Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Sci-Fi Violence and Gore, some Grotesque Images, and for Language
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, Raymond Cruz, Kim Flowers, Gary Dourdan, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon & Leland Orser
Five years after ALIEN 3, Fox proved to have not learned their lesson about unnecessary sequels and ALIEN: RESURRECTION hit theaters. Surely, this third sequel would jump-start a new chapter in the ALIEN franchise, right? After all, the main character of the first three films bit it in the last one and it seemed like a fitting (albeit plot hole filled and convoluted) way to go out. Well, Fox wanted Ripley back and hired Joss Whedon (15 years before directing THE AVENGERS) to write it. Surprisingly, Whedon’s screenplay combined with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s stylish direction make for a tolerable and (at times) entertaining ride. I consider ALIEN: RESURRECTION to be a bit of a guilty pleasure and there was nowhere to go but up after the crappy third film.
Set 200 years after the events of ALIEN 3, RESURRECITON begins by showing us that scientists have somehow managed to clone Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). After surgically removing the cloned Queen Alien from inside her body, the scientists decide to keep the Ripley clone alive as a side project. It turns out that the Ripley clone’s genetics may have mixed with the Xenomorph DNA. This makes her into a superhero type (fast reflexes, super strength and acid blood). Her skills will come in handy after the vicious aliens break out of their cages on the ship. Aided by a rag-tag group of space-pirates, Ripley and the others must stop the alien-infested spaceship from reaching its final destination: Earth!
ALIEN: RESURRECTION tries to be big dumb fun and that’s something that the series has never really encountered before. The first film was scary, the second film was exciting, and the third film was bleak. This fourth film is just fun. Yes, it’s stupid as can be and not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination…but it’s also fun. There’s lots of humor, action, and “twists” to be had. I put that third quality in quotes, because ALIEN: RESURRECTION recycles pieces of what makes the first two movies so great. There’s one specific plot point that directly rips off a terrifying scene from the first film, though it’s done in a much more action-oriented way this time around.
Sigourney Weaver isn’t playing Ripley because she’s playing a Ripley clone. This allows for a bit of character building in her interactions with the scientists, genetic memories being restored, and an odd motherly connection with the Xenomorphs. The first two plot points are actually quite creative. You just need to jump over the hurdle of scientists cloning Ripley with the alien still inside her, but my theory is that the company likely snatched her DNA from the prison planet. The decision to turn Ripley into an alien/superhero hybrid is a tad too ridiculous. One of the film’s best scenes has Weaver’s Ripley burning ugly failed attempts of past clones. More of a focus should have gone into moments like that, instead of them being fast forgotten in favor of more superpowers and a parental connection to aliens.
As far as side characters go, ALIEN: RESURRECTION has a few notable faces that stick out. Brad Dourif is a blast to watch as the over-the-top creepy mad scientist. It seems like he was allowed to do his thing and there are goofy moments that feel improvised. Dan Hedaya gets a few good moments in as a corrupt spaceship commander, but is woefully underused. Out of the space pirates, the only two of note are Winona Ryder’s action heroine and Ron Perlman’s smart-ass thug. The rest of the pirates are generic one-note stereotypes, including a paraplegic who’s gifted with unbelievable strength during one of the film’s more absurd action moments.
ALIEN: RESURRECTION’s style and visuals raise the film above its by-the-numbers plot. The movie essentially boils down to people running from monsters and trying to blow up a spaceship (kinda like the first movie mixed with the second movie). The outrageous action scenes and highly detailed environments elevate the entertainment factor above the been-there-done-that premise. There’s lots of rust, slime, and blood. Most of it looks absolutely fantastic and lends a slick atmosphere to the proceedings. It certainly helps that the aliens appear especially bad-ass this time around. The suits used to bring them to life are convincing, while the CGI isn’t bad at all.
The film even introduces a new breed of alien to the mix, but this white-skinned monster is laughably stupid to behold. He’s not nearly as intimidating as the Xenomorphs and basically looks like an albino Pumpkinhead. I don’t know what Joss Whedon or Jean-Pierre Jeunet were thinking when they came up with this creation, but it’s rather lame. If they had introduced this monster early on, then there might have been a better story arc. As it stands, the less-threatening alien seems like an easy-to-beat final boss at the end of a video game. That being said, I love the way that Ripley dispatches him as it’s especially gory and crazy.
ALIEN: RESURRECTION is very silly and completely unnecessary in the grand scheme of the franchise. Still, it winds up as a middle-of-the-road experience because there is some fun to be had here. I enjoyed this film as a guilty pleasure when I was a teenager and still have fun watching it now. The fourth ALIEN installment isn’t anywhere near the quality of the first two films and I hesitate to call it good. This is like ALIEN fan fiction got made into a movie and it’s fun to watch in a really stupid way. Take that as you will.