This has always been one of my absolute favorites of this franchise. It delivers largely on entertainment value, and a far superior script and cast than A New Beginning had to offer. This wraps up the Tommy Jarvis trilogy of films with a very satisfying climax, and there is so much that goes into making it such a great film.
Crystal Lake has been renamed to Forest Green in order to distance the town from its blood soaked past, but Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) is not yet free of his past. Tommy and his friend Allen Hawes (Ron Palillo) return to the town to dig up Jason’s corpse and cremate it to eradicate the nightmare that’s plagued Tommy since childhood. However, an iron rod and a lightning strike resurrect Jason as an undead juggernaut, and he immediately resumes his killing spree. Tommy attempts to motivate the local police into action, but knowing of Tommy’s institutionalization, Sheriff Mike Garris (David Kagen) writes him off as disturbed and has him locked in a holding cell. However, the Sheriff’s daughter, Megan Garris (Jennifer Cooke), becomes intrigued and invested in Tommy while she and her friends re-open Camp Forest Green for the weekend to host a bus load of kids. As Jason closes in on the camp and builds up his body count, Megan chooses to aid Tommy in bringing an ultimate end to Jason’s reign of terror.
Slasher films of the mid-to-late 1980s were getting tamed down by the MPAA requiring a lot of gore to be cut to gain an R rating. That hurt the quality and effectiveness of so many horror movies at this time, but Jason Lives was able to offer more entertainment value beyond the gore. Writer / director Tom McLoughlin approached this film with a love for classic horror, but also, a desire to add some appropriate humor to liven up the movie. Bringing Jason back from the grave required a bit of leap for the franchise, but it was handled very smartly with the use of some classic monster movie ideas. Jason being resurrected by a lightning bolt much like Frankenstein’s Monster is a clear example of that. The atmosphere McLoughlin added stands out amongst the franchise. The whole film has this wonderful blue tone with shadow and fog which sets a great visual atmosphere that is evocative of those old noir like Universal monster movies. Unfortunately, the Deluxe Edition DVD of the film screwed up the color timing so the blue tones are now green, and if this ever gets a Blu Ray release, this is possibly the transfer they will use.
Thom Mathews is my favorite Tommy Jarvis. He’s finally a full fledged hero taking action to combat Jason directly. Mathews has plenty of diversity to easily handle the dramatic, action, and lightly humorous demands of the script. Tommy’s presented as a stronger character than before, but still with an underlying twinge of obsession. Still, he is ultimately driven to destroy Jason in order to prevent him from killing more innocent people. That is the right turnaround from the previous film where Tommy just stood around and did next to nothing. He’s still haunted, but is taking action to rid himself of this waking nightmare once and for all. Thom Mathews is a strong lead that really shines through, and sparks up a wonderful chemistry with his female lead Jennifer Cooke. She provides a very spirited and strong willed young lady that is hard to handle for her father or Tommy. Cooke has charisma, energy, and allure to spare. She carries herself very well amongst this fun and talented cast – always standing out but never eclipsing anyone. Megan Garris is a tremendous lively addition to the formula as a smart, fun, assertive, and sexy female lead.
David Kagen is very impressive as Sheriff Garris. He’s smartly written to be a well-rounded character that is never dumbed down for convenience’s sake. Kagen makes a big impression right from the start as an assertive man of authority. Yes, he’s antagonistic to Tommy Jarvis, but anyone would be hard pressed to buy his story of Jason rising from the grave. Looking at it from Garris’ perspective, he’s acting entirely properly since he doesn’t know what we know as an audience. He’s an excellent protector for the people of Forest Green and his daughter. Kagen does a great job making him both a realistic hard ass that you don’t want to mess with, and a rational and often fatherly man with a heart. It’s wonderfully diverse from McLoughlin’s writing to Kagen’s acting. Certainly by the third act, he becomes a solid heroic figure that you’re rooting for all the way.
The rest of the cast is a lot of fun. They feel very much of the 1980s with their fashions, haircuts, and just their general personalities. Each character has plenty of richness to them to feel like fully realized people, and the cast have plenty of chemistry and charisma to remain entertaining and pleasant to spend time with. This is one of the most talented casts of the whole franchise, and truly the most fun of them all.
