Review: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Alien: Resurrection is Jean-Pierro Jeunet's addition to the Alien saga. Ripley is cloned, as is her nemesis...

Oh dear. Although it has its plus points, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s entry into the Alien canon is one of the most ironically titled films you might come across. In attempting to revive the franchise, it was soundly killed off. If Alien³ had tested patience with its extremely flawed outing (although far better than it has been given credit for), it at least seemed the definitive ending of it. Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley had triumphed over the xenomorphs, Weyland-Yutani and her own obsession by defeating her adversary and taking herself with it – the perfect ending. Well, apparently not.

Opening with a voice over from the iconic Ripley, we learn rapidly that she has been cloned, over 200 years later, from a drop of her blood obtained in the aftermath of Alien3. This has apparently allowed scientists to extract the alien queen inside her (the one she killed along with herself at Alien3’s climax) – and they begin breeding the creatures as a biological weapon. Naturally, this is not going to end well.

In the meantime, the newly cloned Ripley is running around the ship exhibiting superhuman strength and agility as a result of her DNA fusing with that of the alien. This also seems to give her telepathic abilities with the aliens (wait…what?). Thrown into the mix is a band of space mercenaries containing the mysterious Call (Winona Ryder), who seems alarmed at the presence of Ripley.

Alien: Resurrection undoubtedly has its moments. The script by Joss Whedon is sprinkled with occasionally excellent one-liners, mainly for Ripley, and the way in which the xenomorphs go about the business of escaping captivity shows some signs of inventiveness. The underwater sequence showcases some excellent special effects, a definite upgrade on the shonky CGI of Alien3, even if the whole set-piece has a bit of a Deep Blue Sea feel to it.

However, the entire premise, plot and execution of the movie pisses all over the tone and feel of Alien3, let alone the masterful opening two films. When we are introduced to Ripley we are forced to watch our iconic heroine learn to speak English like a stunted child, hammering home a key problem with the narrative – this is not Ellen Ripley. Ellen Ripley died at the end of Alien3. What we have here is, for both the characters and the viewer, a poor man’s version. We don’t really care about her (with the exception of one scene in the cloning lab), because it is NOT Ripley, yet the film trades off that persona. Although Ryder does her best, the rest of the cast trade lines like shrieking simpletons from generic teen slasher films.

On top of this, the creatures we previously feared and that were cloaked in shadows pop up from ceiling grates and corners like a slimy jack-in-the-box. Jeunet’s slightly idiosyncratic visual sensibilities do not match with the tone of the franchise in the slightest. Admittedly, it is hard to create suspense around a creature so well known, but with every instance of a xenomorph appearance featuring remarkably harsh lighting it is hard to get the impression any effort was made at all to create suspense.

The conclusion of the film, and what it introduces to bring the Ripley-Alien synergy theme full circle, is the film’s ace card – an attempt to go all in and make an indelible mark on the franchise. Sadly, it turns out to be an illogical and ill-conceived joker card with a hastily drawn moustache and penis on it.

Alien and Aliens are timeless classics whilst Alien³ didn’t quite manage to be everything it could have been. Alien: Resurrection, however, is everything it was ever going to be – lacking in suspense, lacking in horror, lacking in empathy and lacking in purpose. The team chose to raise the franchise from the ashes, but instead of a golden phoenix they produced a jaundiced turkey.

Best moment: Ripley’s one liners in response to her ‘death’ and previous encounters with the xenomorphs.
Most ludicrous moment: How did Call get to the other side of the door?

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