With the release of the first good Predator film in almost 25 years, and the making (by Ridley Scott) of an Alien prequel, Prometheus, now is a great time to review the two series as a whole. Both series have gone to hell and back (sometimes together), but overall, the entire series has provided many intense, exciting moments and the chance to imagine a frighteningly brilliant set of premises, and, eventually, bring them together with varied results.
I am starting with Predator because, chronologically, in the universe these movies inhabit, the events in that movie happen first. It’s kind of geek, I know. However, it’s not nearly as geek as putting my movies in order by director, which, for sanity’s sake, my wife forbade me from doing. Following that order of events, I will give brief synopses and reviews for each film. One may disagree with the overall scores for each movie, but I think it is pretty obvious that many will agree with my assessment of the best and the worst films.
Director – John McTiernan
Writers – Jim Thomas / John Thomas
Starring – Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Carl Weathers, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Sonny Landham, Bill Duke, Richard Chaves, Shane Black, Elpidia Carrillo, Kevin Peter Hall
Timeline – 1987
Synopsis – Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer is brought into a search and rescue mission with his Delta Force / CIA SOG team by former Green Beret buddy and current CIA Agent George Dillon. What is not known to them is they are following another team in there that had been summarily wiped out, and the thing that wiped them out is still out there, waiting for them…
Review – This is the cream of the crop for Predator movies. The plot is threadbare, but the dialogue is great and the direction is sharp. Given that this is McTiernan’s first film, it is remarkably professional. Excellent performances by Schwarzeneggar, Shane Black, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Bill Duke and Kevin Peter Hall as The Predator. The intensity is unlike any other Predator film, and the reason for this is the director, more than anything.
Rating – (****1/2 out of *****)
Predator 2 (1990)
Director – Stephen Hopkins
Writers – Jim Thomas / John Thomas
Starring – Danny Glover, Ruben Blades, Bill Paxton, Gary Busey, Maria Conchita Alonso, Kevin Peter Hall, Adam Baldwin
Timeline – 1997
Synopsis – Glover portrays Lt. Mike Harrigan, L.A. Police officer who, along with his fellow officers are caught in the midst of a war between (inexplicably) Jamaican and Colombian Drug gangs. Inserting himself in the midst of this war is another Predator, on another hunting spree.
Review – Horrible sequel has a lot of good parts (Glover, Paxton, Blades, Alonso) but fails to use them. The setting of then futuristic L.A. didn’t help. For some stupid reason, they insert a Jamaican gang in the middle of the major West Coast city. My nearest guess was so that they could have the wild-looking Rastafarians portrayed in an insultingly prejudicial way. And they thought Jar Jar was bad. This is, of course the place on celluloid where we first see a crossover to the Alien world, with a skull in the background of the ship, there’s the interaction with the old couple in the apartment building, and there all of those average special effects…still this movie nearly buried a vibrant franchise.
Rating – (** out of *****)
Alien Vs. Predator (2004)
Director – Paul W.S. Anderson
Writers – Paul W.S. Anderson, Shane Salermo
Starring – Lance Henriksen, Sanaa Lathan, Raul Bova, Ewan Bremner, Colin Salmon
Timeline – 2004
Synopsis – Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henrikson, evoking both his Aliens character Bishop and the corporation Weyland-Utani) leads a team of scientists to examine some heat signatures discovered under the island of Bouvetøya near Antarctica. Of course what they find there are not only Aliens…but Predators as well. Turns out the Predators have used a Pyramid temple there for hundreds of years to raise Aliens for combat tests. In the end, one of the dead Predators gets a chestburster for his troubles on the ship heading off planet.
