Alien: Resurrection is the 4th installment in the Alien franchise, which began in 1979 as a Last Stand in a Haunted House movie set in space. The first sequel, James Cameron’s Aliens, did blockbuster business, but by the ’90s the franchise had run out of steam, and David Fincher’s underrated Alien 3 was ignored because, as one producer remarked, “An Alien movie without guns? This movie won’t make dick!” He was right.
Alien: Resurrection brings back Sigourney Weaver (who has been in all 4 films) in the role that made her a household name. The film is directed by French visionary Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children), and is set 200 years in the future as another covert government military group decides it’s a good idea to bring the aliens back to life. (Don’t these guys ever learn?) To do so they clone Ellen Ripley (Weaver), using DNA found at the penal colony from Alien 3, where Ripley died trying (and succeeding, apparently) to kill off the aliens. The aliens are back, and are leaner, meaner, and smarter than before; but so is Ripley, who because the Queen alien was taken out of her body, now has a mental link with those acid-spewing rodents. Into this madhouse arrive the crew of the Betty, a maverick ship captained by Elgyn (Michael Wincott) and his crew of rough and tumble misfits, including Call (Winona Ryder), a young woman who is not what she seems.
If the Alien franchise is known for one thing it’s spectacular set designs, and Alien: Resurrection is no exception. The grungy and claustrophobic look of the military ship is incredible, harkening back to the doomed days of Blade Runner. This film is all about atmosphere and Jeunet and cinematographer Darius Khondji lenses the action in pale, drab colors, giving the movie a surreal look that adds to the film’s overall feel and theme of artificiality. The movie takes no time at all to set up its premise, and by the 30-minute mark, the proverbial s— has hit the fan and people are running for their lives and getting slaughtered left and right. The movie is very briskly paced, action-packed, but it also leaves room for a couple of Impact Scenes involving Ripley and Ryder’s Call.
If one was so inclined, one could look at Alien: Resurrection as an amalgamation of the series’ previous installments. Writer Joss Whedon (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) has injected a lot of humor into the film, perhaps realizing early on that he is hopelessly treading familiar terrain. Maybe that’s why Resurrection has elements of all previous 3 installments in it, and is content to give us more of the same. The film’s only real difference is the direction of Jean-Pierre Jeunot, who showcases a wealth of style and camera tricks, giving us a combination of cgi and prop aliens, as well as a host of other cgi-inspired action. If there is one thing that can be said about Alien: Resurrection, it’s that it is the first Alien movie to rely on cgi for much of its “cool” factor.
As always, Sigourney Weaver shows she was born for this role. This installment’s Ripley is more of the same — tough but still vulnerable, and that seems enough. Weaver is joined by indie Queen Winona Ryder, who must have done the film out of a need to satisfy a childhood dream of starring in a movie alongside her hero Weaver. Ryder is grossly out of her element, in movie genre as well as acting style. Ryder’s Call is much too wimpy and frail, especially in light of the other victims — er, crew members, who gets stuck with Ripley and Call onboard the alien-infested ship.
The rest of the cast are there to be killed off, but Ron Perlman makes his mark as the smart-aleck Johner. Writer Whedon has given Perlman all the good lines and there are a couple of doozies. In the movie’s best scene, Perlman’s Johner asks Ripley, in hopes of being reassured, “So, uh, I heard you ran into these things before. What happened?” To which Ripley replies, with an amused smirk, “I died.”
Alien: Resurrection is more of the same, but in a franchise based on people being hunted by alien creatures through cramped and dark spaces, what more did you expect? The film knows it has no other place to go, and returns to its roots of big guns, loud explosions, and lots and lots of snarling, acid-spewing aliens. If that’s what you wanted, then this installment delivers. If not, it’s time to look to a new franchise for your sci-fi pleasures.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director) / Joss Whedon (screenplay)
CAST: Sigourney Weaver …. Ripley
Winona Ryder …. Annalee Call
Dominique Pinon …. Vriess
Ron Perlman …. Johner
Gary Dourdan …. Christian
Michael Wincott …. Elgyn