Alien: Resurrection

Alien - ResurrectionSynopsis: Sigouney Weaver and Winona Ryder star in this terrifying, highly-anticipated sci-fi action thriller!

Ellen Ripley died fighting the perfect predator. Two hundred years and eight horrific experiments later, she’s back. A group of scientists has cloned her-along with the alien queen inside of her-hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the resurrected Ripley is full of surprises for her creators, as are the aliens. And soon, a lot more than all hell breaks loose! To combat the creatures, Ripley must team up with a band of smugglers, including a mechanic named Call, who holds more than a few surprises of her own.

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Alien: Resurrection 7.0

eyelights: Sigourney Weaver. the set design.
eyesores: the performances. the plot contrivances. the CGI xenormorphs. the hybrid xenomorph.

“I’m the monster’s mother.”

When Sigourney Weaver was given the chance to make ‘Alien³‘, she jumped at the chance of killing off her iconic heroine, Ellen Ripley. In fact, she insisted on it. It was to be the final Alien film with her character in it.

Flash forward five years, and Ellen Ripley was back in action.

Apparently Weaver was impressed with the script that had been commissioned by 20th Century Fox, and which was delivered by none other than Joss Whedon (I had never noticed that before!). It lured her back.

But, as with any ‘Alien’ picture, there has been studio meddling. What could have been a two-part finale (depending on which source you base yourself on) ended up being changed until Whedon’s third act was dropped entirely.

The final script was shot pretty much as he wrote it, thankfully. But he said that the problem with the picture isn’t that they fiddled with the script – it’s that the studio adapted it to the screen incorrectly, changing his intention.

In any case, the story is as follows: 200 years after the events of ‘Alien³’, military scientists are conducting experiments to revive the xenomorphs, so that they may be able to use their various attributes to improve human life.

Using genetic material leftover from medical tests that Ripley had done back in the day, they attempt to clone her so that they may extract the xenomorph that had attached itself to her in her final moments – it is the last one of its kind.

The problem is that their tests are terribly flawed and that, after many failed attempts, their lone success has grown a crossbred Ripley – a human with xenomorph abilities, such as regeneration, increase strength, dexterity, speed…

…and acidic blood.

But it was successful enough that they were able to surgically remove a queen xenomorph from her chest, and regeneration allowed Ripley to survive the procedure – and reclaim some of the real Ripley’s old memories. Somehow.

Naturally, she will pick a fight with the scientists aboard that ship. And the crew of the cargo ship that has brought in illegal goods, which are expected to bring the experiments to the next level. And the alien queen. And her brood.

As can be expected, ‘Alien: Resurrection’ turns into a desperate fight for survival: everything goes wrong, leaving the cargo crew and Ripley to fight their way out. But there are a couple of intriguing twists along the way.

There’s the aforementioned Ripley/xenomorph crossbreeding, which is barely plausible, but at least puts a new spin on things – and continues Ripley’s ironic relationship with the creatures. There’s also a new xenomorph, some clone politics, and a return to earth.

Could have been pretty good. Could have been.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, hot off the heels of ‘La Cité des enfants perdus’, should have been the perfect choice of director for the picture: his visually-stunning but grim visions in his own pictures could easily have been transposed to the ‘Alien’ series.

Somehow it didn’t work. Not even with his trusted Pitof on visual effects.

The picture lacks excitement, for one. Perhaps this is because Jeunet was the fourth choice and because he initially didn’t think making another sequel to ‘Alien‘ was a good idea. No doubt his lack of enthusiasm transferred to the picture.

But there’s the cast, as well. Aside for Sigourney Weaver, who brings heft to the picture with her best imitations of Dirty Harry, the rest of the cast, although familiar, aren’t exactly bringing their A-game to the plate.

In fact, it looks very much like they were typecasted or are merely going through the motions: Ron Perlman blends his ape-man and tough guy schticks, Dan Hedaya does his googly eyes, and Brad Dourif is the quirky and creepy guy again.