The role of Jason Voorhees eventually fell to C.J. Graham in this film. However, there are a few scenes, most notably the paintball one, where Jason is portrayed by someone else, but he was quickly replaced with Graham. That was a very good choice because C.J. truly defined the undead Jason. He gave the slasher a more menacing body language that was just enough zombie while still being aggressive and intimidating. He’s definitely one of my favorites.
To aid Graham’s notable turn behind the hockey mask, Jason Lives offers up a slew of creative kills and substantial gore. While a good deal of graphic content still had to be cut, the horror aspects still sell very well. Hawes getting punched through the chest, and Jason ripping out his heart is very shocking early on. It’s an excellent first impression of the strength of this resurrected Jason. Tom McLoughlin definitely showed he had fun conceiving and creating this film with all the original kills, and indulging in some nice action sequences. An RV gets flipped on its side driving down the road, and there’s a nice car chase between the cops and Megan’s classic red Camaro. It’s all very exciting and new stuff injected into a franchise that needed a breath of fresh air at this point. The addition of several great Alice Cooper tracks from his Constrictor album was just brilliant. It gave the film an additional promotional boost, and for Cooper, it gained him me and many others as fans. However, the song “Hard Rock Summer” didn’t see release until the 1999 “The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper” box set along with the Movie Mix of “He’s Back.”
I’m sure the dark humor of the film turned a number of people off in 1986. The box office takes of the films steadily declined after Part 3 until the big success of Freddy vs. Jason, and so, this was no bigger of a hit than A New Beginning. However, since its release, Jason Lives has gained a strong standing in the franchise. It’s regularly praised as one of the best, and it is easy to see why. Again, it’s very exciting and filled with a strong visual atmosphere. Of course, it’s the story and its pacing that are the strongest. The film has almost a constant urgency about it with Tommy facing the obstacles of Sheriff Garris and the police while Jason is out slaughtering people. There’s enough going on with the Tommy / police conflict to keep it exciting with him being escorted out of town, getting apprehended in the car chase, and then, having to breakout of his cell with Megan’s help. It’s a very solid build up to a especially fresh, strong, and fiery climax. Intercutting between two stories is usually the most surefire way to maintain momentum and rhythm in a film, and McLoughlin shows a great sense of both. Editor Bruce Green deserves a lot of credit for also keeping the pacing tight and sharply to the point.
Composer Harry Manfredini’s music changed distinctly with this sequel. I’m sure there are those that would have preferred him sticking with the classic sound of Friday The 13th, but I have no particular preference either way. It’s become part of the overall identity of the film which tonally sets it apart from most of the other films. While I’m sure a first time viewer might have difficulty adjusting the new sound, I still feel it’s appropriate for the film Tom McLoughlin made.
While Friday The 13th Part 2 is my favorite of the classic formula, Jason Lives really is my favorite of the undead Jason era. I believe writer / director Tom McLoughlin put together a thoroughly satisfying sequel which strongly wraps up the Tommy Jarvis storyline, and is filled with a fun 1980s style. After the creative failure of A New Beginning, he gave us a film that felt lively and entertaining with some highly memorable and enjoyable characters. The self-referential humor is nicely balanced with the horror aspects, and careful avoids falling into self-satire or parody. It remains light and realistic, never making the characters appear dumb or foolish. It is a very smartly written film that is executed with an equal level of intelligence. I give this film glowing praise all around, and I highly recommend it.
There is a myth in Star Trek lore that the even numbered movies are good and the odds numbered ones are bad. That’s fairly simplistic, and not entirely a fair statement. Yes, the franchise has had poorly conceived and problematic films in its lineup, but that hardly means that all the lesser entries are terrible. Star Trek: The Motion Picture has a lot going against it, but as evidence by it, the talents of Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley have always been able to add redeeming qualities to all the original cast films. Their chemistry, charm, heart, charisma, and depth have always shone through. While there is a potential future review from me for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, I wanted to delve into the follow-up to the franchise’s most critically successful film. I wanted to address Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. While the first and fifth films have very obvious problems that have been well vocalized, I feel Trek 3 gets too much of a bad wrap. I can pinpoint and agree with the reasons why, but I believe it’s been overly beat up because of it being in the shadow of The Wrath of Khan. Time for someone to give it a more fair viewpoint.
