Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Firefly Resurrection

For my birthday I received the "Alien Quadrilogy" boxed set, which I have just found the time to watch, finishing with "Alien Resurrection" last night. I hadn't seen either "Alien 3" or "Alien Resurrection" for more than a decade.

"Alien", of course, is a great film and a classic of the genre (whether that's sci-fi or horror). The blu-ray is a distinct step up in quality from my older DVD copy, and if anything the special edition is actually better than the original - the director removed some 6 minutes of material, resulting in a film that is actually tauter than the original. Good stuff.

"Aliens" is, quite simply, one of the best films ever made. And, again, the blu-ray is excellent quality. Of course, the director's cut of this film is well known, and is a distinct improvement over the theatrical cut - by adding a lot of extra material, the scale of the film is extended and the plot is that bit more coherent.

Which brings us to the films I hadn't see for decades, and never bothered to pick up on DVD...

It turns out that "Alien 3" was much better than I remembered, but it remains fundamentally flawed. It's very easy to see how the opening pissed off the fans of the previous film so much - killing off Hicks and Newt does indeed negate the victories of the previous film. And the last half hour seems to involve a lot of pointless and confusing running that is extremely difficult to follow. Plus, this was the point where they moved from model-work for the monsters to CGI, but the technology really wasn't up to it. So, a lot of the menace is negated because the characters are running away from a very unconvincing cartoon peril.

Plus, the special edition adds some 20 minutes to the running time, making the film overly long. I would need to rewatch the original to see how the two compare in quality.

It's a shame - there's a really good film in there somewhere. But the changes that would be required to bring that really good film out aren't actually possible without remaking the whole thing (which isn't now possible given the time that has passed - the actors have aged a bit in the last 20 years!).

Which brings us to "Alien Resurrection", which is another film that turned out to be not as bad as I remembered. And, again, there's a really good film buried in there somewhere. Unfortunately, it's buried under quite a lot of really bad direction and really bad acting (including from the normally reliable Ron Perlman and Brad Dourif). Again, it's one that would need remade completely to bring out that good film.

(And that's a shame. The scenes where they heroes are swimming through the kitchen and then climbing up through the alien nest are both excellent. But, again, the film really goes to pieces in the last half hour or so.)

But what really got to me in "Alien Resurrection" was the crew of 'Betty', a small cargo vessel that is used to smuggle cargo, and which is crewed by a rag-tag bunch of scoundrels.

Now, I vaguely remembered this aspect of the film, and I was of course away that it was written by Joss Whedon, of "Firefly" fame. What I hadn't realised, but what I realised pretty damn quickly, was that "Alien Resurrection" basically is "Firefly".

In the crew of 'Betty', there are direct parallels of Jayne, Zoe, and Kaylee. And Ripley herself is almost exactly River, right down to several mannerisms being the same. (Heck, at times I half expected her to declare "I can kill you with my mind."!) The characters of Mal and Wash are combined here, into a captain/pilot of uncertain moral code, and who is married to his first officer. There's no direct parallel of Book, but one of the characters was distinctly reminiscent.

There's no real equivalent to either Simon or Inara, and there is a 'new' character (a little person paraplegic mechanic).

Of course, I was hit by that Keanu-like "woah" moment pretty quickly in the film. At which point, "Alien Resurrection" became a lot more fun when watched as an out-and-out "Firefly" movie. (I'm not sure if it's better or worse than the actual "Firefly" movie, though...)

But then, that just made me wish they would remake it, get Joss Whedon to direct, and replace 'Betty' with 'Serenity', and go from there.

(Incidentally, after the film I went online to look for discussions of the similarities, only to discover that "Firefly" and "Alien" actually take place in the same 'Verse - the anti-aircraft gun Mal uses in the first episode is manufactured by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Which means, in turn, that the "Predator" films are also part of the 'Verse. Might be that gives me some ideas...)

#44: "Pathfinder: The Asylum Stone", by James L. Sutter
#45: "Plague of Shadows", by Howard Andrew Jones

(I should probably note that "Plague of Shadows" was actually a surprisingly good book. Granted, it's game-fiction, so the standard isn't terribly high. Still, I really enjoyed it, and a lot more than I expected. It's not "book of the year" material, but still noteworthy.)

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