Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon
“Who do I have to fuck to get off this boat?”
Two hundred years after Alien 3 and Ripley’s death, military scientists on the Auriya have managed to clone her, mixing her DNA with that of the aliens. The current Ripley, #8, is so far the most viable specimen they have engineered. Intending to further study the aliens, another ship full of space pirates, the Betty, has brought a cargo container full of humans in stasis on board. They will be used to breed more aliens. One of the Betty’s crew, a young woman named Call, is there on a secret mission to destroy Ripley and the aliens. Stronger and more powerful, due to her alien DNA, Ripley prevents Calls attempts to kill her and they strike up an unlikely friendship. Meanwhile, the aliens escape and begin slaughtering everyone on the ship. Ripley and the Betty’s crew team up and try to survive and destroy some of the aliens. To her horror, Ripley learns that she is only one of many experiments and that a new human-alien hybrid is about to emerge, more horrible than the deadly aliens already loose on the ship.
With a script by Joss Whedon and direction from Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, City of the Lost Children), this really should have been a good movie -- or at least an entertaining one -- but sadly it fails on almost every level. Originally, Whedon’s script was supposed to be about a cloned, teenage version of Newt, the little girl from Aliens. I think Whedon could have done a lot more with a new character and it’s a shame the studio changer their minds. Whedon has gone on record several times stating that he hates the film and basically blamed everything on Jeunet. I think that’s a bit rich, considering that one of the film’s biggest faults is the absolute disaster of a script.
At its heart, Alien: Resurrection is trying to be a black comedy, but abysmally fails as the comedy isn’t particularly funny, the actors are incapable of making sense of their dreadful dialogue, and are generally miscast. While I do like some of Whedon’s work, including Firefly and Buffy, the ridiculous dialogue there works because of the pacing and casting, both of which are just wrong here. You get the sense that Whedon is trying to make a darker, more violent version of Firefly due to the space pirate theme and the genetically altered, super strong Ripley definitely has something in common with his Buffy and Summer Glau characters.
The script raises a number of questions about what it means to be human that it doesn't bother answering. The less than subtle references to identity, femaleness, and motherhood sort of idly wander off into nowhere as the film becomes more ridiculous in its second half. Nothing in the script makes much sense at all and Whedon, as usual, gets carried away by having not one, but two strong heroines at the center of the film. It’s an utter mess. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that this is even more of a mess than David Fincher’s Alien 3, which sort of has an excuse due to the insane levels of studio interference.
The conclusion, however, is the worst thing about the movie, between the human-alien hybrid and the open-ended, somewhat hopeful final scene of Ripley and Call beginning a life together on a nuclear war torn Earth. There is simply no reason to have an alien-human hybrid. As Ash suggested in Alien, the creatures are perfect. They have no need to cross-breed with any other species. From an artistic standpoint, Giger’s original creation is still the finest version and I don’t understand why subsequent directors have felt the need to mess with such disturbing beauty and perfection. While I love many of Jeunet’s films, particularly The City of Lost Children and Delicatessen, he just doesn't seem like the right kind of director for an Alien film. His sense of whimsy, wonder, and visual creativity are all lost here.
To be fair, Sigourney Weaver is great in this film and almost manages to make us forget about the lousy, nonsensical script. The scene where she discovers the laboratory with other failed Ripley clones is very effective and is the one moment the film approaches the bleak tone of Alien 3. Dan Hedaya (The Addams Family), Brad Dourif (Dune), Raymond Cruz (The Rock), and Michael Wincott (The Crow, Basquiat) round out the cast and do their best with some truly appalling dialogue. Some of Jeunet’s regular actors, such as Ron Perlman (Hellboy) and Dominique Pinion (Amelie), co-star.
I’m probably one of five people on Earth who dislikes Winona Ryder. She was alright in Beetlejuice, tolerable in Mermaids, and actually likable in Heathers, but she’s just a bad actress and was completely miscast as Call, the android-girl trying to play human. Because of Ryder and the clusterfuck, cartoonish plot, among several other things, I can’t recommend Alien: Resurrection. If you’re obsessed with the series and haven’t seen it, it’s worth renting once for Weaver’s interesting performance, but otherwise it’s an embarrassing conclusion to the series. Alien: Resurrection is available in the Alien Quadrilogy set, the Alien Anthology Blu-ray collection, and on Blu-ray.