The starship Enterprise is heavily wounded in the aftermath of her battle against Khan, but her crew survives by way of the sacrifice of Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy). His body is launched from the ship in a memorial ceremony, and crash lands on the Genesis planet. As the Enterprise and her crew arrive home to Earth, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) finds his close friend and confidant Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelly) in Spock’s sealed quarters talking crazy, and eventually finds himself in lock-up after trying to charter passage to Genesis. The hits keeping coming as Kirk learns that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned as the Starfleet brass believe her day has passed. This is ever more apparent with the experimental new U.S.S. Excelsior ready to begin trial runs, ushering in a new era of Starfleet engineering. However, Kirk is soon paid a visit by Spock’s father, Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard), who tells him that Spock’s katra (i.e. everything that is not of the body) still lives, and they determine that Spock mind-melded with McCoy before his death. This commits Jim Kirk to a course of action that could cost him his career by stealing the Enterprise to rescue Spock’s body from the newly formed Genesis planet, and reunite it what’s in Leonard McCoy’s mind. Meanwhile, a ship of rogue Klingons, headed up by the cunning and merciless Commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), seek to learn the secrets of the Genesis Device for the protection of the Empire with the science team on U.S.S. Grissom, including Kirk’s son David (Merritt Butrick) and Lieutenant Saavik (Robin Curtis), caught in the crossfire. The sacrifices of the crew of the starship Enterprise will be dire as they endeavor on their search for Spock.
I believe why this film is not as highly regarded as others is the lack of a strong theme. In The Wrath of Khan, there was a prominent exploration of age, life, and death. What they all mean in context to one another, and how someone like Jim Kirk dealt with them. Here, there was enough room left open for strong themes to be explored, such as sacrifice and rebirth, but the opportunities are not taken with much ambition. Considering all Kirk has battled through from Khan to the death of his friend, ship, and son, the story was ripe for deep resonance. Of course, The Voyage Home doesn’t have such dramatic elements to it, and it has been widely beloved. The Search For Spock is a segue between the tones of the films its sandwiched between. It has its strong, dramatic elements, but also a lot of fun and light-hearted charisma. One would think it would be praised for that fine blend, but it does lack the ambition that those other two films had. They took some chances, pushing themselves for higher standards, and they succeeded. While this second sequel doesn’t have much scope, I do gain enjoyment from it. There are many aspects that I find are worth commending.
I love how the film is able to show the loyalty of the Enterprise crew. Admiral Kirk gives them the opportunity to walk away before getting too deep into this rogue mission, but they have no hesitations in voicing their loyalties. They are willing to stand by Kirk, regardless of the repercussions, because of what they owe him, and ultimately, what they owe Spock for his sacrifice. That strong, indestructible bond is not something that all Star Trek casts have been able to achieve, and that history amongst the crew of the original U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 sells so much of Kirk’s motivations here. Even if the film doesn’t dig deep enough to show how it penetrates to his soul, a seasoned viewer already knows it. Tying into that is the always solid chemistry amongst the regular cast members. They work as an ensemble that is very cohesive, and always on the mark. Regardless of the quality of the film they are making, or how troubled the production may have been, the actors never get lazy or sloppy. They respect their characters and the legacy they leave behind. No pun intended, but Shatner puts in an admirable performance giving the film its constant pace through his wit and charisma. He adds in the right touches of humor, as do his co-stars, but focuses the drama of the screenplay when it’s needed.
