(In theaters, November 1997) Given the near-classical status of the two first movies of the Alien series and the widespread loathing of the third segment, it won’t be a surprise if chapter 4 fits somewhere between those opposites. More of a film version of the Dark Horse comics than a satisfying extension of the series, Alien 4 manages to be relatively entertaining, but not enough to be fully liked. The biggest flaw of the movie is that it introduces a few new concepts to the saga, but does so in typical stupid Hollywood action movie fashion (where a character can use two right-angle ricochets to hit a villain through a helmet, and other assorted physically impossible antics). Oh, and the ending sucks… even though “sucks” here is as much a statement of fact than opinion.
(Second viewing, On DVD, May 2005) When discussing the flaws of the Alien series, most will spend their time rehabilitating Alien 3. I’d rather champion this film, an uneven and disappointing entry that nevertheless contains ten time the action, interest and humour of the third entry. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet would go on to write and direct Amelie, but his quirky sense of humour and his impeccable eye for style is already on full display here, as he plays around with the Alien mythology, brings it further in the future and generally has a good time. There are a number of terrific visuals in the film, and a few good dialogue scenes. It’s a shame, then, that the third act is so atrocious, that the action scenes are so improbable, that the humour isn’t a bit more reigned in or that Sigourney Weaver was allowed to have such an influence on the production. I was never able to shake the odd feeling that this was a live-action adaptation of a Dark Horse comics, but no matter; I still find something worthwhile in this film, warts and all. The “Alien Quadrilogy” box-set special edition includes a fair number of supplemental material, including a “special edition” with better bookends and a number of added dialogue lines. The documentary featurettes are a bit disappointing, failing to offer a complete overview of the film production. A fair audio commentary completes the material.