Musings on the Aliens and Predator main franchise movies

So I recently filled in my Friday night movie watching time with the Aliens and Predator movies. The main point was to watch them as a ramp-up to the Aliens vs Predator movie … but then after watching them I forgot about that and decided to watch the Matrix movies instead (some comments on the first one should be coming up in the next couple of weeks). Still, I think I’d like to give some general comments on them anyway.

I had watched all of the Aliens movies — at least the first four — at least once, so I’m the most familiar with them:

Alien is a good movie in a specific genre. It has its struggles, certainly, and would benefit from some modern film-making techniques, but the plot work quite well and while we might have wanted to get to know the characters better, we know enough about them to feel for them when they did, which is enough.

Aliens is also a good movie, in a completely different genre from Alien. But unlike some other cases where people could feel that it ruined the franchise, I think it works. The reason is that it doesn’t seem like it completely changes how the universe works, but is more of a question of “What if?” in that universe: what if an actual colony of people landed on that planet near those eggs? And then the action part of the story follows from that. Given that, it’s not saying that the Alien franchise is better as an action story, but instead is simply pointing out that action stories fit into the universe as well. So it doesn’t invalidate the first movie while telling a different story from the first one.

Alien 3 is disappointing. It kills off two characters that we liked from the first movie without any real purpose, and the setting and plot are more annoying than the previous two movies. I didn’t enjoy watching this movie.

Alien Resurrection is crap. The characters and plot are uninteresting and it tries to be more than its plot can actually sustain which makes it not only poor, but also seem pretentious. I couldn’t tolerate the movie and don’t think I actually finished it.

Now, onto the Predator movies, of which the only one that I had actually really seen was the first one:

Predator is a good movie. The Predator is an attacking monster like we saw in Alien, but the movie is actually better than Alien in this regard because it introduces the characters first and their complicated relationships and then weaves them into the monster story. This allows the characters to die in a manner that pays off or is consistent with their characters, introduces plot points that complicate things, and in general makes us sympathize with them as they fight (and die). This also adds drama to the final battle between Arnie’s character and the Predator, and the final scene.

Predator 2 is, however, not a very good movie. It ends up being an urban crime drama as opposed to the monster story of the original, and the shift doesn’t work. It follows from the universe, sure, and could even be a “What if?”, but it fails because it focuses on the urban issues and makes the Predator simply a part of that. While a movie focusing on those sorts of gang crime issues could work, it’s not what we’d watch a Predator movie for.

Predators has a good premise, that drags the movie back to the style of the original, as humans — presumably because of our successes in the latest hunts — are being taken to a hunting preserve to be hunted by the Predators. However, the movie suffers from uninteresting characters — especially the main lead, who is mostly a skilled jerk for the entire movie with one moment of semi-redemption later — and a premise that runs out of steam pretty quickly. This means that the movie suffers at the end with us not really caring if they survive or not. Also the fact that these ones aren’t the first dampens the plot a bit, as it would have been nice to show that the Predators introducing humans into their preserve was going to change things. Yes, sometimes that sort of humancentric storytelling can be overdone and cheesy, but here it would at least have made the ending of the two of them not escaping to have a point and meaning beyond a simple “ra-ra” moment. I didn’t mind watching the movie, but don’t think I’d be that interested in watching it again.

So these are my musings on those seven movies after watching them over the past few months. Of the movies, I’d watch Alien, Aliens and Predator again, but probably wouldn’t watch the others again.

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