This film was really the dawn of the revamped Klingons. The makeup redesign happened in the first film, but here, they finally explore the revised culture of the warrior race. The concepts of honor, guile, and glorious death are well explored through Christopher Lloyd’s excellent Commander Kruge. While the character himself is not explored with as much depth as he could have, Lloyd plays a surprisingly solid villain. He’s cunning, deceitful, intelligent, and treacherous. Lloyd has been known for a wide range of eclectic characters, but here, he delivers an excellent, calculated performance with a fine operatic screen presence. Essentially, all Klingon actors followed in his footsteps as he laid the foundation and template for them right here. I also enjoyed Kruge motives, which could have been the basis for fleshing the character out. Like with Khan, Kruge sees the potential for Genesis as a weapon, but instead of using it as an instrument of revenge or tyranny, the Klingon Commander seeks it to protect his people. He will not let the Federation have sole claim to something that could be used to commit genocide on his people, and he will stop at nothing to learn its secrets. It could almost be an allegory to the nuclear arms race if Genesis was created as a weapon instead of as a terraforming device. Kruge is calculating, and accepts nothing but the absolute best from his crew, lest they be met with fatal punishment. Lloyd as Kruge was also the first to use the fully realized Klingon language. It was great having the alien race’s culture more fleshed out and developed for this film to give the actors something solid and powerful to work off of. The always impressive John Larroquette is here as one of Kruge’s subordinates, Maltz. It’s a minor role, but he embraces it with his usual full commitment and high quality. This film also introduced one of my favorite Star Trek starships – the Klingon Bird of Prey. It’s an amazing design that is fierce and dangerous. The green paint job was a smart departure from all the dull grey ships we had seen until then. It gives the Klingons more personality from the moment the ship de-cloaks. It is given an imposing, threatening introduction that serves the Klingons thoroughly.
I have always held Mark Lenard as Sarek in high regard. You never get to meet the parents of the other Enterprise crew members, but for Spock, it has always been important to his character to see his family. Lenard has always been able to portray Sarek’s wisdom and logic with a touch of heart. While it’s hard to link emotional terms with the performance of a Vulcan, I would say that Sarek shows his soul in this film. Losing his son is like losing a part of himself, as is the same with Kirk. So, they share a rare moment which only Spock’s death could compel from them. While Sarek & Spock’s father-son relationship has had its conflicts, Sarek is still a fine father that cares for his son more than he can ever allow himself to express. No parent should see their child’s life end before their own, and Sarek sees a chance to reverse that tragedy. Any parent would take that chance, no matter the odds. Mark Lenard gave Sarek his wisdom, grace, conviction, and noble depth of character. He was an incredible, inspiring actor that forged a legacy in this franchise that will stand for all time.
A possible issue of contention with this movie is the recasting of Saavik. The role was originated by Kirstie Alley in The Wrath of Khan, but financial demands from her agent prevented her reprisal. Instead, it went to Robin Curtis. Both actresses play the role differently, but it was necessary to keep Saavik to maintain the character and story threads from the previous movie. Both Alley and Curtis offer unique and admirable performances. Alley’s Saavik was decently Vulcan with a subtle emotive quality. She was a very untested Starfleet cadet with promise. She came to grow over the course of the adventure, earning her keep. Curtis’ Saavik is more confident and capable with a stronger Vulcan characterization and a sensitive nature that proves to be a strength. She has a stronger will and sharper intellect to create a more complex character. With the guidance of director Leonard Nimoy, she was given the freedom to make the character her own without the baggage of Kirstie Alley’s portrayal. In the Vulcan legacy of Spock and Sarek, she adds great depth to Saavik beneath the surface. Alley’s version entirely served the needs of The Wrath of Khan while Curtis’ portrayal suits the demands of The Search For Spock just as perfectly.
The visual effects are solidly up to the levels of the first two Star Trek films, as handled by Industrial Light & Magic. They are definite proud achievements that hold up excellently today. Model work and optical effects, when done by the master craftsman of the era, entirely stood the test of time, and should always remain available as milestones in cinematic history. What doesn’t quite stand up over time are the scenes on planet Genesis. The limitations of the budget are painfully evident with the obvious soundstage sets and painted backdrops. Because of the limited budget, the filmmakers obviously couldn’t fly their actors to exotic locales around the world to feature all the diverse climates of this manufactured planet. I can’t say that there was a feasible way to do this better at the time this movie was made, but even if it was the best solution, it’s still a detractor to the film’s production quality. This is not a constant for every scene on Genesis, but the evidence is frequently apparent, regularly reminding you of this fact.
