Friday, 1 June 2012

Alien Neet - The Review


A 12pm rendezvous at Tesco for supplies kicked off our Alien Neet. With pizzas, crisps, Doritos and beer we were ready for anything.
We arrived at the venue Mark had setup for the occasion – complete with fridge! 

We took our places, put the first disc in and set off to where no-one can hear you scream…..
The Directors Cut is interesting for one main addition, and one scene removed. Unlike the theatrical release, here we see Ripley discover Brett and Dallas cocooned in the walls. It introduces an aspect of the xenomorph’s methodology that most didn’t see until the sequel. The scene is a short, but emotional one and though it reveals that Brett and Dallas weren’t killed initially, it doesn’t lessen the impact of their earlier encounters with the alien.

One of the scenes removed entirely is when Dallas types questions to Mother, asking for the protocols on their current situation. Having no luck, he types in the question: "What are my chances?" The reply: "Does not compute". Chillingly brilliant, and yet the Director's Cut does away with it. A shame. 
My views on Alien as a whole though, remain the same – this is a horror masterpiece of tension and terror. A true landmark in cinema.
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A cheer went up as the credits rolled on our first film of the Neet. A quick toilet break and we were straight into the second.

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Of all the Special Editions, I believe Aliens adds the most running time. It’s most significant addition is the depiction of daily life on the LV-426 colony. We see that it’s all about industry as workers mill around, but we also see whole families are present – with the kids riding their bikes through the restricted areas. The scamps! And of course, we are introduced to Newt and her family. We see the results of their first contact with the alien species and we are gifted with the highest pitched scream on film.
There are also a few scenes that hark back to the original. The camera glides slowly over monitors and work stations, the scenes dark and silent.
What’s remarkable about all of this is that despite the added length, it doesn’t slow the pace. Aliens Special Edition continues to get to the point. It slams down the accelerator from the start and never lets up. “Ease down! Ease down!”
Not only do I still believe this is one of the greatest action films ever made, I now see how truly brave it was to take Ridley Scott’s concept and steer it in a new direction.
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With a grape-sized bladder, I had another toilet stop after Aliens while the pizzas went in the oven. If there were any fears that the best of Alien Neet had already passed, no-one voiced their concerns. With the smell of food drifting in, we were feeling good and ready for round 3. Mark wore a crisp packet as a hat and Jack said: don’t take a picture of me.

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Alien 3
A directors cut of this film would probably cut it out of David Fincher’s life entirely. Apparently he’s disowned it, but I hope this is just down to his experiences making it, rather than the film itself – because I think it’s great.
Alien 3 is more of a sequel to the first film than it is to Aliens as we are back to one “dragon” stalking its prey. There is a large cast and we are often not familiar enough with them for their inevitable scenes of demise to resonate, but this is more than made up for by the viciousness of it all. Alien 3 is by far and away the most gruesome of the 4 films with blood and guts in generous supply. It is also the most foul-mouthed. Even the grunts of the colonial marines didn’t drop this many f-bombs!
The Special Edition of this film is billed as a reconstruction of the original vision and there are two interesting differences from the theatrical cut. In this version, the alien doesn’t come from a dog, but an ox. With the ox already dead and not a domesticated animal, its chestbursting scene lacks the pathos of the dog’s scene, but it makes more sense with the cattle kept by the prisoners and the size of the xenomorph.
The second big difference is in Ripley’s sacrificial plunge into the furnace. (Sorry for the spoiler, but if you haven’t already seen these films, where the hell have you been?). In the theatrical version, the alien bursts from her chest mid-fall and Ripley grabs it and holds it in place to drag it down with her. In the Special Edition, there is no chestburst – just her graceful fall into the flames as the music soars.
While the special edition version is of noticeably poorer quality than the chestbursting one, I think it works better. It makes more sense for Alien Resurrection when they cloned Ripley with the alien still inside her and it’s satisfying to get through all four films without our heroine suffering that most horrible of fates she witnessed befall Kane aboard the Nostromo.
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Fearing by now that there was something seriously wrong with me, I once again headed to the toilet. With pizza and the world’s biggest chips eaten, we were refreshed. Except for Jack who started to complain of belly ache and the need for a more substantial toilet stop. Like a hero, he struggled on.

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Alien Resurrection
This is very much the sci-fi one in my view, ensured by its central premise of Ellen Ripley cloned 200 years into the future along with the alien queen she died with.
We have a good cast of characters here, including a very different Ripley. With her DNA mixed with the xenomorph, she has gained strength, agility, acid blood and a general all round hornyness. We do see a glimmer of her old self when she encounters the previous failed attempts at creating her, but aside from that, she’s a badass from start to finish.
The special edition of the film adds a few bits here and there, but the most significant being a longer end sequence. In the version released in cinemas, the Betty enters Earth’s atmosphere and the film fades to black after a view of the sun through the clouds, a bit of land and a short conversation between Ripley and Call about being strangers on Earth. The special edition sees the Betty land and then Ripley and Call have the same conversation on a poorly made set, before the camera turns and pans across the landscape. The ship has landed in Paris / Blackpool and the city is looking worse for wear.
I’m not one of those people who needs a film’s ending to be all sunshine and rainbows, but I must say I preferred the sense of hope that a simple view of the clouds offered.
My view of the Newborn remains lukewarm at best. Basically, as Ripley has been changed by xenos DNA, the queen herself has also had a dose of human genes and grown a womb. And what should come out of it? A human-alien-Michael Jackson hybrid with, admittedly, an awesome right hook, but also a penchant for giving puppy-dog eyes and generally looking really silly.
Ultimately though, my view of Alien Resurrection improved. I always knew it was a good film, but when you watch it on its own, you invariably raise the first two films up onto a high pedestal and compare – leaving Resurrection with no chance. Watched all together, however, and Resurrection becomes a natural evolution of the franchise and a worthy addition. It is without doubt, an Alien movie – one of four amazing experiences.
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One final note. The thing that occurred to us the most during Alien Neet, was just how wet it is in space. Seriously. It’s basically raining in the Nostromo when Brett gets taken. It’s chucking it down on LV-426 and the marines are the sweatiest bunch since the crew of the USS Alabama in Crimson Tide. More rain and sweat in Alien 3 and then Alien Resurrection comes along and not only are the aliens the moistest they’ve ever been, but there’s an entire section of the film under water! In space!
Anyway. Alien Neet was a resounding success. And as we dumped plates and glasses and crisp bags in the kitchen for our host to clean up and headed out of the gate - over 9 hours from where we began - one thing was obvious:
The “Neet” would return.

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