Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

One-third of the Alternate Ending cohort had never seen any of the movies in everybody’s favorite sci-fi//horror/action saga, the Alien series. To rectify that terrible oversight, and also to help all the rest of us get ready for the impending release of Alien: Covenant, we take a closer look at all the films in the classic run of the franchise: Alien (1979), Aliens (1986) Alien³ (1992),  Alien Resurrection (1997), Prometheus (2012), and Alien Covenant (2017) with our Spoiler Alert: The Alien Movies episode.

Who’s the real master of the xenomorphs, Ridley Scott or James Cameron? Just how damn great is Sigourney Weaver in these films, anyway? How do we feel about the genre-hopping across these movies? Is Resurrection really THAT bad?

26 Responses so far.

  1. Haven’t seen any of these since I was about 15 so thanks for providing me with a decent excuse to dig them out and watch them all again! I look forward to hearing the discussion.

  2. Not Fenimore says:

    So… who does this art, anyways? And what in the name of god is that coming out of Tim’s pelvis chest? D:

  3. Billy the Kid says:

    Frankly, the original is the only great one. In fact, it’s the only good one. Aliens deserves credit for not copying the original, but it’s dumb. Ripley comes out of a 50-year coma, and when she tags along with the marines, suddenly she knows more about their combat techniques than THEY do?!
    “You can’t shoot that thing over there or you’ll all die.”
    “Oh, crap! We never thought of that. Thank you for teaching us how to do our job, Layman Who Just Came Out of a Coma!”
    No point in my explaining what’s wrong with the other films of the franchise; other critics have covered that ground just fine.

  4. Yourself says:

    Haven’t seen 3 or 4 in a long time, but I’m team Aliens (by a long shot). That’s been chewed over so thoroughly I have nothing left to add – I think that’s the case with this franchise all around.

    As for the series’ present standing, well, Prometheus was like cold puke in the face. A garbage script with nothing new to say or show, galling dialogue, horrific performances all around, and heaping disrespect for the franchise. The more of it tossed aside by Covenant, the better. Even if 3 and 4 are absurd and stupid, at least they’re trying to build something – the entire purpose of a sequel. Scott acts like a little kid hording his toys, covering his ears, and la-la-la-ing all the other films (however responsible he was for its inception, it was Cameron who set the direction for the franchise, and that direction was: “different directorial vision for every movie”), and if he wanted to make whatever dopey creationist Lost fable he could’ve done so without rousing the xenomorph. I’d take the interesting failures over that any day.

    Aside: any fan of the series *has* to play Alien: Isolation. At least watch a playthrough on youtube. It is the perfect adaptation of the franchise to the strengths of a video game (greater immersion, longer suspense, active POV).

  5. Jon says:

    I like all of the Alien movies barring the two AVP messes. I’m even one of the ten people in the world that thinks Prometheus was more great than terrible. Can’t wait to listen to this one.

  6. Will says:

    No, Resurrection really is that bad.

  7. I had the pleasure of introducing my youngest siblings to Alien and Aliens not too long ago, and somehow they always manage to be even better on rewatching than in my memory. Turns out the new generation adores them too.

    I’m sure Tim already has strong feelings on the theatrical vs. director’s cut for each, but for Carrie as a first-timer I’ll throw in a strong rec for the theatrical cut of Alien and the director’s cut of both Aliens and Alien 3.

    • Carrie Jarosinski Carrie Jarosinski says:

      I caught the theatrical cut of Alien (whew), admittedly, I have no idea the difference between that and the director’s…but I’m sure I’ll hear about it in a few days when we record. 😊

      On to Alien 3 tonight!

      • Not Fenimore says:

        “You watched the theatrical cut! My god, there’s practically no point in even discussing the completely different movies we saw…”

        –Tim, five days from now, probably

        • Carrie Jarosinski Carrie Jarosinski says:

          Correction: “My gaaaaaawwwwd….”

          • Not Fenimore says:

            Now I’m just thinking of the podcast where you two said you liked Sing and Tim just went “Urm. Hemm. Hrmm.” for like five seconds. XD

    • Yourself says:

      IIRC Tim also recommends the Aliens DC, which I find kinda surprising. The changes are too small to mess up the movie in a real way, but still pointless or terrible.

