Handed the reigns of the moribund "Alien" franchise, French director Jean-
Pierre Jeunet ("City Of Lost Children") faced the daunting task of
breathing life into a horror series that virtually died in its last
installment. The pallid "Alien 3" climaxed with Ellen Ripleys swan dive
into an ocean of fire, a sacrifice to protect humanity from the alien
growing within her own body. With the heroine fried and most fans of the
series either angered or bored, whats left to do? Raise the dead, of
course, and thats just what Jeunet and writer Joss Whedon have done,
with some intriguing side trips along the way.
"Alien: Resurrection" contains the requisite extended chase scenes, but
thats the least interesting part of the movie. The appeal of the film
lies in the fringes, as Jeunet employs grotesque visions and kinky sexual
imagery to flirt with some intriguing notions, including what exactly
constitutes the very nature of identity. While too cold and formulaic to
fully satisfy, "Resurrection" has enough darkly rewarding moments to
warrant a visit.
A little history for those who missed the first three films. The aliens
are incredibly vicious predators with acid literally coursing through
their veins. An alien grows by emerging from a pod and springing onto the
face of an unwitting host, then shooting its seed down the gullet of the
victim. After an incubation period, it bursts through the hosts chest
and scurries off to finish the growth process. Rumor has it that
telemarketers are bred the same way.
The film begins with the quasi-resurrection of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney
Weaver), depicted in a series of stylish fade-ins. On a military
spaceship 200 years after the last film, scientists clone Ripley in order
to retrieve the alien queen from her body. Proving that government
stupidity is timeless, the boys in charge plan to raise a herd of the
hyper-violent creatures, taming and training them for some unexplained
evil purpose. Following the surgical extraction of the queen, Ripley 8
(the first seven clone attempts were nightmarish failures) is kept alive
for curiosity value alone. A disdainful officer spares her life, while
declaring "As far as Im concerned, Number 8 is just a meat by-product."
Ripley 8 grows, and we learn that, due to the alien DNA used in the
cloning process, she isnt entirely human. Thanks to the racial memory of
the aliens, the clone retains the memories of the original Ripley, but
her strange smile, reptilian movements and acidic blood make it clear
that she is something very, very different.
Enter the Betty, a commercial freighter crewed by mercenaries. Theyve
hijacked the cryogenically-frozen bodies of a group of miners, to sell
them as hosts for the first batch of aliens. However, one of the
mercenaries, junior mechanic Call (Winona Ryder,) has a decidedly
In short order, all hell breaks loose as the mercenaries take over the
ship and the aliens get loose, forcing the soldiers, Call and Ripley 8
into an uneasy alliance.
"Resurrections" action sequences move along well enough, particularly an
underwater chase scene, but the characters are too disposable to be
engaging on an emotional level. The blue-collar crew of the Betty is an
unpleasant lot, sketchy stereotypes mostly, and its hard to look at them
as much more than Alien Chow.
Thankfully, Sigourney Weavers enigmatic Ripley 8 is a fascinating
creation. She clearly remembers who she was, but what exactly is she now?
Did Ripleys soul make the jump to this new body, or is Ripley 8 just a
Xerox, an alien hybrid with stolen memories? Weaver and Jeunet work well
together, examining the whole notion of individual identity through this
unique creature. Weaver gets to deliver a number of deadpan one-liners as
well, adding a welcome touch of humor while maintaining the cryptic
nature of the character.
Throughout the film, Jeunet toys with the freaky sexuality that has
always been an undercurrent of the series. A scientist holds his lips
close to an aliens face, separated only by protective glass, in one of
the more obvious moments of perverse sensuality. A shrink would have a
field day with the whole notion of face-hugging alien breeders, and
Jeunet knows the real horror story lies there. Unfortunately, instead of
pursuing that truly disturbing line, he returns to the tired chase format
and, despite the inventive set pieces and rich Gothic-industrial art
direction, weve seen this stuff too many times before. The horror of
"Alien: Resurrection" doesnt come from the idea of monsters chasing us.
It comes from the exploration of why we want them to.
Copyright © 1997 Edward Johnson-Ott