Holy mother of God!
Anyway we then spent Saturday and Sunday night watching the director's cuts of all four Alien films in HD. The Alien series is probably the best bang for your buck you'll get in a single box set, because it gives you four of the most interesting directors of our time all taking on the same story - but in a completely different way.
It really is amazing how similar in plot structure all four films are but how different each film is from the other. They can all be broken down like this:
1. Alien arrives.
2. Most people underestimate the alien and are therefore unhelpful.
3. Other people are too scared of the alien to be helpful.
4. Nearly everyone but Ripley gets killed by the alien.
5. The company does something stupid to try to save the alien for their bioweapons program.
6. Ripley kills the alien.
All four films follow that structure but the four films could not be more disalike if they tried - and it all comes down to the director.
Alien - Typical Ridley Scott. A streamlined simple structure with a powerful female lead character. He throws in a bunch of phallocentric and gynocentric images and then lets a simple plot unfold. In fact, the plot is essentially that of Friday The 13th but without teenagers. Exactly the type of simple yet fun storytelling Scott would use for all of his successful films.
Aliens - Now we have James Cameron doing what he does best. Of course there are thousands of aliens and a lot of gigantic guns - it's a fucking James Cameron feature! So, now instead of the simple plot structures and single alien we get a marines versus aliens war going on with fantastical space backdrops.
Alien 3 - You could remove the credits and still know this was a David Fincher movie. He not only drops it back down to one alien - he gets rid of all weapons instead of carving knives and an axe. It's the anti-Cameron version of this thing. Instead of a fast moving popcorn flick you get a slow but steady film that is all about interesting visuals and lighting angles and religious imagery. It's a film about Jesus and crucifixion really with Ripley not so subtly in both the Christ and Virgin Mary roles.
Alien Resurrection - Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the dude who did Amelie, now takes the reigns and we get a very Euro Alien movie. Ripley and the alien are now equally matched. There is lesbian tension, everything sparkles but there is the seed of corruption underneath and yet it has a lot of the good natured fun of Amelie. He wants it to be scary and subversive but he wants you to feel the joy of cinema at the same time.
Four films. All with the same characters. All telling the same story. But each one is completely unique - something I don't think any other franchise has ever really accomplished.