Another thing that I don’t care for here is James Horner’s score. I’ve always been underwhelmed by his music for Star Trek. For me, Jerry Goldsmith will always be the one and only master when it comes to cinematic Trek. What John Williams is to Star Wars, Jerry Goldsmith was to Star Trek, in my view. He ultimately defined the vast, sprawling, epic musical landscape of the franchise for me on the big screen. Horner’s themes and cues are fine work, but they never became signature, identifiable themes for Star Trek. Evidence of this is that Goldsmith’s theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture became the theme music for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Jerry was brought in to score five total films in the series over thirty-four years. Horner was kept around for a total of three films, but I never cared all that much for the music he produced. It was never outright bad, but it just never lived up to the musical potential of what Star Trek demanded. It’s nicely arranged and gives the film some character, but it simply never does enough for me. In this film, I seriously miss one of my favorite Goldsmith themes – the Klingon theme. I can only imagine how awesome it would’ve been to see that Bird of Prey swooping around for the kill with that glorious fanfare in full orchestral breadth. Kruge surely deserved a verbose and powerful theme to accompany his commanding presence, but James Horner makes no attempt to give the Klingons any presence in the film’s score.
The screenplay was written by producer Harve Bennett who was more akin to writing for television (such as The Mod Squad and The Bionic Woman) which, at the time, didn’t explore big thematic storylines with strong emotional resonance. So, the scope of the film feels small for that reason. As I said before, the limits were not pushed here to be ambitious and reach for something bigger or deeper. That doesn’t mean the script is bad. It certainly has its moments. I truly like the part where the Excelsior’s Captain Styles tells Kirk that if he goes ahead with stealing the Enterprise, “You’ll never sit in the Captain’s seat again.” Kirk doesn’t even flinch as he just orders, “Warp speed.” The first two films made a definite point that Kirk’s worth in life is directly tied to being a starship captain, but there’s something far more important at stake here. He’d rather lose everything in his career if there’s a chance to bring Spock back to life, and restore McCoy’s mind to peace. The dialogue is good and entertaining while encapsulating the characters perfectly. The action scenes are nicely conceived, especially with the fight between the Enterprise and the Klingon Bird of Prey. Seeing how the old NCC-1701 is overmatched because it is wounded and undermanned being run on automation was a fine touch. It is entirely realistic that she can’t take the pounding. While it would have been a glorious moment to see Admiral Morrow proven wrong with his statements of how old and outdated the ship is by seeing it triumph against such steep odds, I think it better fuels how much Kirk has to sacrifice to get his friend back.
While, clearly, I’ve said much about what is sacrificed on Spock’s behalf, but McCoy is at risk as well. Jim Kirk has one friend dead and another in turmoil. These two men – Leonard McCoy & Spock – are pieces to the whole that is James T. Kirk. I always enjoyed the moment in Star Trek: The Motion Picture where Kirk drafts Bones back into service because he can’t do what he has to do alone. “Dammit, Bones! I need you!” says Kirk to McCoy. Only after he has the wisdom, perspective, heart, and soul of these two men at his side can he succeed. They bring balance to his ego, passion, guile, and intellect. They re-enforce and focus his confidence. They help him reflect upon himself. Leonard McCoy is a vital piece of that formula bringing passion and humanity to the table. Kirk can’t allow to see his friend’s mental state deteriorate, and lose him as well.
Regardless of anything else, ultimately, I have to praise Leonard Nimoy on his feature film directorial debut. It was both a tough and enviable position for him to be in. On one hand, he was unproven as a movie director, and had scrutinous limitations and supervision put on him in the shadow of a critically and commercially successful film. However, he was working largely with a cast he had known for over fifteen years who knew their characters thoroughly, and that could allow Nimoy to direct with a built-in sense of respect. I’m sure he had his difficulties, but his talent is clear to me. He surely was allowed to soar with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home based on his success here. It is a serious cinematic disservice that his career as a feature film director ended before it had a chance to soar. He started out with solid hits including Three Men and a Baby. However, he faced a crushing defeat, both critically and commercially, in 1994 with the comedy film Holy Matrimony which grossed less than $800,000 (less than 20% of its production budget). Leonard really appeared to be a wonderful filmmaker with a great handle on action, drama, and humor. I believe he would’ve had a lot to offer in a lengthy career had he gotten the right projects to his credit as a director. Here, he delivered a very consistently paced and well balanced film that keeps is story elements in focus. While there are likely plot holes in the reasoning of some characters here and there, they are minor bits and pieces that are relatively inconsequential.
