Alien Quadrilogy @ IMAX Review

Posted by Gazz on June 3, 2007 (Updated: 01-Jun-2014)

In Space No Nerd Will Hear You Scream

Being only twenty years old I had missed out on the chance to see the cinematic greatness that is the Alien Trilogy on the big screen. Well that changed last night as the kind people at the BFI put on an all nighter event at London’s IMAX, with the extra bonus of viewing the films in their original print. The event started at 9pm and was to run through until 7am with 30 minute intervals between each film and tea and coffee provided by the kind people of the IMAX. The night began with Alien.

Alien: Directors Cut had been the only film I had seen, of the alien franchise, at the cinema. I was expecting the same print to start rolling. Instead I was greeted by a gritty thirty year old print, in which the corners had darkened over the course of time, and a certificate marked with a plain “X” in a red box. Now I heard a lot of grumbling, during the first interval, of people complaining of the quality. However I thought otherwise. I felt like I was in 1979, sat in a cinema watching Alien for the very first time. Although I knew the film shot for shot I had noticed several things I hadn’t before that brought a whole new appreciation the design and execution of the film. Even when the film gave out a good twenty minutes before ending I still felt the buzz of seeing the film the way it was intended. A magnificent experience!

After a quick brew, another large sprite and a brief chat with a few choice nerds (some of which I found unfathomably annoying) we were ushered back into the screen for the midnight viewing of Aliens. As I had watched the film only four days before (the same day I stumbled over this very event) it was still pretty fresh in my mind. And I think this detracted from the film somewhat, for the first 30 minutes at least. It wasn’t until the actual landing on LV-426 that I found myself truly immersed in the film and I fell back in love. Like its predecessor I noticed several things I hadn’t ever before, mainly to do with framing and the design of certain shots and again I found another level of appreciation for the film. The face huggers in the med lab is still the most undeniably tense scene in the entire film and a treat to watch a hundred times bigger with the Horner score blasting in my ears. But, as you can imagine, I cannot not appreciate more the technical achievement that is the Queen. And on the big screen she’s as beautiful as ever.

So naturally the next half hour was spent preparing myself for the most depressing film of the lot as well as throwing about lines such as “Yeah she thought they said illegal aliens and signed up” as well as the classic “Game over Man, Game over!” In fact I think it’s safe to say most of the quotes came from Hudson.

Now when I refer to Alien 3 as a depressing film, I mean it in the best way. The thing is the appreciation of the third film boils down to whether you can fall into its dismally downbeat tone. Sadly it was relevant by the few new empty seats that some people couldn’t. However I have always held Alien 3 within the highest regard and often heralded it as my favorite of the trilogy (though my mind often changes with the wind). For all its faults I could not help but fall in love with the execution, music, editing, cinematography and design. Even on the big screen the ropey CGI effects looked remarkably better than I remembered them to be. The highlight of the film came with the cat and mouse chase down the prison corridors. And seeing those stedicam chase shots, through the complex, was a brilliant sight to behold. In fact the whole final act came across as a lot more “on the edge of your seat” tense as I had remembered. The ending to the Alien trilogy had always been the most perfect with its swell of music from the amazing work of Elliot Goldenthal to the beautifully constructed shots from Alex Thompson. And it was at this point that I reached my peak of appreciation for this was truly the best film of the night. Sure it isn’t the biggest technical achievement of the lot and the story does have its many faults but here on the big screen I couldn’t help but fall for it in a big way. This was where the night should have ended, the franchise coming full circle and with a sense of satisfactory sense of completion. Sadly it was not.

My hate for Alien Resurrection is known amongst my friends but I was strangely looking forward to the fourth installment in the same way I looked forward to seeing Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. But after watching three brilliantly crafted and well structured films my carefree anticipation fell flat, replaced with the same disappointment I always felt upon viewing the fourth film. The kind of “you raped my childhood” disappointment. And where I found new appreciations for the first three films I found a new hate for Resurrection. From the set designs and CGI to the misuse of the xenomorphs (I don’t want to see them swim for Christ’s sake). And not a one of the bland characters were scared of the fate that they faced and if their not scared, why should the audience be. Even the music, something that I had become fond of over time, felt completely out of place within the franchise. But it wasn’t until the inclusion of the Newborn that the film dropped from being just shit to embarrassingly shit. Not only had this film tainted the franchise but it also stole the roar of applause the predecessors deserved.

But all in all it was an experience I am glad I never passed up on. It was a fun night and I met a whole host of Alien fans. Now I’m back off to bed, I have ten hours of sleep I need to catch up on.

Oh and if you were there, I was the guy that told Enya to “Shut It” in the opening of Aliens.

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