It is around two hundred years since Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) died, so how come she's still alive on this spaceship located in the Earth's solar system? That's down to a group of corporate scientists who have taken what DNA they could recover from her and cloned the woman, but not because they especially wanted to see her again, there is another motive, and that's down to what she was carrying inside her body. Ripley had been impregnated by an alien creature, and now she has been cloned, so has the creature, removed with surgical precision and taken to spawn a new line of aliens. Bad move.
And for many, bad movie too, as no matter how many cultists the previous entry in the Alien franchise had secured, this fourth instalment had disappointment written all over it, though it did comfortably make its money back at the box office. It's just that it didn't appear to be what the followers of this series were looking for in their Alien movie, and screenwriter Joss Whedon numbered himself among those who were dissatisfied, mainly with the way in which the final result missed the tone he was seeking by quite some distance. Gone was the sardonic ensemble, and in was a more serious, and actually far more generic tone which may have delivered the expected havoc, but did so in characterless fashion.
What made that all the more curious was the man at the helm, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who had made his mark co-directing with Marc Caro a couple of highly distinctive efforts in France. You could see why he was hired, but it may have been the constraints of big studio moviemaking was more suffocating to his imagination than he anticipated, for as it was Alien Resurrection looked more like a job for hire than a project he had a particular personality to bring to the table. But were the complainers of its day too harsh? After the Alien vs. Predator movies this sequel had more of a flavour to it than something which resembled some cynical cash-in simply put into practice because the studio had the rights to the series and wanted to make some money from punters who would see anything under that name.
Helping was Sigourney Weaver, moving towards an alien portrayal herself as this new Ripley who has a mixture of human and alien genetics in her DNA, therefore is very strong and agile, has acid blood, and can score a point at basketball without looking at the hoop. So whose side is she on? Is this hybrid intended to represent the fans who would lean towards Ripley's point of view but also wanted to see as much creature action as the filmmakers could pack into their plot? Could be, and there were scenes to emphasis that nature where our heroine does disgusting things because she's not quite human now, which in effect didn't make you warm to her anymore than when she was a crusader against the otherwordly menace, and actually may make you like her less.
The star was backed up by an ensemble of cult actors and solid supporting performers, some of whom were the crew of The Betty who arrive with their own agenda, led by Ron Perlman's roguish mercenary but accompanied by Winona Ryder, whose big revelation as to her origins may explain her lack of conviction in those big dramatic scenes, but mostly you feel she was miscast. Also along were the likes of gravel-voiced Michael Wincott (that's two gravel voices in one movie - too much gravel?) who lasts about five minutes and Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon who represented the disabled in an unusual turn. But mostly this was the characters being herded from one corridor to another, picked off by the Aliens until the showdown at the end as Earth looms large: the sequence which lasted from the point they went underwater to the bit where Perlman shoots a spider demonstrated how good the rest of the movie should have been, but when it was all leading up to a ropey-looking hybrid puppet there was a letdown here. Music by John Frizell.
I must admit this was a fun night at the movies for me back in '97. Mind you, that was partly due to the illicit thrill of sneaking into the cinema with a bunch of similarly underage friends.
There are some rousing set-pieces here but this was the first Alien film shot in Los Angeles which shows in some obvious studio tampering that rob it of its coherency. I don't doubt Joss Whedon and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's sincerity or integrity but parts of this seem manufactured purely for merchandising possibilities. I actually wish Whedon and Jeunet had each made separate Alien movies back-to-back. However, the Newborn was a bad idea whichever way you look at it.
Most people know Danny Boyle was originally up to direct this and backed away, but Chow Yun-Fat turned down a role to make Replacement Killers instead.
20 Dec 2012
It's ironic that a movie series so suspicious of corporations should eventually come up with a film that was so corporate. It might have been better with a more satisfying monster for the end, compare the rubbish hybrid with the Alien Queen of Aliens and there's no contest.