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I've Outgrown...Aliens
#1
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).
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#2
Overlord is going to fuck you up, man.
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#3
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.
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#4
What the fuck is this shit?
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#5
I know, I just need to know if this is normal...or if something is wrong with me medically.
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#6
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.
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#7
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.
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#8
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.
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#9
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.
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#10
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.
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#11
Hey, Spike!

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#12
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
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#13
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.
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#14
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!
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#15
You've got a cold cold heart if you can't feel for Lance Henriksen's Bishop.
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#16
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.
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#17
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.
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#18
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?
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#19
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.
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#20
I think this admission is grounds for a banning.
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#21
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.
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#22
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.
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#23
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.
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#24
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.
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#25
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."
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#26
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.
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#27
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!
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#28
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.
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#29
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.
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#30
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.
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#31
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....
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#32
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.
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#33
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.
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#34
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.
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#35
Agreed. Great fake out by Cameron. Bishop just appearing in the dropship is one of the coolest scenes in modern cinema.
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