At the end of this, I feel Star Trek III: The Search For Spock should not be viewed as a “bad movie.” It doesn’t live up to the thoroughly solid thematic work of the previous film or the fun adventurous spirit of its follow-up, but it’s a nicely enjoyable film that had potential to be more than it was. It has plenty of action, drama, and humorous moments to make it a consistent, satisfying and entertaining film. The screenplay could’ve benefited from getting in deeper to the soul of the story. It certainly touches upon it several times, but doesn’t stay there long enough to really develop the underlying themes in the story. As it is, there is no reason to rank it poorly in the franchise. It was commercially successful, and remains a fine classic Trek adventure for the original cast. It merely in contrast to the exceptional and vastly superior films it is sandwiched between that give it a perceived smaller stature, and that I can understand. But sometimes, you need to take things a little out of context to give them their proper due respect.
With Alien: Resurrection, it became painfully obvious that Twentieth Century Fox was now less interested in making credible sequels and more so in just bleeding this franchise dry. Let’s try to put this into perspective. Joss Whedon, as many know, is the creator of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. He’s a proven great screenwriter and director. He is the screenwriter for this film as well, but by his own admission, the filmmakers executed every aspect of his script wrong. Everything imaginable was done wrong from Joss’ written vision. Various other aspects were introduced by the film’s shitty French director Jean-Pierre Juenet. This, mainly, includes all the bad, stupid humor. The worst part of it is the fact that he’s very proud of all the stupid comedic bits, thinking it makes the film more entertaining and fantastic. This is the sort of thing that flushes the film down the toilet. Watching the DVD Special Edition cut, other things become obvious. His originally intended main title sequence is stupid, irrelevant, and directly setups a terrible tone for the film. It comes off as total, stupid B-movie cheese, and the cheap CGI effects drag it down to even lower levels. The theatrical cut sets a much better tone, but it hardly sets you up for how abhorrent this film really is. So, by that train of thought, the Special Edition introduction fits the quality of this motion picture much better.
After killing herself to prevent the government from taking the monstrous Alien to Earth, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) awakens 200 years later to find she has been cloned in order for scientists to withdraw the Alien DNA living inside her. As the world around her begins to fall apart and the terror begins again, Ripley realises that the scientists who cloned her may not have fully removed the Alien from her, at the same time that she is, once again, perhaps the only one who can stop the horrific infestation from reaching Earth.
Alien had Ridley Scott, Aliens had James Cameron, and Alien 3 had David Fincher – filmmakers who have all gone onto very high profile, blockbuster, and critically acclaimed careers. Jean-Pierre Juenet is about third class next to them. Where the previous three films gave the franchise a real weight and emotional depth, this film becomes a badly done and clichéd comic book adventure. It shows nothing of subtlety or intelligent originality. It’s all BIG camera moves, BIG action, BIG (yet shallow) characters. It also features over-the-top and cheesy performances by all but two cast members.
Ron Perlman and Michael Wincott are exceptional actors who are always reliable for bringing the goods. Wincott tends to bring a mysterious and engaging quality to his performances. Top Dollar in The Crow is probably his most high profile role. Here, it’s more low key, but that just makes him more intriguing. I think he could shine well in a classic film noir feature. Unfortunately, he has very few scenes, and gets killed relatively early. Ron is a bad ass, plain and simple. There’s a definite reason why he got such a role in Blade II, and more importantly, as Hellboy. He’s good at ass-kicking, gung-ho roles. This outing is no exception. Although, most casting choices are uninspired. One might be used to Dan Hedaya in more comedic roles, but he has fit into a dramatic feature well, such as The Usual Suspects. Here, you might think that his character would be made to hold more dramatic weight, but it’s 99% bad humor. General Perez does not come off, remotely, as a serious military officer. He comes off as a mentally stunted fool. Compared with Apone or Hicks from Aliens, he’s a buffoon. I’d sooner be led by Bill Paxton’s Hudson. If Perez is representative of humanity’s military, then it’s a sad state of affairs for the human race. Winona Ryder is no Carrie Henn, in terms of a vulnerable female role, and is no Lance Henriksen or Ian Holm, in terms of a peculiar android (or ‘artificial person’). Simply said, she fails to provide Annalee Call with any true depth or fascinating quality. There’s no reason for her to be here, let alone anything for her to do in this role. Brad Dourif provides nothing but over-the-top goofiness. You can’t take him seriously for a second. Good over-the-top Dourif is The Exorcist III, this is Dourif on the opposite end of the quality spectrum. Doing it with all the weight of a feather, and being god awful in a role you want to forget in short order. So many of these roles are cliché, paper thin characters meant to fit a cardboard cutout archetype to service the poor plot. You need the evil military guys, the mad scientists, the gruff mercenaries – all check. So, there is a need to scrutinize Joss Whedon’s script. I know he’s capable of far more diverse, complex, and interesting characters than this. I just don’t understand how he was responsible for such a lightweight, flat, and uninspired script. I can understand the filmmakers botching up the execution of the script, but I can’t believe they drained depth and character from it to where Joss would still accept a screen credit. Much of it would have to be Mr. Whedon’s fault, unfortunately.
