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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I smell fear. It's intoxicating."
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August 18 2010

Down In Front provides audio commentary for Alien Resurrection. Last month, the podcast tackled this cinematic "head scratch". Accomplished film makers Teague Chrystie, Michael "Dorkman" Scott, Matt Vayda and Eddie Doty discuss Joss at length here, especially his greatness, despite this movie. NSFW.

Listen to the first few minutes for instructions on how to sync up your DVD playback with the podcast.

I have to admit, I always liked Alien: Resurrection. I considered it the best part of the quadrilogy even before I knew who Joss actually was. :-)
It's second, for me. First film's my favorite. There are aspects of the middle two I enjoyed (though to be honest, I can't remember much of what I liked about Aliens and I feel that it's the most overhyped/overpraised of the quadrilogy), but...I dunno. The third arguably has a fitting end for Ripley, but I guess I enjoyed Resurrection's better (even though it's kinda not Ripley...but kinda is, if they were weirdly able to resurrect her memories along with cloning DNA). Resurrection also has the fairly horrifying gallery o' clones scene, one of the most effective pieces of the entire franchise.

A lot of how your favorite is determined might have to do with when you watched the films. I think I caught pieces of the third when I was a kid and found it kinda boring. Then finally in the early 2000s, SPACE (Canada's Sci-fi channel) did a two-weekend marathon of them and I watched the first and second, then the third and fourth, only separated by a week. They flow pretty well (aside from the actor change for Newt). Can understand getting fatigued by the series by the later films. Resurrection does have flaws, but I never felt it was as bad as most say.

If I owned the film, would definitely listen to this later in the week. Kinda in the mood to re-watch some Alien films. Any key points to share from the podcast ?
The first two are excellent. The third is so atrociously bad that we don't count it, like Jimmy Carter's presidency.

The fourth is uneven. There's a lot about it that I really like. i tell people to stop watching when Ripley falls through the floor, or to fast-forward to where she's with Winona Ryder's character. Do that, and it's a good movie.
Alien Resurrection is the only movie I have ever walked out of. I can watch it now ok, but back it then I thought it was woeful.
I find the first movie to be entirely too slow of pace for my tastes. It has moments, but for me they're separated by long expanses of boredom. The second is by far my favorite, primarily for its very strong characterization and empathy. The first was more a horror movie, the second more an action movie.

The third was so bad I can hardly remember it. As for Resurrection, I remember being very "meh" about it when I saw it. Didn't hate it, didn't like it. I saw it again not long ago, and for the first time knowing Joss's involvement. I could sense his touch in it, but it's just not a good movie. But, then, Joss also has a writing credit on Titan AE which also sucked. I love the guy, but he's not perfect.
As a movie, I like the first one best. But Resurrection is the one I can always re-watch.

The other two are so-so, the third one probably slightly better.
I actually only saw these films for the first about four years ago, when I bought the Quadrilogy boxset.

The first is definitely the best for me, probably because I'm a horror fan more than action. The claustrophobia throughout is brilliantly done in particular and the infamous chest bursting scene is still incredible to this day.

Aliens is good, but I do think it is overrated, as a lot of people seem to consider it to be the best. A lot of the dialogue and charactisation has a lot to be blamed for too (particularly in the world of gaming, where it is constantly tried to be aped.)

Three I've only seen once and it left me completely cold. I don't really remember much about it (so, will prob re-watch at some point,) except for finding it quite dull.

Resurrection I actually quite like. It just has a simple enjoyable action film feel to it that may not be great, but at least has some fun moments. Then you get the sequence in which Ripley discovers the failed clones, which is fantastically handled. It is also quite interesting seeing an early, less pleasant and less fun version of the Firefly crew.
Here is every time coded moment of the podcast in which Joss is mentioned and discussed:

