The following is an essay about, “Alien: Resurrection” which references the previous, “Alien” movies, and, well, the movie itself. Therefore the content of this will be gory as hell and even sexual/fetishistic. Also coarse language. Discretion is advised.
I have deep admiration for the late, great H.R. Giger’s monster and the movies surrounding them. “Alien”, “Aliens”, and “Alien 3” form a trilogy of movies where each time something different was attempted within each. Respectively: the polished, otherworldly and menacing combination of H.R. Giger’s art, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett’s ideas, plus Ridley Scott’s direction (to say nothing of the great cast), the heart stopping, fist-pumping work of James Cameron and his cast/crew, or the attempted (but compromised) attempts at thematic and psychological depth by David Fincher, Vincent Ward and company. Emerging from that lofty pedigree is, “Alien: Resurrection”, a movie taking place 200 years after the events of, “Alien 3” and it’s way of doing something different is…a bunch of military contractors cloning and reviving Ripley while extracting a xenomorph from her body and breeding several others, as they’re raided by a bunch of one-dimensional space pirates and also Ron fucking Perlman. This while the company somehow forgets, after 2 fucking centuries, that the Xenomorphs have acid blood and can render all of their metal and glass traps useless. So this makes them responsible for what is basically a repeat of the scenario of, “Alien” but with sprinkles of, “snarky” dialogue that is mostly cringe-inducing and clashes with the movie’s intended tone. Plus a super-powered Ripley with acid-blood (for some reason), and a final monster showdown so contrived and awful, I almost want to apologize for my intense dislike of, “Prometheus”.
Now, hold on, the movie has some merits. Even though this was the absolute low point of what folks were willing to tolerate just to see people fight the alien once again, only to be superseded by, “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem” a decade later, the movie does manage to have a few bright ideas. The aforementioned space pirates that get onto the military spaceship are basically, “Firefly 1.0”, with some character interactions that are only as interesting as the ill-conceived Sci-Fi horror setup allows them to be. The movie even has a guy played by Dominique Pinon, disabled and using a wheelchair, but packing heat, plus a neat turn by Ron Perlman as…well, to call him a dick would be insulting to actual dicks, so that’s nice. And yeah, it’s ridiculous that the movie practically digs Ripley and the Alien Queen from the grave just to contrive another scenario for her to fight again (seriously, how the FUCK did this military outfit recover all of that? Didn’t, “Alien 3” establish that Ripley and the Queen were basically atomized in the end?), but when Ripley and the space pirates interact, there are some interesting dynamics. In particular, space pirate Call (played by Winona Ryder) is shown to be the more curious, analytical member of the crew, who at first tries to kill Ripley because she somehow knows that she is the source of the Very Bad Thing that will rampage through the ship later on, but fails. Then she and Ripley have an arc where they argue, toy with each other, go through some shit and eventually bond after one of the movie’s big plot twists (that also brings up one of the movie’s several big plot holes that I’m not even going to get into here because Jesus fucking Christ). It’s a neat character interaction, thanks in no small part to a game, lustful and primal performance by Sigourney Weaver, bringing some intimacy and heart to what is otherwise a schlocky gore fest with the, “Alien” brand stamped onto it. This is also combined with extended moments where humanity and, er, alien are twisted into David Cronenberg-inspired forms, giving us the movie’s sole chilling and stomach-churning moment where Ripley confronts the failed experiments that preceded her and chooses their ultimate fate.
