The first Alien (by Ridley Scott, 1979) was brilliant. It is simply one of the best sci-fi monster movies ever made. Everything (except perhaps the annoying cat) works in this movie. It has a well-written plot, intelligent dialogue, great characters, and good acting. There’s no melodrama. There are no pointless sub-plots. There’s no tacked-on romance. The pacing is perfect. The use (and spotting) of music is as good as it can ever get. In brief, Ridley Scott’s Alien is a true classic, re-watchable many times.
In contrast, I hated the follow-up Aliens (by James Cameron, 1986). When I saw it, it only re-affirmed my prejudices about crappy sequels. I hated the cliched macho characters, the over-sized guns, the wide-eyed cute orphan kid, and most of all the pathetic mock-family — "mommy", "daddy", "girl" — that emerged at the end. It really made me want to stick a few fingers in my throat.
At first, I didn’t even bother to watch Alien3 (David Fincher, 1992), as I had become convinced by Cameron’s crap that the story didn’t have potential for more than one good film. That is, until the DVDs came out and I saw the so-called Assembly Cut of Alien3. I loved it immediately: the down-beat atmosphere, the music, the setting, the dialogue, Ripley being bald, the supporting cast, the supporting cast being bald, virtually everything but the fact all those supporting bald guys were rapists and murderers. (It would have been more tasteful if the setting had been a far-away mining colony, instead.) And I was soo pleased that they killed of Ripley’s mock family already before the story began (good riddance to rubbish characters), made Ripley an interesting character again, and gave her a pitch-perfect arc with that ending.
Alien3 is definitely my second favourite in the whole franchise. The now-famous troubled production is obviously unfortunate for those involved (esp. Fincher, it seems), but for me as a viewer it’s completely irrelevant. Alien3 is a great movie, and a worthy conclusion to the story of Ripley.
That’s also why I put off watching Alien Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997) for a long time. I, like many others, thought that even the idea of a resurrected Ripley was bad, to say the least. Her story had reached a perfect resolution in Alien3, so what would be the point? Other than cashing in on the franchise, obviously. Anyway, I did see it eventually. While I still agree that bringing back Ripley was a Bad Idea, the movie turned out to be quite good. It’s actually a very good action movie, and has a lot of things working in its favour: the visuals, the cinematography, the story, and the characters were all great, although the acting did seem a bit hammy at times. Still, it’s definitely a film worth watching.
However, I had to convince myself that it wasn’t part of the true Alien continuity. Instead, I told myself that it was all happening in a parallell universe, with a Ripley-like character that just happened to share some superficial similarities to the real Ripley. I brushed aside and repressed from my conciousness any bit of dialogue that tied it in with the original Alien films. It’s much easier to appreciate the good qualities of Alien Resurrection if it’s seen as separate from the Alien franchise.
As for the gawdawful Alien/Predator films, I’d rather not think about them at all. I saw the first one, and roughly an hour of the second. Cinematic rubbish is about the nicest thing I can say about them.