Are You With Us? Alien: Resurrection
By Ryan Mazie
June 4, 2012
After months of endless teasing, one of my most anticipated movies of the summer finally arrives this Friday – Prometheus, a quasi-Alien sequel/prequel/something-quel. After writing about Alien 3 last week, I figured Alien: Resurrection would be timely to analyze today (and plus this is the only Alien film I have yet to see and wanted to be prepared for Prometheus’ arrival).
Only watching Alien 3 a couple of weeks ago where (since this movie has been out for 20 years, please be aware, spoilers will be used freely) Sigourney’s Ripley perishes in a molten fire with her Alien baby, I was confused how the franchise could continue. But it’s a sci-fi horror movie, so death is never truly permanent. Cut to 200 years in the future, Ripley is brought back as a clone carrying an Alien baby. How they manage this is never really explained, and to be honest, I didn’t want it to be in this pointlessly exposition-heavy flick.
Ripley now has superhuman strength, Alien senses, and… amazing basketball skills? With the baby Queen Alien surgically removed from her body, the faceless and evil Weyland-Yutani mega-corporation grow the Alien and her babies in a glass cage for unclear purposes. However, the purposes do not really matter since we all know from the get-go that the Aliens will escape and pluck off the cast one by one. That cast notably includes Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as a macho mercenary and Winona Ryder as a commanding and smart equivalent to Ripley who wants to wipe out the Aliens, having a mysterious amount of knowledge on the creatures.
Written (and supposedly re-written multiple times with up to five variations of the ending) by The Avengers director-writer Joss Whedon after his work with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Toy Story impressed the studio, Whedon smartly moved the horror franchise into something more of a darkly humored thriller. After all, there is not much left to reveal of the monsters to make audiences scream. As Ripley gains powers, the Alien does too. The franchise introduces a human/Alien-hybrid spawn that is more derisory than disturbing (imagine Skeletor as a cricket).
While Whedon acknowledges that the final product closely mirrors his dialogue, he stated that the casting, delivery, set-up, music, and directing was done wrong and out of tone. He has a point. For casting, Ryder, while competent, is too young, looking out of place against the older cast. As far as directing goes, it is competent but repetitive in terms of shot set-ups.
French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who used a translator on set) keeps the production values top tier – an underwater chase scene reminiscent of The Poseidon Adventure, but this time with monsters in the water, is a highlight – but he can not pace the movie properly. The first 40 minutes are pure talk, saving the action for a non-stop last hour of Alien mayhem. Talk about lopsided.
However, Whedon is not totally clear of fault. Logic problems are aplenty (while stretches of imagination have always been used for this franchise, there has been a good amount of consistency in terms of the laws of the universe) and the plot is so thin, it only serves as a shoestring between action sequences. Also, Whedon never quite decides if the Ripley clone is part-Alien or not and where her allegiances lie in terms of helping the human crew survive versus her Alien Queen baby (did I mention that the plot is a bit soap opera-y too?).