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Alien Resurrection

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Alien Resurrection

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Rated: R
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: November 1997
Genres: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Thriller

*Also starring: Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Douriff, J. E. Freeman, Raymond Cruz, Kim Flowers

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
1 star out of 4

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 different agenda. 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

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