Now, you have to ask where does Sigourney Weaver fit into all of this? She’s not playing Ellen Ripley. Not the Ripley we came to know and evolve with through the first three films. This is a hollow shell of a character with the memories of Ripley, and slight emotional traces thereof. But she’s not the weary, battle hardened, desperate character that Alien 3 left her as. Nor is she the strong, assertive, and haunted woman of Jim Cameron’s film. Sigourney does give us a rather creepy character, but it’s nothing recognizable to the franchise’s fans. Her character is truly alien. The emotional state of this Ripley Clone is sporadic and erratic. It’s all over the map, not allowing an audience to connect with the franchise’s heart and soul. It also plants Weaver, firmly, in the mud. She has no place to expand or grow with this dead role. Ellen Ripley’s character arc concluded with Alien 3. Closure was had, even if it was bleak. She went through all kinds of hell, saw so many die, and the pain and loss was absorbed into every fiber of her being. She was as human as any character you will find, and her end came with pathos and poetry. You might not have liked it, but within the context of that story, her death was appropriate and purposeful. It should not have ended any other way. Then, they go ahead and piss all over that with this cold, hollow “resurrection.” It is D.O.A. Sigourney Weaver’s role is one you cannot emotionally invest yourself in because she has very little emotion to offer. It’s about the stark opposite of the real Ellen Ripley we saw in the first three films. Suffice it to say, this film easily could’ve been scripted and shot without Sigourney Weaver or anything including Ripley since this really isn’t Ripley, not in spirit. She’s a stranger amongst strangers, and a stranger to her fans.
Moving on, and as I said, the film is filled with BIG everything. Every shot in the film is something complex and highly involved. There’s always movement, and extremely little, if any, subtlety in its cinematography. This forces the film to be less grounded and more overly dramatic. Dutched angles are seen throughout. Some scenes have one after another after another after another, for no effective reason. Juenet and cinematographer Darius Khondji were painting with broad strokes to show off their budget and gimmickry. Just them trying to make the film look artistic and interesting while achieving neither. Furthermore, every action sequence is over shot. Push-ins, sweeping crane shots, steadicam madness, low angles, high angles, dolly tracks. Khondji just throws all the tricks into every sequence, turning them into a massively over worked mish-mash, and not trying to differentiate one from another. Once the action begins, it’s shifted into hyperactive mode. It’s like Michael Bay on steroids – everything done to maximum capacity and minimum reality. At least with Michael Bay, he does it to give his films an epic feeling, this all falls flat for me. Also, the film is saturated with this sickly green tinge that is simply too much, and makes the film exceptionally unattractive to watch. When it’s not green, it’s this deep brown which is equally unattractive. Just adds to the excessively stylized comic book visuals that only further flushes the film down the crapper. There’s no beauty or inspired photography in the look of this film, ever.
Like I stated before, there are stupid concepts in this film, some minor, some major. A minor one also shows the lack of thought put into the futuristic setting. In several hundred years, why would we still be using paper currency? Even today, in the early 21st century, we’re mostly relying on debit and credit cards. Most people don’t handle tangible currency, it’s mostly computer based funds. Bills are paid online, plastic cards are swiped to make purchases. Three or four hundred years from now, paper currency will be an ancient concept. Also, a pinhole crack in a space ship’s hull (or window) would not cause the effect seen in the film’s climax. It is simply against the laws of physics and intelligence. But it fits in with the complete stupidity of the film.
