Alien: Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997)

by Douglas Buck August 25, 2017 4 minutes (970 words) Blu-ray

Having sacrificed herself at the end of the last instalment by deliberately falling backwards into a lake of fire so as to destroy the alien exploding out from her chest (conveniently maximizing the moment) wasn’t enough to hold back that masculine feminine figure at the heart of the Alien franchise, as Ripley returns, now 200 years later… only this time as a clone, with somehow that xenomorph (that turned out to be an alien queen) that was inside of her cloned as well and removed from her by the US military. With the US military used in this entry in place of the previous evil Weiland Corporation (as the current world order is bearing out, there’s barely a difference between the agendas of über-corporate big business and the military anyway), their goal is the breeding and studying the xenomorphs in hopes of turning them into controllable super-weapons. With She Now Known as Ripley 8 being taught speech and coming to grips with her super powers (having been born from a seriously potent DNA mixture, one part kick-ass Ripley chick and the other the acid-blooded alien that was inside her) in an isolated space military vessel, a mercenary group of colorful characters arrives (with additional bodies in cold freeze for breeding purposes) just in time for a few of the aliens to break-out (with the xenomorphs working together to sacrifice one of their own, tearing apart a creature so it’s acid blood will melt out the floor and allow them to escape — a clever idea that comes straight out of, as do quite a few in the movie, the Dark Horse Aliens comics that preceded the film).

Resurrection is a seriously messy mash-up of a sequel, giving the distinct feeling of a movie put together by producers hand-picking gifted current toast-of-the-town talent (i.e., this cool French director from here, this successful television writer from there… and Winona Ryder from… I’m not sure about that one), without really considering how well they would work together, or even fit into the milieu of the Alien franchise (at least, in the ‘good film’ kinda way — it is certainly a watchable film — entertaining even — with great effects and strikingly odd visuals that are often really interesting to study more because of how wrong-headed they are, rather than how disturbing or gripping — that weird amalgamation human/alien hybrid creature with the silly nose springs immediately to mind… I mean, no matter how much I look at it, I can’t help but think it’s silly — and I’m sure would have been even more silly with the hermaphroditic combination penis/vagina they originally planned to prominently display on its belly).

Director Jeunet has done some really striking work in France (with visual delights like Delicatessen and City of Lost Children) and with this film is clearly emphatically looking to visually present how up he is on horror film academic theory; everything from the cheeky clever moment of the Ripley 8 clone being chastised by the male doctors for saying ‘fuck’ instead of ‘fork’ (there will be no sexual empowerment for women in this patriarchal world!), to the massive amount of birthing and abortion imagery (and I mean massive — just keep it in mind as you watch the film and, I’m telling you, it’ll become eye-poppingly apparent very fast) and all the way to the end, with our survivors heading to Earth in an arrangement that hints at the arrival of a progressive homo- and post-human sexual habitation. However, Jeunet’s playful style is just really wrong for the film (a perfectly head-scratching example is the moment when the US general, already too broadly played by funny man character actor Dan Hedaya, gets attacked by an alien and responds in quirky bug-eyed fashion studying his exited brains)… and listening to one of the director’s favorite French ensemble actors, the small rubber faced Dominique Pinon, phonetically speaking English is painfully awkward.

Joss Whedon creating the script illustrates perfectly how even the most gifted of writers (I mean, this is the guy who created the ground-breakingly influential — and seriously brilliant — Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, after all!) isn’t necessarily gonna be able to dazzle us with his mastery over material that he just isn’t right for. Numerous cutesy Whedon-esque touches like having the Ryder character comically fall over drunk from the table after pretending she can handle her booze might be funny on that classic television show… but they end up seeming all wrong here. While it’s great having stuttering Billy Babbit (especially when you mention his mother), the performer who gave us the voice of Chucky, that being the genre gem Brad Douriff, show up as a totally mad scientist (squinting so harshly into the camera in ways that make him feel a lot closer in species to the xenomorph looking back at him from the other side of the glass than any one of us), yet some of the scenes he’s associated with are the most misguided; for instance, when the xenomorphs are anthropomorphized to the point of casually seeming to communicate with each other in a different language almost single-handedly manages to destroy the powerful mythical perception that the entire film series has worked to create for these terrifying alien lifeforms. The aborted clone mistakes swimming in the big glass jars that Ripley 8 stumbles upon are visually powerful (especially the disturbing earlier Ripley clone thing gone terribly wrong that’s horrifyingly still alive) and, yet, also are another heist from the comics (which I’ve been reading for the first time since I started re-watching the films and have proven to be quite thoughtful and fascinating in the alternate directions they’ve gone from the films — so far, anyway, after having read 3 of the 7 collected volumes).

_Alien: Resurrection_ (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997)

This review is archived under the “Buck a Review” column, written by Douglas Buck. Filmmaker. Full-time cinephile. Part-time electrical engineer. To read more of Buck’s smart and snappy reviews, click on the column sidebar link.

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