Unfortunately, the movie surrounding all of this is dopey as hell. The technical villains of this movie, the military outfit trying to tame and weaponize the aliens, could very well be some of the most incompetent, hubris-ridden bad guys in Sci-Fi movie history. All of that research, extensive cloning of Ripley (Ripley is, “Clone 8” in this), plus the harvesting/breeding of multiple aliens, and yet nobody in the entire organization figured out that their blood can render their entire defenses and traps into nothings? The space pirates are basically monster food with thinly-sketched personalities, with Perlman as the asshole, Pinon as the mostly wheelchair-riding asshole, and Gary Dourdan as…well, the black guy with guns, occupying basic archetype boxes and doing little else. To say nothing of how little material Michael Wincott and Kim Flowers are given as the kinky pirate couple, sometimes flirting and in one scene 69’ing each other with Wincott burying his face into Flower’s feet and sniffing them (no, really). Brad Douriff is…Brad Douriff, playing the evil Dr. Jonathan Gediman, and while his performance in this is a funny delight, his character doesn’t necessarily have much teeth. Not that one should hold it against him or the rest of the cast due to the extremely dopey screenplay by Joss Whedon (yes, THAT guy, though apparently he didn’t like how this movie turned out) followed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (yes, THAT guy) directing the proceeds with such a heavy, self-serious tone that sucks out most of the self-aware fun Whedon was aiming for. And even when said, “fun” does show up, it’s an astonishingly jarring clash of tones, with one-liners drowned out by the movie’s brooding, “Jaws-on-quaaludes” musical score. This combined wth a mix of CGI and practical effects in some sequences that is akin to seeing photos of Stan Winston School of Character Arts student projects spliced with “Alien”-themed Windows 98 screensavers.
And then we have the fucking hybrid monster that shows up in the movie’s climatic clash. Ok, let me back up a bit. As the movie goes on, Wincott’s character dies, then Flower gets carried away during a trek through a flood kitchen that becomes deadly due to swimming CGI xenomorphs. Call gets shot by a double-crossing military scientist, falls into some water and is presumed dead (after a pointless heroic sacrifice by Doudan’s character after he gets sprayed in the face by the alien’s acid blood which only kinda scars his face), but is revealed to be an Android. And then she hacks the ship and locks out said military guy preventing him from escaping. Finally, as Ripley and the survivors run for the pirate ship to escape, Ripley falls into a pile of…xenomorph flesh? It’s very, very weird, but strangely effective up until it shows us the Alien Queen giving birth to, and being killed by, something that looks like the very first draft of H.R. Giger’s famous movie monster.
Marvel as it stomps around on two legs and makes sounds that are vaguely similar to a whale. Be horrified as its chest sags as it walks, and two black eyes peer from a skull that looks like a rejected Tool album cover. Tremble as…it crushes people’s heads. And roars. And stomps around. That’s all it fucking does. It crushes heads, stomps around, whines and roars. Raymond Cruz gets killed by this thing. Fucking Tuco from, “Breaking Bad” gets wasted by this thing. No, but see, that’s terrifying and profound, because it’s, like, the final monster that’s polar opposite of clone Ripley. Because, like, she’s somehow still human even though she has fucking acid blood, while that thing doesn’t really have the physiological advantages of the aliens and yet is less human. It’s, like, kinda deep, bro. This movie so has profound themes about humanity and science and a foot fetishist pirate 69’ing his girlfriend and copious amounts of slime all over the military ship’s corridors for some reason, and…fuck. I don’t even want to bother detailing the ending because the entire scenario is so contrived, even by the movie’s premises, that even as the movie sits in my library and replays in my mind like, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, I have a hard time believing that multiple people thought that the resulting movie was good enough to be released.
Watching this movie as a longtime, “Alien” fan forces one to confront the hard fact about being a consumer of something related to something you like: you don’t really know what you want. Conceptually, “Alien: Resurrection” sounds like the kind of oft-kilter stuff fans dream of. Joss Whedon is the kind of talent able to get knee-deep into nerd shit and providing plenty of fan-service thereof while also crafting narratives with actual character arcs and thematic depth (most of the time, at least). Hell, Jean-Pierre Jeunet has made great movies beforehand like, “The City of Lost Children” and, “Delicatessen” (you should watch those movies, sometime, they’re really great). Unfortunately, talent and skill mean nothing if they are twisted, mismanaged, and harnessed into some of the most cynical kind of franchise maintenance. “Alien 3” has problems even with the great, “Assembly Cut” of the movie, but at least that movie shoots for intellectual depth. That movie strips all sentiment away and showed the viewer a world of despair, fatalism, disappointment and treachery. “Alien: Resurrection”, unfortunately, feels right at home with the kind of sloppy, genre-based moviemaking that dominated the 1990s, the kind of stuff that feels like something you probably enjoyed a while back, only done very, very wrong.
But it’s still a better movie than, “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem”. That’s the important thing.
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