Fox // 1992 // 115 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // June 6th, 1999
The bitch is back.
This abomination of a film should never have been released without a serious revamping of several elements.
The only thing remotely pleasing about this disc is the quality of the video presentation. Nearly equal to the fine work done on Alien, this picture shines. Colors are very rich and the picture lacks any of the problems seen so often on other DVD presentations. The disc exhibits no ringing, shimmering, graininess, digital artifacts, or other displeasing elements. In short, this disc is a wonder to behold. Unfortunately, that is its only saving grace, so to speak.
There are so many things wrong with the rest of this disc one hardly knows where to begin. Allow me to start with some background.
I saw this film in the theater during its initial release back in 1992. Unfortunately, I cannot remember where I saw the film. I guess that happens when you move around the country as often as I have over the past ten years. I nearly, and probably should have, walked out of the theater. The sound was so bad, I could hardly tell what was going on in the film. At the time, I mostly blamed the theater. This experience was the beginning of the end for me, when it comes to seeing movies in the theater. I slowly began going to the theater less and less. After I bought my first DVD player in February 1998, I stopped going altogether, until this past week or so when I gave in to see The Phantom Menace. I realize now my rage was misplaced.
The bad experience I had in that particular theater was not the fault of that theater, but rather the fault of the people who worked on this film. The dialogue here is so overpowered by what should be background sound elements that I could not understand about half the dialogue. Most of the "action" takes place in a large, high ceilinged environment, leading to annoying echoes of the dialogue in an attempt to convey the sense of space surrounding the characters. This was annoying and a very bad decision. Frankly I'm not experienced enough in the shooting of films to know who to blame directly for this misstep. Do you blame the sound re-recording mixer, the sound mixer, the sound editor or who? I'm not sure. But I believe the ultimate responsibility for the film rests on the shoulders of the Director David Fincher.
This film was Fincher's breakout film. I am glad the powers that be gave him a second chance, otherwise we never would have gotten Seven or The Game in their current form. I can only explain away his many mistakes through a lack of experience or perhaps control. Among his many other mistakes on this film is an annoying reliance on shots tracked from the point of view of the Alien while pursuing its prey on the ceiling, thus resulting in an incredibly annoying "upside down" view of the world.
The story also lacks in many ways. The biggest mistake was to put the cast down on a penal colony where they must attempt to fight off the alien sans any real weapons. I remember hearing once that Sigourney Weaver insisted on this type of story line or she would not do the project. As co-producer I guess she could have that kind of power over plot, so I find it a believable rumor. Frankly, I don't have the time to track down corroboration of this, so take it with a grain of salt. This move totally abandoned the fans of the original two Alien films. In trying to be different, the crew of this film essentially went too far. An additional mistake (SPOILER ALERT) was killing off Charles Dance's character Clemens too early in the film. Frankly, he is the only one we have learned enough about to identify with in any way. As a result, we are left with a motley crew we have no empathy for, which must now fight off the alien without weapons. Yeah, right.
The last thing worth bashing in this movie is the third rate special effects. While the film is littered with examples of these, the worst of the bunch is probably the last scene where (SPOILER ALERT) Ripley jumps off the platform to her doom into the furnace and grabs hold of the chestburster as it tries to make its way out of her body. What a joke. I have seen better special effects from B movies filmed in the '70s. Either get a clue or cut it out. Fincher had to know that this scene would be panned. If you don't have the money to do it right, don't do it at all. Just cut the scene as we see her falling in from afar. Leave it at that.
I suppose I should be pissed that Fox made us buy all four Alien discs in order to get the fifth bonus disc. Actually, I am so pleased with the first two that I don't really care. I'll keep this and never watch this disc again, but I can't wait for that fifth disc to arrive. I hope it will be everything I expect and more.
Convicted to a life sentence for bad character development, bad acting, bad storytelling, horrendous sound quality, inferior special effects and abandoning its key constituency. Six life sentence to be served consecutively by the entire crew of this film. Due to ameliorating circumstances, Mr. Fincher is eligible for probation as long as he keeps delivering works like Seven and The Game.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailers