Scott, Cameron, Fincher, Jeunet. These visionary helmers have made some of the finest movies of the past three decades. So, in theory, the Alien Quadrilogy should stand as a towering achievement, a franchise that never buckled under studio pressure or sold out to summer-event movie demands. The reality is somewhat different.
Few franchises have had such a strong start as Ridley Scott's never-topped exercise in sci-fi horror, a creepy blend of 2001 and Halloween - not to mention any number of haunted-house movies - which sees the original, Giger-gestated monstrosity offing Lt Ripley's (Sigourney Weaver) crew. And few film series have benefited from such a strong sequel as Aliens. James Cameron's stroke of genius was to reinvent Alien as a tension-grinding actioner while keeping many of the elements that made the first instalment so impressive (motion-tracking drama, shaky head-cams, flame-throwers, the kick-in-the teeth fourth act...). And all on a limited budget, too.
Then it all went wrong. Without a script in sight, and with a flock of squawking suits flapping around him, a young David Fincher made a brave attempt to end the story satisfactorily. By his own admission, he failed. Alien3 has moments of brilliance (the stark opening, the funeral/alien-dog-birth scene), but suffers from an unconvincing creature, a plot touched by absurdity and a baldy Brit cast whose incessant shouts of "wankahhh!" soon grate.
Fincher probably doesn't take much comfort from this, but he actually didn't end up making the worst movie in the saga (so far). That task fell to Delicatessen director Jeunet, whose initially intriguing Alien Resurrection gradually slides into risible farce. Without a doubt, the mewling `Newborn' remains one of cinema's silliest monsters , a depressing end for Giger's creation.