      1.) The scene with Newt’s family near the beginning
      – Leaving aside the question of who is asking for more Newt, this undercuts the suspense of the first act. We now know exactly what happened to the colonists and how. Every conscious viewer knew this is where we were going anyhow, so all it does is take us out of Ripley’s POV.
      2.) The stuff with Ripley’s daughter
      – Again, redundant. Ripley’s got a momma thing going with Newt. We get it. The revelation of a dead daughter is cheap drama, especially with the boring expository reveal. She is a better character being entirely self-motivated, and being childless makes her discovery of maternal impulses more optimistic, and more like real character development.
      3.) The hamster sequence
      – Nuff said

      What’s left is just bloat, tacking on a minute here and there to slow the pace of a movie that was perfectly paced to start with.

  8. I’ll confess to having enjoyed Resurrection on a camp comedy level. Probably helps that my expectations were somewhere below the Marianas Trench by the time I saw it.

  9. WBTN says:

    Alien – One of my favorite movies! I had enormously high expectations before watching it, and it surpassed them like few other films have, for many reasons I say below, but not least because of the casting, the sound design, the inspired use of body horror, et cetera. Perfect, or close enough to it.

    Aliens – Pretty great. It lived up to expectations, but didn’t succeed them, just because I prefer a lot of things in its predecessor a teensy bit more: the quieter, elegant suspense of a stalker movie as opposed to the stifling, noisier kind in an action movie; slightly less dated visual effects; better music; it’s prettier and shorter; I like the ensemble in the first better (controversial, maybe); et cetera. But! It’s still consistently entertaining, Weaver was never better, and it builds very well on the world of the first one.

    Alien 3 – A noticeable step down from its predecessors, and the first one that’s too broken to be worth it, though I’m not ashamed to say that I revisit it every now and then (the assembly cut, anyway). A lot of very interesting but unripened ideas running alongside absolute crap, but Weaver makes it easier to swallow.

    Alien: Resurrection – It’s maybe due for a rewatch, just maybe, but I remember it being pretty bad. It’s somehow both gaudy and surprisingly bland for this franchise, with an awful final alien design and climax. Weaver keeps it all together, I guess, but much less so than in the others.

    Prometheus – It was… pretty? And not boring? Someone help me out here

  10. Patrick Thatcher says:

    There’s no point in talking about Alien: It’s a classic, and as perfect as any film made by humans can be.

    Aliens is also a spectacularly good movie, building off of Alien in its own way without going off the rails or just repeating the first film.

    Alien3… well, obviously it’s not as good as the first two. The Assembly Cut is a lot better than the theatrical IIRC, but the movie doesn’t quite live up to its own potential.

    Resurrection is a bad film with some good parts (Sigourney Weaver is good in it, for example), but the bad FAR outweighs the good.

    I’m just going to point and laugh at the AvP films as we continue to ignore them.

    Prometheus… isn’t really an Alien film. It’s in the same setting, so I guess it’s part of the Alien Cinematic Universe? It’s a well made, philosophical movie with some really glaring plot holes and REALLY STUPID characters. I seriously think Mr. Bean would have a better survival rate than those morons. (Matthew Buck AKA Film Brain recently did a long review of the movie that you can find on YouTube going over a lot of the nonsense that detracts from the movie).

    Haven’t seen Covenant, and I’m not likely to make it to the theater to see it regardless of what the word-of-mouth is. I see most movies in theater these days with my father, and he’d rather see a film with more action and/or comedy than a horror thriller from the Alien franchise.

  11. Stevie says:

    So deciding between Alien and Aliens is almost like choosing which of your hands you would rather amputate. One of them is much more meaningful than than the other, but really you can’t just imagine life with one without the other. I had completely forgotten I had watched Alien 3 before until I looked it up recently, which speaks volumes on how memorable it is. And Resurrection, well Jeunet has definitely done better.

    Now about Alien: Covenant, I watched it last week and to everyone who has yet to watch it, the critics and viewers who say it’s better than Prometheus are telling a pack of lies. The two improvements people seem to think are deal-breakers are:

    a) It does not have that Lindelof mystery box approach to storytelling that worn off its welcome even while Lost was still airing.
    b) It has H.R. Giger’s original xenomorph design and it shows that design off. A lot.

