Wednesday, March 13, 2013

WE RANK 'EM: Aliens and Predator Movies

Science fiction, action and horror are hard to disentangle in the cinematic world. This is often a bad thing, and limits cinematic "sci-fi" to a more limited range of stories and themes when compared to its print cousin. Every once in a while, though, a series gets the formula right. The linked Alien and Predator series have, on occasion, done just that. But only occasionally. So without further ado, I rank all 10 films in the dual-series for your reading pleasure...

10. AVP: Requiem

Bad acting, bad script, bad direction? This one has them all in spades. What it doesn't have is a sense of humor about itself, intentional or not. The worst kind of bad film--the boring one. AVP: Requiem, arguably, is the Storage Wars of action movies.

9. Predators

I had high hopes for Predators, which promised a return to the jungle setting of the original. Only this one is stupid. Okay, fine, so the original was stupid too. But it was a colorful riot of stupid! An ironic masterpiece! Predators, by contrast, is the Keeping up with the Kardashians of action movies.

8. Predator 2

Whereas the original Predator pit the alien hunter against a crack and ethnically diverse band of spec-ops soldiers in the Central American jungle, this one has decided to specifically go after Jamaican drug dealers in Los Angeles. The film never tells us why it targets Jamaicans in particular, but I can only assume we've got a racist predator on our hands. You might say this is the Dog the Bounty Hunter of action movies.

7. Alien Resurrection

If you paired a celebrated, absurdist French director to a beloved Anglo-American sci-fi franchise, what do you think would be the result? How about if I told you nerd-icon Joss Whedon wrote the script? Awesome, right? Or possibly even, super-awesome? WRONG! The correct answer is: utterly forgettable. Like the Bosom Buddies of action movies.

6. Alien3

You'd think a David Fincher directed installment that has Ripley running around a space prison would be atmospheric and scary, but you'd be wrong. As it happens, the studio undermined Fincher at every turn, and he's since disavowed the film, so we'll never know if Alien3 could have reached the "heights" scaled by faux-deep flick Fight Club. Instead, we get a boring film that pees on its predecessors by killing off Bishop, Newt and Hicks ...with little to show for it. You might call this the Baywatch Nights of action movies.

5. Prometheus

Woah...check out the 3D effects, man! That shit is so coool! And yeah, it kinda sorta is. Prometheus gets points for being so damned gorgeous, but uses those up quickly on account of its horrible script and the cringe-inducing moments when director Ridley Scott decides to tell us, in the most ham-fisted way possible, that this story is a parable of Christianity. You could buy this to show off your 3D TV, but you'd ultimately regret spending $30 to do so. Basically the Revolution of action movies.

4. Aliens vs. Predator

Okay, now we're talking! Sure, AVP isn't "good"--the acting is horrible, the plot absurd and its script appears to have been written by Poochie the Dog. But that just makes it the charmer it is, and a true masterpiece of unintentional comedy--the kind of film that's practically begging for the MST3K treatment. Still torn about the best scene: the one where the hero and predator go sledding or the one where they share a tender, loving moment? The Cop Rock of action movies.

3. Aliens

If you dig the Alien series, you're likely familiar with the people who claim James Cameron's action-tastic sequel is better than the original. Those people are, of course, deluded, but they are right about one thing--this is a kickass film. Sure it lacks the atmosphere and tension of the original, but it has big action and a great cast. Lance Henriksen steals the show as the android Bishop while Ripley cements her status as history's #1 ass-kicking action film goddess. Without any doubt, The Game of Thrones of action movies.

2. Predator

Controversy! Predator isn't a better film than Aliens, but if you take camp-value into account, it kinda sorta is. See, Predator is that rare film where you can simultaneously suspend disbelief and laugh at all the corny lines, hackneyed plot devices and, of course, that scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger covers himself in mud and gets in touch with his inner beast man. And no film arguably captures the Reagan-era zeitgeist quite like Predator, which both glorifies the warrior and condemns the suits who make him do bad things. Eminently quotable and patently ridiculous, Predator is the Seinfeld of action movies.

1. Alien

No color-era film exemplifies the sci-fi/horror approach quite like Alien. It's a deeply atmospheric, exquisitely-paced thriller marked by great writing and acting, slick directing, forward-thinking design and that rarest of cinematic beasts--subtelty. Hell, we don't even see the alien until the end of the film! Director Ridley Scott gets extra points for standing by the theatrical release and not insisting that this nearly perfect horror-sci-fi mashup would have benefitted from another 30 minutes of naval gazing. Clearly, this is The Wire of action movies.