Review – A decent concept with some nice special effects that is compromised by its PG-13 rating. Lots of running, jumping and quick cuts do not a suspenseful movie make. If Anderson had been given free rein to make the movie with an “R” rating, it might have been better, but cutting out the gore made it more excusable to bring the young teenagers and translated to easily the most successful Predator movie, while an average grossing Alien film. The acting is what you’d expect and it is on par with the dialog. Why give good lines to a bunch of targets, after all? Still, the Predators fighting the Aliens are pretty cool. If you want some real entertainment, check out the commentary track with Henriksen, Lathan and Anderson. Lots of yuks there, but not ones that any of the participants should feel proud of.
Rating (*** out of *****)
Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem – 2007
Directors – Colin Strause, Greg Strause
Writer – Shane Salermo
Starring – Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz
Timeline – 2004
Synopsis – So, after the chestburster jumps out of the Predator in AvP, somehow it grows to fighting pro status (called a Predalien) while the Predator ship is still in Earth’s orbit, beats up the Predator pilot, and forces the ship down somewhere in Colorado. Next thing you know, it escapes along with a bunch of other Alien facehuggers, taking out a dad, his son and some local bums. Hearing a distress signal for the ship that went down and a lone Predator goes to Earth to clean up. Havoc ensues and many people die. In the end, Ms. Yutani lands herself a Predator blaster cannon.
Review – This movie is complete and utter trash. Breaking all sorts of rules of common sense storytelling through bad editing, bad script-writing, bad decisions in plot development. The only good thing about the movie is the design of the Predalien. They don’t do anything with it, though. Instead, we get the worst possible scenarios dreamed up by fanboys in a series of disconnected scenes. The worst possible scene involves a row of pregnant women in a hospital who are there for no discernible reason other than to fulfill some freak’s fantasy. This movie is a dead-end. For completists who want to be disappointed and immature males only.
Rating (1/2* out of *****)
Timeline – 2010
For full review click here
Rating (**** out of *****)
The Historical Timeline for Peter Weyland, born 1990, takes place predominantly here, between then and the events of the movie, Prometheus:
Director – Ridley Scott
Writers – Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Starring – Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan-Marshall Green, Rafe Spall, Sean Harris, Patrick Wilson, Kate Dickie, Benedict Wong
Timeline – 2073
Review: Click Here
Rating: (****1/2 out of *****)
Director – Ridley Scott
Writers – Dan O’Bannon, David Giler, Walter Hill
Starring – Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton
Timeline – 2122
Synopsis – The USCSS Nostromo, a commercial towing spaceship, is on a return trip from the planet Thedus to Earth, when they are awoken from hibernation. The reason for the interruption is revealed to be a transmission of unknown origin from a nearby planet. They land, and while members of the crew are surveying another ship that landed there, they see a pilot frozen in place with his chest opened, seemingly frozen in time, and then they see a cavern filled with pods…after one of the crew gets a little close, out from the pod jumps a facehugger. The crewman, Kane (Hurt), is brought back without quarantine onto the main ship against protocol and the orders of Warrant officer Ripley (Weaver). Trying to examine the facehugger, acid pours from a cut from its skin and almost goes through the ship. After the facehugger dies, everyone thinks Kane is fine…until they see the chestburster. Soon after, as the crew tries frantically to evict what they think is a small alien, they are, one by one, introduced to the full-grown version.
Review – Easily the best film of the series, and one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, Alien sets the mark with suspense, common sense and respect for the viewer’s ability to figure out what is happening. A remarkable cast is in full force here, particularly effective are Skerritt, Holm, Kotto and the magnificent Sigourney Weaver. This is a film that should not be missed if you like movies.
Rating (***** out of *****)
Director – James Cameron
Writer – James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill
Starring – Sigourney Weaver, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein
Timeline – 2179
Synopsis – Ripley’s escape vessel is lost for 57 years. In the meantime, she’s lost a daughter to old age, been held accountable by Weyland-Yutani for destroying the Nostromo, and discovered that there have been terra-formers colonizing the planet they landed on for over 20 years. After she is hung out to dry, she is informed that contact has been lost with the colony, and asked if she will return to help wipe out the Aliens. Heading out there with space Marines, they are quickly outmatched and forced to fight for their lives. It doesn’t help to have a representative of the company along to “help.”
Review – Another indisputable classic, James Cameron wrote and directed this right after creating The Terminator, and it is clear that his creative juices were still flowing. Weaver, nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Ripley, gives the performance of a lifetime, realistically expounding on her portrayal from the original and adding relevant depth and nuance. The plot is given a depth with the special edition not allowed in the original release, and the introduction of the hive, with its Queen, give a layer of mystique to the mythos of the Alien that the later sequels fed off but could never add to. The last half hour is among the most exciting cinematic achievements in the history of film. Henriksen, Biehn, Henn, Paxton and Goldstein give performances of a lifetime.
Rating – (***** out of ******)
Director – David Fincher
Writers – David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson, Vincent Ward, David Twohy, William Gibson, Eric Red, John Fasano, David Fincher and Rex Pickett
Starring – Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dutton, Charles Dance, Brian Glover, Pete Postlethwaite, Lance Henriksen and a bunch of indistinguishable Brits.
Timeline – 2179
Synopsis – Almost immediately after the events in Aliens the ship Sulaco is destroyed and an escape pod carrying Ripley, Newt, Hicks and what is left of Bishop crash lands on a prison planet, Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161. The planet is an near empty prison with about 20 British men (and Charles Dutton) sprinkled in following a cult version of Christianity. Lo and behold, a facehugger escapes the crash, impregnates a dog, and creates a new, ultra fast and mobile Alien that begins to pick off everyone but Ripley.
Review – As one can tell from the myriad writers that took shots at the script, this film is a mess. Given that they took so long (6 years) to make the 3rd film, they had to get rid of Newt. As a result, they start Alien3 with the worse possible premise, killing off all the hope from the second film and throwing Fincher the dregs of a story. Also, since they filmed Alien3 in England, they went cheap and hired only local “talent.” Oh, and Charles Dutton. This creates an inexplicably Anglo movie and to what effect? Not much. Given so little to work with, Fincher makes the best of it, and manages to make an allegory for AIDS with the movie. His camera work is exquisite, as well. He really does his best to make chicken salad out the this chicken excrement of a plot. The chase scenes from the perspective of the sleek canine-born Alien. Dutton and Weaver add what little life there is to the film. Entirely forgettable, except for the effect it had on Fincher, which was to motivate him to become one of our greatest directors. Another note about the film, is that one of the earlier drafts – the one with a monastic planet made of wood, written by Ward – is roundly considered to be, as London Times writer David Hughes puts it one of the “Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made.” Bummer.
Rating (**1/2 out of *****)
Alien Resurrection (1997)
Director – Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Writer – Joss Whedon
Starring – Sigourney Weaver, Winona Rider, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Dan Hedeya, Brad Dourif, J.E. Freeman, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott
Timeline – 2381
Synopsis – 205 years after the last film evil Scientists for the United Systems Military find some DNA of the impregnated Ripley from Fury 161 and decide to take unwitting kidnapped humans and make them into vessels for the eggs of the Queen derived from the Ripley clone. Of course things go haywire and everyone is forced to fend for their lives.
Review – An intriguing premise and somewhat wacky in its presentation, this movie has the one of the best casts ever assembled for an Alien film. It is by far the slickest film in the franchise. Watching the Aliens slither about, one cannot help but realize that they are, for the most part, computer animated. Closeups have the real thing, and that scene underwater is pretty cool. The most horrifying shot in this film is actually not an Alien. It’s Dan Hedeya’s hairy arms and torso. Weaver is especially effective in the freshness of being back from the dead, with no strings attached, except those left over from her connection to the Aliens that she is “mother” to. She saunters around to her own beat, and her flippant attitude is very appealing. Rider adds an interesting character to the mix, as a robot with a past connected to Bishop. Perlman and Pinon, however, are almost worth the price of admission themselves. They are the best characters in the entire series, outside of Weaver.
(***1/2 out of *****)