Saturday, January 30, 2016

Alien Resurrection Film Review


Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

(Spoilers for the previous three Alien films are below).

The ending to Alien 3 was conclusive…until Hollywood decided to make this movie.  Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is back, despite having jumped into a vat of lava in Alien 3, and is now a clone mixed of Ripley’s memories and alien genetics… she’s super strong and nearly immune to physical pain …Oh Boy!

Alien Resurrection proves that the Alien franchise should never have been brought back from the dead.  It’s not due to having a lack of talented people on hand to make this film, its the fact that the Alien franchise, or at least the parts concerning Ripley, have no room to breathe and develop as a story.
For acclaimed director Jean-Pierre Jeunet this is the worst film he has made.  For then upcoming screenwriter Joss Whedon, this is the worst film he ever wrote.  For veteran actors Winona Ryder, Sigourney Weaver, and Ron Perlman these are the worst performances of their careers.  Surprisingly, and fortunately, Alien Resurrection never destroyed these performers/writer/director’s careers.  Nevertheless this is surely a low point for all of them, much like it is the lowest point in the Alien franchise.
Over 200 years after the events of Alien 3, military scientists on board the USM Auriga manage to obtain a sample of Ellen Ripley’s blood shortly before she died.  The scientists use it to clone her and to extract the alien queen baby that was growing inside of her.  The efforts of the cloning also see alien like characteristics manifest themselves upon Ripley – she is stronger, more agile, less susceptible to pain, and has alien acid blood.

A group of mercenaries which include Johner (Ron Pearlman) and Call (Winona Ryder) bring kidnapped humans aboard the ship to be used as hosts for the alien queen.  When the aliens escape, these mercenaries, along with some of the military crew and Ripley must work together in order to survive.
Alien Resurrection is a parody of the entire Alien franchise, so much so that many of the actors and a lot of the dialogue make references to Ripley not being killed again. Terrible one liners are abundant and short dialogue exchanges that try to enhance the action end up getting laughs.  Consider this short exchange after Ripley uses a flamethrower to destroy a lab containing alien and human experiments
Johner: “What’s the big deal man? Fuckin’ waste of ammo.”
Christie: “Let’s go.”
Johner: “Must be a chick thing.”
Alien Resurrection is filled with moments like this.  Pointless explosions, terrible dialogue, and many…many failed attempts at humor.  A lot of the action scenes are over the top.  Ripley’s first alien kill features her sticking a pistol in the head of a recently killed mercenary member and shooting through the dead man’s head in order to kill an alien.  Winona Ryder immediately replies afterward, “What the fuck!” Not only does Winona Ryder’s appropriate reaction sum up that scene but it accurately sums up the rest of the movie, too.

Ripley is a lot different in this film, understandably so since she’s been cloned with alien DNA inside of her.  Despite containing Ripley’s memories, her personality and character have changed dramatically since the previous three films.  Ripley spends the first half of the film acting like a delusional amnesiac, and the second half acting like your typical glorified action star.

The scene that is used to set up Ripley’s new enhanced abilities, and her new status as an action star, takes place on a basketball court inside the spaceship.  In this scene she first encounters the mercenaries and they fight over their inflated egos.

A number of ridiculous, stupid, and unimaginative filmmaking devices are used to make Ripley look like a bad-ass, and they include: Ripley dunking in slow motion, Ripley skillfully playing keep away with Johner, Ripley physically overpowering the two strongest men in the mercenary group, Ripley being slammed in the face by a weight deadened barbell, and finishing with Ripley making a long distance reverse one handed basketball shot – no film trickery was used on that last shot, so props to Sigourney Weaver.

For all intents and purposes Ripley only carries a familiar name, but is a completely different character. This begs the question why put Ripley in the movie?  Why not do what the title suggests and resurrect the franchise by giving audiences a completely new protagonist to follow; this way audiences can be spared watching Alien’s primary protagonist getting butchered as a character.

Winona Ryder is terribly miscast in her role as Call.  Her character, whom is very emotional, is meant to serve as a righteous character that is supposed to represent humanity’s ability to empathize with one another.  Unfortunately, the film undermines Call’s representation of human empathy with a stupid plot twist half way through.  At that point I could hardly care, Call had become so annoying I could have cared less where her story arc went.

The film score does little to enhance the movie’s action scenes, or to enhance the overall creepiness that is felt in the first two Alien films.  At times the music feels very out of place. Climactic moments don’t feel timed correctly and the emotional tone of the music doesn’t ever seem to fit appropriately with the emotional tone of the film.

The only good thing about Alien Resurrection is that its commercial success enabled director Jean-Pierre Jenuet to be given a generous amount of funding to make his next film, Amelie, which in my opinion was one of the ten best films made in the 2000’s.  I’m willing to accept this trade off, I just wish it hadn’t come at the cost of destroying one of the film industries greatest science fiction franchises.

Total Score: 2

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