Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 15, 2011)
Before October 2010, I’d never heard of 1980’s Alien 2 On Earth. That’s when a thread on the Home Theater Forum mentioned the film would soon receive its first-ever US home video release. I was always pretty sure that 1986’s Aliens was the sequel to 1979’s Alien, so what the heck was Alien 2?
A movie that may or may not have been a cheap Italian rip-off of Alien, depending on who you ask. Over on the HTF, I posted some queries about the movie’s nature and ended up more confused than when I started. Even the Wikipedia entry seems befuddling, as it refers to Alien 2 as an Italian sequel to Alien but also states its plot boasts little connection to the Ridley Scott classic.
Whatever the truth of the matter may be, all of this was enough to pique my curiosity and land Alien 2 in my Blu-ray player. Speleologist Thelma Joyce (Belinda Mayne) suffers from psychic visions that disturb her. These hit her hard while on a TV show, but she can’t seem to voice what she sees.
Around the time a NASA mission returns from space – with the astronauts mysteriously missing – some strange blue rocks start to appear. A colleague of Thelma’s discovers one of these, and we soon learn that they have insidious powers: they contain alien eggs that hatch and make people explode from the inside. That’s a bad thing, I guess, and it creates mayhem.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help create an entertaining film. Sometimes when a movie goes unseen – or little-seen - for years, it develops a reputation as a classic – maybe just a cult classic, but something special. It appears that Alien 2 got such a boost, at least among horror aficionados.
More power to those folks; if they find something worthwhile here, I’m happy for them. However, I can’t figure out what that “something” would be; other than a quick shot of Mayne’s spectacular bosom, this movie is a total wasteland.
The film should change to Alien 2: The Slowest 84 Minutes of Your Life, as the pacing goes beyond deliberate and into glacial. Was this an attempt to emulate Ridley Scott? After all, Alien moved at a pretty languid pace itself; the title creature didn’t even emerge until close to the flick’s halfway point.
However, Scott used that time well to create a mood, set up tension, and develop characters. Alien 2 director Ciro Ippolito simply fills space, as he does absolutely nothing to move along story or characters in a satisfying manner.
This results in a movie that takes a long time before anything even vaguely interesting occurs. At the movie’s start, we follow Thelma as she drives to the TV studio. Do we need a few minutes of left and right turns? No, but hey, it takes place along with the opening credits, so no big deal; filmmakers often run the titles over non-essential footage.
If the driving sequence was the movie’s only turgid piece, I’d forgive it, but it doesn’t stand alone. When Thelma goes to the beach to meet her colleagues, she drives there, walks along the short and then waits for her pals to row to her. There’s another three or four minutes of almost literally nothing.
And then where do we go? To the bowling alley, where we watch the gang roll a few frames. What purpose does this serve? I have not the slightest clue, as none of this does anything to further the story or characters. (The bowling alley does give us a hilariously awful vocal performance from a black character; he perfectly encapsulates a foreigner’s idea of a 1970s African-American, complete with the repeated phrase “say huh???” – it’s the most entertaining part of the film.)
Once Thelma and the gang get into the caves where most of the “action” takes place, the film moves a little more briskly, but that’s relative. Not a whole lot occurs; even when the alien creature finally emerges, we’re more likely to watch the participants mull over their predicament than do anything interesting.
Some will blame the low budget for these flaws, but that’s not a good excuse. A lack of money causes many problems, but it doesn’t mean a movie can’t find something interesting to do with its time. The amount of padding used to stretch the flick to feature length becomes obscene.
I suppose Alien 2 should get some credit for the fact it doesn’t simply remake Alien; that would’ve been the easier way to go. Indeed, the two movies aren’t as similar as I’d expect. Yes, Alien 2 clearly rips off its predecessor; this isn’t an example of a coincidentally similar movie that opts for a title to exploit the other flick’s success.
But Alien 2 also isn’t a simple rehash of Alien. A few very similar sequences emerge, particularly when the alien egg first opens. That segment closely mirrors the one in which Kane finds the pulsating egg and the face hugger attacks; the two films are so close that the Alien 2 scene offers a nearly shot-by-shot replication. Of course, this works much better in Alien, but it’s pretty much the only part of Alien 2 that’s a literal rehash.
Maybe that’s a bad thing; though it would’ve been less original, maybe Alien 2 would’ve been more entertaining if it stole more actively. As it stands, the movie’s a thorough dud – for humans, at least. When the alien first emerged, it did startle my little dog Abbie; she’d been snoozing happily, but she briefly popped up.
Alas, it didn’t last, and Abs soon returned to her slumber. I was sorely tempted to join her, as Alien 2 provided ample material to lull me to sleep.