Alien Resurrection (1997; Theatrical Cut) – Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet – Starring Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott, Brad Dourif, Leland Orser, Dan Hedaya, J. E. Freeman, Kim Flowers, and Raymond Cruz.
I’d never seen ALIEN RESURRECTION before last night and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Let’s be clear, RESURRECTION is not in the same league as ALIEN or ALIENS, but it is a definite step up from ALIEN 3 and it’s a pretty darn good film in its own right.
RESURRECTION is one of those movies that actually verges on being great, but falls just a bit short. It’s a fantastic Saturday afternoon movie and a could-be-better Saturday night film, but it’s also a film I’m going to watch a whole bunch between now and whenever the aliens come for me.
When I reviewed ALIEN 3, I complained that, “the corporation’s rescue squad shows up to try and take Ripley in because they still want the aliens for their bio-weapons division. Yawn. How about a film where they’ve got the aliens instead of yet another movie where this sits in the background?” Well, RESURRECTION delivers on that count, and full credit to director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, writer Joss Whedon, and co-Producer Sigourney Weaver for bringing something new to the franchise.
It’s that “something new” that initially sucked me into RESURRECTION. With the first two films in the franchise, I felt like I was watching something new, while ALIEN 3 felt a bit too much like ALIEN REDUX and a bit too much like the film sacrificed character for killing. (For those who didn’t read my review of ALIEN 3 – I liked the first half, and thought the film torpedoed it’s storyline at the midway point when it killed off its two most prominent secondary characters within minutes of one another.) One of the great aspects of a character like the alien is that you can give them to any director and get a fundamentally different look and different approach, while still getting an ALIEN movie.
RESURRECTION feels new all over again because Jeunet, Whedon, and Weaver have conspired to jump the story 200 years into the future. The Weyland-Yutani corporation is a thing of the past, yet their desire to commodify the aliens remains. RESURRECTION takes place on the USM Auriga, a military vessel led by General Perez (Dan Hedaya), where experiments are being done with the recovered DNA of Ellen Ripley (Weaver). Perez’s scientific team, led by Dr. Gediman (Brad Dourif) and Dr. Wren (J.E. Freeman), are cloning Ripley in order to extract the alien Queen that was growing inside Ripley during ALIEN 3.
It’s a perfect continuity grab to bring Ripley back to life. Even better, what we get isn’t pure Ripley anymore, but a Ripley that’s been infused with alien DNA, meaning she’s got heightened senses and strength, and only a vague memory of what’s come before. I love this move because it allows the film to bring Sigourney Weaver back yet again while still keeping the integrity of her sacrifice at the end of ALIEN 3. It also allows her to reboot the character, something she was keen on doing, and set up the future of the franchise.
And if there’s anything disappointing about RESURRECTION it’s not RESURRECTION; it’s that it failed to be profitable enough to launch a new trilogy. It’s a shame because, really for the first time in the franchise’s run, the ending of an ALIEN movie had me wanting to see where this specific story would lead in addition to simply wanting to see the aliens back again.
Doctors Gediman and Wren are using the Queen to birth a new generation of aliens that they hope to tame. There’s a great scene where Gediman is on one side of their glass cell and an alien is on the other and they’re clearly studying – even mimicking – each other. (In fact, it looks like Gediman is almost making out with the alien through the glass.) When the alien gets a bit unruly and tries to burst into the control room, Gediman hits a red button that blasts gaseous dry ice at the creature to stop it. When the alien makes a second attempt, it notices Gediman’s hand hovering over the button and stops.
Gediman is pleased – the alien is learning and won’t attempt to burst through the glass again.
Gediman is dumb – the alien is learning and will try to find another way out of its cage.
While the doctors are playing with their aliens, Ripley is kept locked in a cell where she likes to lay on the floor, trying to make sense of everything that’s happened, like why she has only pieces of memory, why she can feel the aliens moving in the ship, and why she has an ‘8’ tattooed on her arm. They let her eat in the cafeteria (because every ALIEN movie needs a scene where she eats in a cafeteria), but they keep her shackled because she’s dangerous. She tells Gedimen and Wren that they’re foolish because the aliens will always win. She mentions the corporation, but Gedimen has no idea who she’s referring to. Wren fills him in on the Weyland-Yutani corporation, and in the deleted scenes, even makes a crack that they were bought out by Walmart. (Perhaps this is in the extended cut; I’m reviewing the theatrical cut because Jeunet says the theatrical cut was already his director’s cut.)
Weaver is really good here; for the first time in this entire run, she looks like she’s having a blast. Granted, none of the previous movies have been a whole lot of laughs and giggles, but Weaver was typically asked to play the serious heavy. Here, she gets to ham it up a bit and it really adds a nice change of pace to the film. There’s a terrific scene (which should be a horrible scene) where Ripley meets the crew of the Betty and she goes toe-to-toe with Ron Perlman to see who can ring the most cheese out of their dialogue.
Who’s the Betty? They’re a group of mercenaries that have transported some stolen bodies in stasis to the Auriga. They don’t know why they’re doing it (so the docs can sick facehuggers on them and use them as hosts to birth more aliens), but it’s still body theft, so it’s not like they’re a bunch of nice guys and gals.