And that’s the general sense one gets while watching ‘Alien: Resurrection’: it feels as though no one is really giving more than their B-game, if not their C-game. The production lacks a certain spirit that no paycheque can inspire.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

To top it all off, the script, although it shows promise, has its share of issues:

  • It’s not initially clear why the scientists had cloned Ripley. We know she’s not the first attempt, but we don’t know why they’re trying so hard. It makes sense once you understand that the only trace left of the xenomorphs resides in her leftover genetic material. But you need to know this. It’s crucial.
  • It’s also not immediately clear why Ripley is part-human/part-xenomorph (but looks human and retains Ripley’s memories – but not the xenomorphs’). You just have to accept that it was a cloning error. But this should have been better illustrated.
  • There’s a scene where Ripley plays basketball to show off her new abilities to the audience. Talk about pandering to the audience. I have no doubt that, centuries into the future, a scientific military vessel wouldn’t keep space on board for a court. There’d be something else, if anything at all.
  • For reasons that are entirely unclear, the cargo ship’s mercenaries ask to stay on board the scientific vessel for a couple of days, as a courtesy for having brought the shipment. It’s a plot contrivance, naturally, but… what would have been the point otherwise? Wouldn’t they have other places to go to?
  • The scientific team want to use humans as hosts for new xenomorphs. It’s twisted and stupid, but the big question is: How are the planning on keeping the aliens in check, anyway? Knowing full well what they’re capable of, doesn’t this seem a bit risky?

(To further point out the issue, later on there’s a scene where two xenomorphs slaughter one of their own so that the blood and guts will burn through their cell, creating an escape route)

  • Wynona Ryder plays Call, a cyborg revolutionary who infiltrated the mercenary crew to stop these experiments. But… how did she find out about these experiments in the first place? She claimed to have downloaded government records before her kind was recalled, but that would have had to be long ago enough that the Betty cargo ship would not have been in the plan. Not that they would have figured on official records anyway.
  • New-and-improved Ripley knows that she’s not the first clone because she has the number eight tattooed on her arm. At one point, she finds room #7, and decides to enter it to see what’s inside. It is filled with failed experiments. Horrified, she uses a flamethrower to burn it all to the ground. Um… not exactly a smart idea inside a sealed ship like that. Anyway, doesn’t the ship have an emergency system that extinguishes fires, in case of accidents? Last thing you want to do when you’re stuck in space, aboard a vessel, is to wait to the fire department to come swinging by…
  • This is typical of Hollywood films, but the characters can all hold their breaths underwater for an extended amount of time – even the paraplegic. Naturally, there’s a flooded compartment, and they have to swim underwater to get to the other side. Fine. But why are they all champion swimmers? The average person wouldn’t last half a minute!
  • Why did Christie commit suicide even though he could have escaped? He was scarred by acid, but he wasn’t a liability yet. Sure he was dangling below the paraplegic guy, who could barely hang on, but there surely was another way than suicide – especially for a tough survivor such as he.
  • I think that the worst part is that some of the crew argue about allowing an infected human to join them, with some saying it is the humane thing to do.  Sure… if you can get rid of the xenomorph he is hosting. But they can’t. So what’s the plan? What will they do with him when it inevitably spawns? Honestly, the best -and only- move in that circumstance was simply to put a bullet in his head and spare him the oncoming agony. This made no sense at all because at least half of those characters would have refused to bring him along given that he’s a ticking time bomb. But they didn’t.

Then there are the xenomorphs themselves:

  • I can’t say it enough: CGI does not replace the real thing. Putting CGI xenomorphs in the picture doesn’t work because they don’t blend in with the rest of the picture and they don’t move right. That makes them less credible-looking, therefore less terrorizing.
  • The crossbreed xenomorph is retarded-looking. Seriously… who designed that thing? Whereas the original model was bone-chilling, this one looks like a freak. And why does it consider Ripley its mom, but not the queen? Technically they’re both its mom. I suspect that this is yet another contrivance…

And then there is the ending.

For some reason, I seemed to remember a hidden xenomorph being on board at the end, when Ripley and Call get back to earth. Perhaps that was just wishful thinking on my part: the impact of having xenomorphs loose on earth could make for one bad-@$$ movie. Perhaps my vivid imagination trumped my memory.

The reality is that this is exactly what Joss Whedon had originally intended: the film’s third act would have taken place on Earth, in a final battle between humanity and the xenomorphs. Honestly, this would have been the biggest, bestest picture of the whole ‘Alien’ franchise. Too bad the studio chimed in.

At the very least, ‘Alien: Resurrection’ should have been the first of a two-part finale, with Ripley and Call returning to Earth at the end, but all hell breaking loose in the next installment. Either way, this was a lost opportunity – a major mistake on the studio’s part. This would -should- have been an insane end to the series!

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

So I was slightly disappointed after seeing ‘Alien: Resurrection’ this time; I liked it marginally less than when I first saw at the big screen, so many years ago. It’s not a bad picture, but it’s not great either. It could have been better.

And as a final entry in the series, it’s a let-down. It’s a step up over the plodding ‘Alien³’, but it certainly doesn’t end Ripley’s story with a bang. Unless they someday make a fifth one that takes place on Earth, this is one unsatisfying series.

‘Alien’ is all you need. Skip the sequels.

Date of viewing: December 13, 2014

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