Far larger dumbass ideas culminate in the abomination called ‘The Newborn.’ I won’t even bother commenting on its design as I think ‘abomination’ says enough. It’s just pathetic that one of the most merciless, relentless, and fearsome creatures in the history of science fiction cinema is dwindled down to this lame ass, mutated, embarrassing mess. Twisting the knife further, it actually says, “Mommy.” A further slap in the face is how helpless the Alien Queen is depicted as, and the fact that this regurgitated beast bitch slaps her to death. James Cameron and Stan Winston have been insulted. As bad as all that is, the French hack makes it even worse – Ripley makes love to the damn Alien! You may vomit now. It’s nothing graphic in detail, but the implication alone is enough to make you sick. And the complete hack director of Catwoman, Pitof, is the film’s special effects supervisor. Seems French hack director socialize with other French hack directors, both destined for bankrupt American filmmaking careers.
The film’s effects are a divided issue. The CGI is obvious and substandard. I keep wondering how, in 1993, at the dawn of digital filmmaking, we got realistic, flawless, seamless computer generated dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but over fifteen years later, we continue to get cheap, crappy CGI effects in countless films (even for high profile, big budget films). This film was all of five years later, and the computer generated Aliens and effects are hardly seamless. There is no effort involved in picking them out from their live action surroundings. The physical effects, on the other hand, are definitely up to standards. This is due to Amalgamated Dynamics Incorporated – mainly Allec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. They worked with Stan Winston on Aliens, and took over with their own company, ADI, on Alien 3. I’m not keen on the brown, veiny Aliens, but the quality of the physical and practical effects, across the board, are of a high standard.
You can talk about the film’s score, but it’s nothing exceptional. Standard fare, forgettable horror-action cues. Which rather sums up the film. The entire problem with this film is that it takes a fairly serious franchise constructed by three serious filmmakers who injected it with strong layers of suspense, terror, and character depth, and then, deteriorates it into one-dimensional, one note characters and over worked action sequences. Suspense and terror barely fit into the mix. It’s all replaced by poorly conceived ideas, and a badly interpreted and executed script. It is one bad turn after another that beats the credibility of a once great franchise further into the dirt until it’s six feet under, and then, spits on the grave for good measure. If this was some terribly troubled production with all kinds of creative differences (i.e. Alien 3), some of this might be forgivable, or at least, understandable. But it absolutely was not. Director Jean-Pierre Juenet loves this film with all his heart, and thinks everything he did was wonderful and fantastic. Perhaps, even brilliant. The reality is that he made an abomination of a film that drove the final, hot, sharp nails into the coffin of the franchise. It could’ve ended with Alien 3 without much argument, at least, in light of Alien: Resurrection, but alas, the Hollywood money machine kept on milking it. Paul W.S. Anderson went on to beat the dead horse further with AVP, and unfortunately, put a bullet through the heart of the Predator franchise as well (which hardly had been run into the ground). AVP-R, in my opinion, helped to turn the tide a bit, but it all remains to be seen.
This film, on its own, is pathetic and badly done. When compared to its predecessors, it’s a terrible piece of cinema that never should’ve been. A fourth Alien film, if it needed to be done (which it didn’t), could’ve been put into the hands of any number of far more credible, talented, and higher quality filmmakers. How it landed in the hands of a Frenchman who had never made an American film before, let alone anything in the realm of straight horror, is beyond me. It failed on every level. There are very brief bits of goodness here, but they are crumbs that will not satisfy your hunger for another well-made Alien film. This is a straight shoot ’em up splatter fest devoid of the suspense and character depth each previous entry had instilled in the franchise. Nothing is improved upon in the Alien Quadrilogy DVD Special Edition cut. It just prolongs the agony, and there’s not enough of a distinct difference to offer a separate review of it. This one review covers enough, and you can feel free to send it down the refuse, again. This could rival Highlander II, Freddy’s Dead, & Jason X as the worst genre sequel of all-time. It really was and is a letdown in light of where the film series began and evolved to. This sequel is a poor afterthought for a franchise that still had a decent measure of credibility remaining. Thankfully, you can still watch the first three films as a complete trilogy, and easily ignore Alien: Resurrection in its entirety.