From Alien to Super 8: Is the Big Reveal Worth the Wait?

by Ethan Alter June 8, 2011 6:02 am
From <i>Alien</i> to <i>Super 8</i>: Is the Big Reveal Worth the Wait?

We all know that J.J. Abrams loves his mysteries and so far the biggest mystery surrounding his new alien invasion movie Super 8 -- apart from how jealous Dakota Fanning is that her baby sister Elle is working with folks like J.J. and Sofia Coppola while she's stuck in yet another Twilight movie -- is what the extra-terrestrial looks like. Abrams has played this game of "hide the alien monster" before, most notably in the 2008 Godzilla riff Cloverfield, which he produced. In that film, after spending the entire movie running away -- or, more often, dumbly running towards -- the unseen beastie, the remaining survivors at last come face to face with the creature and... it's about as scary as that big red Rambaldi ball from Alias. Here's hoping Abrams learned his lesson with Super 8 and devoted more time to designing a monstrous creature that's actually, y'know, monstrous. Moviegoers will find out for themselves this week, but in the meantime, here's a look back at previous alien invaders and whether they passed the fear test when we finally see them in all their horrible glory.

Riddick: Assault on Planet 13

by Ethan Alter September 6, 2013 6:00 am
<i>Riddick</i>: Assault on Planet 13

With the re-energized Fast and the Furious franchise having returned him to pop culture relevance (however briefly), Vin Diesel and his regular collaborator, writer/director David Twohy, are seizing the opportunity to take one more run at Richard B. Riddick, the intergalactic, night vision-enhanced bad-ass they originated in 2000's surprise hit Pitch Black and effectively killed off (metaphorically, though not literally) in 2004's not-so-surprise bomb The Chronicles of Riddick. The secret to Pitch Black's success is that it plays like a lean, mean John Ford Western dressed up in sci-fi clothing, Stagecoach in outer space if you will, with Riddick functioning as its Ringo Kid -- the cool-as-hell antihero who is technically part of the larger ensemble, but gets the best lines and the best bits of action. The bigger-budgeted sequel, on the other hand, proved to be as muddled and convoluted and the original was clean and elegant, tying Riddick up in a confounding mythology that tried and failed to position him as some kind of Conan figure. The third film, simply titled Riddick, tries to split the difference, once again embracing a stripped-down approach to genre filmmaking (one that shares a lot in common with another filmmaker named John… Carpenter, rather than Ford), but still trying to show how its title character fits into the larger futureverse Diesel and Twohy are laboring to create.

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