    As for the rest, it is exactly as good / bad as Prometheus. It’s still pretty as anything, and it has an unusual fixation on the nature of creators and creation, of God and Man. Michael Fassbender is the best thing in both movies. It has a noisy third act climax (and second climax), both of which can only take place because characters undergo a rapid change of personality to enable these climaxes to happen. And throughout the film, people do really, really, (really,) stupid things to enable the story to happen.

    And the one and important thing Prometheus has over Covenant? It has that C-section scene, which remains a high benchmark of horror filmmaking that no set piece in Covenant could surpass.

    • Carrie Jarosinski Carrie Jarosinski says:

      But wait! Alien or Aliens, gotta choose, and do it carefully. 😊

      • Stevie says:

        Alien. You never forget your first.

        • Not Fenimore says:

          Aliens, for the same reason.

          Also, the fact that I first watched it with friends, and dropship pilot Cpl Ferro looked just like one of them, and we figured that out maybe three or four shots before Ferro gets eviscerated. Which was probably not the intent of the scene, but I assure you, it was hilarious.

  12. Benjamin says:

    Alien -The best, by a hair. I prefer its measured pace to Aliens’ balls-out energy, and while the sequel is more quotable, this has more memorable moments: the opening, everything to do with the alien ship, the chestburster, and really, every death scene is perfectly shot, paced, and scored.

    Aliens – Still one of the best action movies ever. It’s remarkable enough to have a sequel that measures up to the original, but to do so in a completely different genre and tonal register–I can’t really think of any movie series that’s done that.

    Alien3 – I got Tim to review and compare both cuts of this for the fundraiser several years back! I confess that this is the Alien movie that I think about the most. It’s broken, no doubt, but there is still much to recommend it: Weaver’s performance, strong–if underused–turns from Charles Sutton and Charles Dance, the broken industrial production design, David Fincher’s picturesquely grim visuals. It also features my favorite ever film score, courtesy of Elliot Goldenthal; the stuff he’s doing during the opening credits, the cremation/dogburster sequence, and Ripley’s sacrifice scene are just so, so great.

    Resurrection – Definitely the one I revisit the least, for fairly obvious reasons. It’s dumb and often bad, but it comes to life a few times–Ripley confronting her clones, the underwater sequence–and it’s at least visually interesting.

    Prometheus – The biggest disappointment of my moviegoing life. It’s beautifully designed and has a fantastic Michael Fassbender performance. It even has some good scare scenes, but they’re marooned by aggressively stupid plotting and ponderous bullshit that raises more questions–for both the narrative and the broader franchise mythos–than it answers.

    As for the Alien vs Predator movies, the first is de-fanged, noisy junk, while the second is insipid garbage impressed with its own poor taste. They are useful as a benchmark for a shittiness we can take comfort knowing Alien: Covenant cannot possibly sink to.

    Despite the series’ questionable batting average, I’m still weirdly excited for Covenant. The trailers have not assuaged my fears that this is going to be Prometheus But With Actual Aliens This Time, but this will be the first proper Alien film I’ll get to see in theaters, so all the same I’m looking forward to seeing it with a bunch of friends.

  13. Not Fenimore says:

    Interesting podcast – it actually made me interested in seeing Alien 3 & 4, which I was not previously – but I cannot believe you mentioned H R Geiger’s name once, in passing, 55 minutes in. The man is like 30% of why Alien is as good as it is, all on his lonesome.

    Time never got to mention the second major change to Aliens, which I assume is the Ripley’s biological daughter business, which I am absolutely on board with as well. (Tim, do you have any idea why the autoturrets got promoted to an entire subplot? Like, it’s not enough runtime to be a particular thing either way, it’s just the only other part of the Director’s cut I was aware of, and doesn’t particularly add much, I thought.)

    • Not Fenimore says:

      And now that I think about it: compare the Hadley’s Hope scene from Aliens to the entire existence of The Thing (2011). 😉

  14. Will says:

    Ripley wasn’t the one who violated the Mom code! She sees one of the eggs open up after their truce, gives the queen a literal “Are you kidding me” face and THEN torches the eggs!

  15. sting606 says:

    I think there may be something wrong with amazon’s listing because the Special Edition of Alien is in fact SHORTER (by a minute) than the theatrical cut. Also, Carrie Henn (the actress who plays Newt in Aliens grew up to be a teacher instead of an actress, so there she went.

    Also, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is totally worth a watch. It’s a demonic possession film.


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