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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 MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

1992's Alien3 marked not only the death (by suicide) of its popular protagonist, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), but, in many ways, the Alien franchise itself--box office receipts were anemic, thanks to poor audience word of mouth; and the critics who rallied around the first two installments, 1979's Alien and 1986's Aliens, savaged David Fincher's slog of a sendoff (myself included). Hence, Weaver, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and the others behind Alien Resurrection faced a two-fold challenge--not only somehow resurrect Ripley, but also rescue this once-profitable series from the scrap heap. Despite the odds, they have succeeded, even if the entertaining new installment does not measure up to the excellent first two.

Writer Joss Whedon devises a quick, easy, and painless answer to the dead Ripley problem--clone her, which is what shady military scientists do using some blood left behind on Fiorina 161, the prison planet of the third film. That done, the _real_ challenge presents itself--what do with her. Alien introduced Ripley as smart and resourceful; Aliens simultaneously toughened her up and made her more vulnerable, exploring her maternal side; Alien3 saw her undergoing the seven stages of death. What could be next? Whedon comes up with a clever spin: since the original Ripley died while impregnated with an Alien queen, the blood used for the clone is also "infected" with Alien DNA. So the new Ripley is, indeed, new--a human/Alien hybrid blessed with heightened instincts and strength, a psychic bond with the deadly species, and a more predatory attitude.

Unfortunately, that is where Alien Resurrection's clever streak in writing stops. The Alien series is known for having stronger stories than most creature features. But the story in Resurrection is more of an afterthought. The movie begins with a plot involving some military types attempting to train Aliens to do their bidding, but once the creatures break free, it is once again Ripley and a ragtag crew (this time a bunch of interstellar smugglers, including tough waif Call, played by a game Winona Ryder) trying to exterminate them. And the Alien Ripley scenario is ultimately not exploited to its full potential; I would have liked deeper exploration into the quandary of becoming one of the species she has spent her entire life trying to destroy.

While the settling into tried-and-true formula is a little disconcerting, the formula is tried-and-true for a reason, and Jeunet tackles the proceedings with giddy abandon. The Alien, after all these years, is still terrifying, and a new breed that is introduced is no less so. The violence is appropriately grisly and extreme, and the action set pieces are suspenseful and exciting, most notably an extended underwater sequence. The film is absolutely mesmerizing visually, thanks to the solid work done by production designer Nigel Phelps and cinematographer Darius Khondji. As technically adept as Jeunet's direction is, perhaps his (and, for that matter, Whedon's) greatest contribution is the infusion of humor into this notably downbeat and serious series. A sense of humor may seem to go against everything this horror show stands for, but the self-awareness of the excess just adds to the fun.

No, Alien Resurrection is not the great film that Ridley Scott's Alien or the even greater film that James Cameron's Aliens was. But after the dauntingly slow gloom and doom of Fincher's Alien3, Jeunet's Resurrection is a welcome return to its roots as a wild, reckless thrill ride. That is what made the Alien series so popular in the first place, and that is what will keep the series popular in any future installments.

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