The crew of the Betty is my biggest complaint with RESURRECTION, in that they’re not much more than their type: there’s the captain, the loud mouth, the guy in the wheelchair, the new girl, the captain’s lover, and the bad-ass killer. (Whedon has said that while his script makes it to the screen, the actors went and said his words all wrong, so perhaps this is where things went wrong.) In fact, the film even carries over one of my problems with ALIEN 3, in that it quickly kills the two main secondary characters: General Perez, and Betty captain Elgyn (Michael Wincott), leaving us with the rest of the crew. (Heck, we can toss in Dr. Gediman, too.) It’s a curious move, but at least RESURRECTION makes up for their loss by having Ron Perlman and Winona Ryder in reserve.
Johner (Perlman) is all loud and disgusting, while Call (Winona Ryder) is cutesy and shy. Call is downplayed during the opening scenes because she’s the newest member of the crew, but once they get aboard the Auriga she starts acting all mysterious. After pretending to be drunk, she makes her way to Ripley’s cell, where she intends to kill her and prevent an alien outbreak. It’s too late, of course, and besides, she’s no matched for our genetically amped-up clone.
The aliens get out of their cell by killing one of their own kind and letting its acidic blood burn through the floor. Awesome. And it proves that even in a film where you know what’s going to happen, there can still be some inventiveness and fun had along the way.
Once free, the killing cycle starts, which is where ALIEN 3 hit the skids. Even though Elgyn and Perez are killed, RESURRECTION does have some personalities to enter the void, and it gives us a solid narrative to push us through the latter half of the film. With the aliens out and the Auriga abandoned by the military force, RESURRECTION goes all Poseidon Adventure as the rag-tag group of survivors (Ripley, Call, Wren, Johner, wheelchair guy, bad-ass killer, captain’s girlfriend) must get back to the Betty to get the heck off this ship.
A bunch of short action sequences crop up along the way. There’s a really nice scene where Ripley confronts Clones 1 through 7 and a fantastic underwater chase scene which highlights the aliens in a way we haven’t seen before, and the action is generally visually, narratively, and emotionally solid. Unlike the murky ALIEN 3, there’s a really fantastic visual look to RESURRECTION; the Auriga may be mostly black, but it’s also a vibrant black that Jeunet breaks up with some great splashes of color (such as the blue underwater scene).
Ripley and Call start to bond a bit, especially after Call is outed as a robot. It’s a nice twist, but unlike Perlman, Ryder just can’t hang with Weaver. Whenever they’re on the screen together it’s like watching Toto battle the tornado – the pup might be cute but it’s going to get sent for a ride by that force of nature.
They’re making good time back to the ship when Ripley gets sucked down into a swirling mass of aliens.
And then I’m pretty sure she f*cks one of them. Or several. It’s hard to differentiate them.
It’s not like they have a Red Shoe Diaries moment (I am so out of touch with my pay cable, softcore porn references), but it looks pretty obvious that an alien sexes Ripley on her way down to the Queen. When she gets to the bottom, Ripley finds out that Gedimen has been kept alive by the Queen in order to explain to us that the DNA mixing that gave Ripley her enhanced abilities also gave some to the Queen – meaning, she can birth babies without laying an egg. The first of her new hybrid human/aliens kills her because it recognizes Ripley as its mother. (I say ‘it’ because originally it was supposed to contain both male and female genitalia.) It’s kinda a wretched looking figure, and while I appreciate what purpose it serves narratively, it’s not a great visual to have to look at.
Ripley gets to the Betty but so does the human/alien and Ripley ends up killing it by using some of her own acidic blood to puncture a hole in the window, which the human/alien is slowly sucked through into space. It’s a rather effective scene as the hybrid and Ripley are both emotionally torn over it; the hybrid feels like it’s being betrayed by its mother, while Ripley clearly feels some kind of bond back. They’re both hybrids, after all, confused about their place in the world, and Ripley now has an empathetic bond with the aliens thanks to all the DNA mingling.
Ripley gets to play mom with Call instead, as (in the extended cut) the Betty lands on a desolate Earth, overlooking a decrepit Paris. The Auriga crashes into the planet, killing (one hopes) all of the remaining aliens on board the ship. It’s a nice ending, and one that clearly sets up the possibility of another movie.
Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten it, yet, and at this point it seems increasingly unlikely. Instead of pushing that story forward, 20th Century Fox birthed the ALIEN VS. PREDATOR series and this June we’re getting the prequel that’s not a prequel that is a prequel that is Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.
RESURRECTION is kind of the forgotten film in the ALIEN franchise. The first two films are cinematic masterpieces, the third ends the trilogy, and the AVP material has the fanboy’s wet dream of two franchises colliding. RESURRECTION sits out there at the furthest point in the ALIEN universe, waiting to have its story picked up. I, for one, would love to see where it could take us.
ALIEN / PREDATOR Review Index
ALIEN: A Survivor, Unclouded by Conscience, Remorse, or Delusions of Morality
ALIENS: My Mommy Said There Were No Monsters. No Real Ones. But There Are.
ALIEN 3: A Bunch of Lifers Who Found God at the Ass-End of Space
ALIEN RESURRECTION: Must Be a Chick Thing
ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: I Think This is a Manhood Ritual
ALIEN VS. PRDATOR: REQUIEM: Small Town America Kills Two Franchises at Once