Monday, 28 November 2016

In sequels no-one can hear you scream

The late 1970's and early 1980's were a boom time for science fiction. There were loads of inventive, clever, brilliantly made movies that inspired a generation. There was also a load of old crap, but let's bypass the likes of Battle Beyond the Stars for now and forge on with the good ones.

Alien and The Terminator are two of the greats, and they inspired sequels which are just as good (some would argue better). When it comes to the pub quiz question of which films actually managed to have great sequels these two are right up there (along with The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather 2 and Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay).

So, where Alien was the haunted house in space, Aliens was a war movie (on a side note, Predator is about Vietnam. Super elite soldiers getting picked off by an unseen enemy in the jungle you say?). Whereas The Terminator was a low budget sci-fi chase movie with a soundtrack straight out of a John Carpenter film, The Terminator 2 was a big budget, effects driven juggernaught with pathos and heart.

Still scares the crap out of me!
Just stop.

So what's the problem here? So far so good right? No reason for not liking them?

Well, not quite. At what point should film companies just stop? Nothing that's been released in either films subsequent sequels have come close to matching the first two films in the respective franchises. They are reheats at best, attempts to provide something new just shows how good the originals were, and the dearth of ideas that have followed.

Alien 3 is probably the best of the bunch. Cursed by production hell, providing David Fincher with no chance of putting his vision on screen, it's one of my favourite "almost great" movies. It's so bleak it hurts.

Alien Resurrection? Some good ideas but the wrong directors. Gallic dark comedy is not the place where this franchise needed to head. And again we were stuck with people running round a spaceship being chased by the eponymous xenomorph. And the new alien hybrid at the end? It reminded me of a white dog poo (you don't them anymore) that had melted in the sun.

I'm going to lump all the Terminator movies into one bucket here. How many times can you try and add extra explanations about the future apocalypse? Not one of these movies has added anything of significance to the franchise. There is absolutely nothing going on. Remember when you watched Arnie walk into Tech Noir? Or when the T-1000 turned into liquid metal? Or the very first time you heard "I'll be back" without a hint of postmodern irony? Compared to this, what have the sequels done?

Strobing lights? Must be the 80's.
Can't out run a spaceship.

And then there's the crossover movies. Say hello to Alien versus Predator. I might be on my own here but I cannot stand these movies. It's not that they are bad (but they are), it's got more to do with the idea that to make a great movie you should crash two completely separate franchises together. And yes, I am well aware of the alien skull in Predator 2, and the comic books, and the novels that happened before the films happened. But it doesn't make it better.

Prometheus? Again, it's just a reworking of Alien with bells and a budget. Ridley Scott seemed so determined to make a film that wasn't Alien that he ended up filling it full of things..... from Alien! I mean come on Ridders! If you're going to have a scientist peer over a strange alien pot you may as well go the whole hog and put the fucking face hugger in it. I wish you had, it would have been much better than the dross I had to sit through. And Charleze Theron can't work out how to run to the side of a massive falling spaceship? Lucky she's the cleverest person in the film then. At least there's not a sequel. Oh, hang on.

And this is where I become a complete hypocrite. I would love to see a new Alien or Terminator movie that can stand alongside the originals. It would be phenomenal to see that level of film-making return to the series. They are such amazing movies that have stood the test of time, and this is the issue. The franchises are trading on former glories, and have been for at least twenty years. They will continue to make money because of people like me, people who really really want them to be great, and will end up disappointed and holding out for the next one.

Ultimately though, I'd rather the originals and their immediate sequels just got rereleased at the cinema. I'm lucky to have seen the Alien Director's Cut in an actual cinema, and I was there on the day of release for The Terminator 2. And both blew me away. they are masterworks of film-making. Maybe the production companies would be better off saving their money and re-issuing the first four films from time to time. At least then we could remember them in all their glory.

Put these two in the next Alien film. It'd be an improvement.


  1. After reading this blog I saw this article:

    It seems at least one studio is listening...

  2. It'd be interesting to see if there's any take up on this sort of thing.