00:11:04 - "Written by Joss Whedon"...
Wait, was it like a Toy Story thing where he kind of got left one or two lines?
No, no, no, no. Firstly, a lot of Toy Story is still that... If you go up to anybody at Pixar and ask them about Joss Whedon, they'll say, "he is directly responsible for their success of not only Toy Story, but in teaching us how to write." Like, Joss Whedon went up and taught them... How story structure works and how to build your script. All the Pixar guys have nothing but great things to say about Joss Whedon. He was involved in the process from day one. This was a thing where--
[Joss' name comes up on screen] Woo!
Yeah, this was a thing where Joss had a few really bold ideas that if a studio had some balls and a director that agreed with him, went along with, we might've gotten something really, really cool and unique out of this. But, in the process of studio producerial control...
00:12:28 - Then the poor guy tries to go to Warner Brothers and write Wonder Woman, which is like his dream character to write and he gets totally thrashed around by that as well.
00:15:26 - I certainly am not speaking on behalf of Joss Whedon, but I would imagine that if you're Joss Whedon and you're given a task to, not necessarily to repair damage but to reset and get us to a place, the logical explanation would be, "Alright, I can't. I can't get us to Earth with Newt and Bishop. I can't do that. So, as long as I'm changing, let's completely change. Let's get us to a whole new place and keep the character the same". But where a lot of this movie fails is, Ripley is sort of having to learn to be Ripley and we've had three movies of her being Ripley, and now we gotta watch her learn how to be Ripley. I'm not interested in that.
Right, what's the point of bringing back the character if it's not the character?
...The thing is, Joss Whedon is the credited writer but rest assured, he's not the only writer. He's not the only writer by a long shot. And you see little flashes of like, Whedon's voice and tone in this. Later on, when Winona Ryder comes up and goes, "I thought you were dead." She's like, "Yeah, I get that a lot." That's straight out of-- You could put that in Buffy. I think they've had that line in Buffy a couple of times.
00:21:03 - It's the literal, classic Hollywood story of like, "Oh I've got this idea of something and this is it." "Oh that's great! We love it and we love you! Now write something completely different!" Because what had happened was, the original idea for this movie was, Fox was like, "Okay, we're gonna do a fourth Alien movie and Sigourney Weaver isn't really interested, so how do we continue the franchise?... Can we make a clone of Newt?" So Joss was like, "That sounds great." He makes this whole idea of this thirty page treatment of Newt's been cloned. She's on Earth with the Aliens and it's a clone of Newt. He turned it in, they're like, "Great! It's awesome! We love it! By the way, gotta be a clone of Ripley now, because we finally got Sigourney on board." And he's like, "Well, that kind of killed what I had in mind but, sure. Why not?" So he goes back and forth, and then when Jean-Pierre Jeunet came on board he had his own ideas. Ergo, this.
00:24:34 - It's not a bad-- I mean, imagine just for a second, I'm just gonna throw this out here: Firefly. So you're getting the characters and you're getting sort of how the characters are coming together.
He [Ron Perlman] is sort of the Jayne.
He's the Jayne-ish of our thing, and you see a little bit of Mal in Ryder's character.
Well, if you hear Joss Whedon talk about the character creation process for Firefly, he says, "And I wanted one character that no one would ever like, and I wrote Jayne."
Fail. [Laughter]
Cordelia, in Buffy.
Everyone loves Jayne.
By the time the show had started airing, people thought he was kind of an adorable, big, bear type, so they gave him the cunning hat and all that.
00:29:21 - Part of the problem is that Jean-Pierre Jeunet didn't speak much English and needed a constant translator, so some of Joss Whedon's usual stylings probably went a bit over his head.
00:30:33 - He [Jeunet] added a lot of humor in. Joss Whedon-- It was a constant sort of war, back and forth between the studio, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Joss Whedon. Jean-Pierre and the studio sort of triangulated on Whedon's script and messed with it as was sort of-- They also created five separate endings for this movie.
Yeah, it was like: Dart board. Pick one.
00:32:37 - From what I've heard-- and this is sort of just speculation, but from what I've heard, they took Joss Whedon's treatment-script, whatever... where it was Newt as a clone and said, "Oh yeah, write it this way because we can't get Sigourney Weaver." So, he's like, "Cool, I'm interested in that." Then they took what he wrote to Sigourney Weaver and said, "We got this great, hot sh** writer who just wrote Toy Story, and he's like the big thing now and so here, read this and see what you think." And she's like, "Well, I love it. I'm hesitant about doing the series but I like these ideas that he's coming up with, so I like it." So then, upon getting her they came back and said, "Well, we got Sigourney now so let's do that!" That's what I've heard. That's sort of like the rumor that I heard going around at the time. Hollywood stories, who the f*** knows?
00:37:41 - ...Have Alien and Sigourney Reaver running around. And I said Sigourney Reaver which extends to Joss Whedon again. [Laughter]... It's long in the day at Down In Front Studios, folks.
00:40:17 - But these movies are a grind to do... At least she's [Sigourney Weaver] doing some interesting stuff. I don't fault her for wanting to do this. I don't fault Joss Whedon for wanting to try something new. I fault the people in charge who lack the courage of their convictions to allow these people to do what they wanted to do.
00:43:46 - Now again, these are vibrant characters and I would really love a movie where these characters are just smuggling through space, and they're fighting the Alliance and gotta avoid Reavers. [Laughter] I've never noticed this until now but it's like, in a post-Firefly world...
00:58:21 - Now this, I think this may have been a Joss Whedon moment, where she [Sigourney Weaver] rips out the tongue. I mean, Joss Whedon is all about strong, female archetypes so it makes sense for him to do this, to do this movie and what not.
But in terms of production design, it's not supposed to be flexible like that. it's supposed to be rigid. Granted, I may be being pedantic here, but--
No, you're right. You're right.
Here's our Joss Whedon dialogue, like...
"It's like killing your own kind." "It was in my way." Okay, that's a cute exchange, but you say it's like killing your own kind. You do realize you have a bunch of guns and you didn't bring them for aliens, initially. You were perfectly alright with killing your own kind, so why are you making a thing of it?
01:19:00 - I love my Joss Whedon. I absolutely-- I respect him deeply and his writing skills and he's written a lot of things that have really, directly influenced me. With all that said, he has some-- he makes some suppositions about action and fighting and shooting and what not, that at the end of the day I kind of have a problem with. Even in Firefly, there's like a line where Mal punches somebody and says like, "I know you're supposed to hit someone with an open hand but it always feels better doing it with a fist."* No, don't hit someone with an open hand. That's actually not as good as you think. That's like, he probably heard that from somebody and what not, so--
Well, at the same time, Mal probably heard that from someone else.
I guess, but it's--
But Mal should know better.
01:42:38 - "Hey I thought you were dead." "Yeah, I get that a lot."
Hey! Joss Whedon's contribution, Ladies and Gentlemen!
01:43:44 - Yeah, the Serenity looks great here.

* - And because I know people will go nuts if I don't do this, the exact line, from The Train Job is, "Well, they tell ya, 'Never hit a man with a closed fist.' But it is, on occasion, hilarious."
Thanks for that, kungfubear. Fun commentary.
Ho-ly shit, kungfubear... O-O What a lot of work! Thank you.
I liked Alien Resurection even before I knew I loved Joss. It has Joss written all over it: it's about what makes someone human. You see characters in all physical and mental/emotional forms of "humanity," including those who are only part human or who only appear to be human. Maybe its a better screenplay than movie.

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