Alien is one of the most storied series in film history in terms of who brought them to screen. Directed, in order, by Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and back to Scott again this summer with Prometheus. Not a schlock among the group, though we could certainly debate which of their efforts is really worthy of praise.
In prep for Prometheus, I’ve been re-watching the Alien franchise from the beginning. Last night was the conclusion with Jeunet’s Alien 4.
Jeunet is one of my favorite directors because he is so massively unpredictable and entertaining. This is the man who brought us Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, Amelie, A Very Long Engagement, and most recently Micmacs. There isn’t a movie in that list I wouldn’t unequivocally recommend.
How Jeunet ended up on this film with writer Joss Whedon is one of the great mysteries of Hollywood. Alien 4, much like Alien 3, had a long and ugly road to screen. By the time these two great men came to it, I suspect the best they could do was reduce the body count of the train wreck they were helming.
You can see the influence of both in the humor and relationships throughout the story. They are also both fond of twisted darkness, and there are those moments of that as well. There are fewer scares and more outright horror than the previous installments had, however. Generally, this is the most fractured of the series in plot and ideas and it is a huge shift in feeling as well. Ultimately this is the least satisfying of the original series despite some truly ooky moments, if you think about that last 20 minutes, and some clever aspects in the plot progression.
As a complete-ist, I have to see this film every so often as part of the cycle. And the special edition is definitely a bit more cohesive and interesting than the original release, but it is definitely the red-headed step-child of the lot so far. It doesn’t feel like it belongs in the same box as the rest other than the characters that inhabit the story. It will be fascinating to see what Scott does with a new installment to the universe this summer.