queen, the last stand of Vazquez and Gorman, and the overall coolness of the concept. And it elaborates a lot on the xenomorph biology too, like introducing the entire concept of the queen in the first place.

3. Alien Resurrection-I found this a lot more entertaining than Alien 3, or at least the theatrical cut we saw. I also liked a lot of the concepts, like the android Annalee Call being a devout Catholic, the implied holocaust of the sapient androids, and the hilarious and super-creepy station doctor. It's also a lot more genuinely fun despite quite a number of areas it could have done better. If you sign up for the Patreon, you can read a "how I would have done it" newsletter article I wrote. :)

4. Alien 3-A ponderous boring mess that starts out by giving the audience the middle finger and killing off Hicks and Newt, the other two survivors of the first film. It's like they wanted to return to the form of the original film (no guns, one alien, confined location) but did it in a very ham-handed way. Combine it with the first Alien vs. Predator film (which I will still insist is canon) and you get into the conundrum of just whom the Bishop android model is based on. And while the earlier films used practical effects, this is where the bad CGI gets introduced into the franchise.

5. Prometheus-I'll give this movie credit for the the seriously squick-inducing "alien c-section" scene. There's not a lot in monster movies that can rattle me, but that did it. However, it suffers from idiot-character syndrome to a degree exceeded only by the next film Covenant. It also gets into "ancient aliens" theories that I have problems with on a philosophical level. To be fair, I wasn't there for this episode and the last time I saw this it was in theaters, so I might not be remembering it properly.

6. Alien Covenant-The only way the movie can be described as "character-driven" is if you focus on how absolutely moronic the characters act. Captain Chris Oram is a particularly extreme example--they visit the new planet rather than finishing repairs and continuing on their journey to the planet they'd prepared beforehand to colonize because he doesn't have the backbone to order the crew to return to their potentially-malfunctioning stasis pods. Once there, he becomes entranced with the new planet and thinks it's a perfect alternative colony than the planet they're going to even though that seems like something that would need approval from higher up. And even after killing a xenomorph the sociopathic android David was trying to tame, he trusts David even in circumstances where the most hopeful and naive person should be screaming "NO!" And although the idea of having the crew consist of seven married couples to preserve harmony on the ship during a long journey seems like a good idea, we see the dangers of that up close--characters endanger the mission by taking stupid risks to protect their spouses and the death of crew members cause disproportionate problems for that reason. Not to mention it's my recollection David was literally dismembered in Prometheus--even if he was able to help teach Dr. Shaw how to rebuild him, he's not going to be at 100% function.

(It would have been interesting if, having spent ten years with only the talking severed head of David for company, the villain was a deranged Dr. Shaw instead. She could carry his head around like Jason carries the head of Freddy at the end of Freddy vs. Jason.)

Furthermore, the cast is too large for the film to develop significantly and the movie butchers the lore by depicting David as having created the xenormorphs within ten years of the prior film, even though there are ancient murals in Prometheus depicting xenomorphs. Furthermore, the Engineer ship Ripley and friends find in Alien is itself quite old, has thousands of new-style xenomorph eggs rather than the few David managed to create, and was captained by an Engineer. As somebody (I think it was Nic) pointed out in the podcast, if they make a third film, they're going to have to get very creative to avoid it contradicting Alien.

So those are my thoughts on which of the Alien films are the best. If you want to listen to the podcast episodes and see the "How I Would Have Done It" article for Alien Resurrection, sign up for the Myopia Patreon. The AR analysis is in the newsletter that went out on May 4, 2020.

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