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Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

ALIEN: RESURRECTION (1997)

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Brad Dourif

Written By: Joss Whedon Directed By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

The Short Version

There are so very many things wrong with this movie.

Sigourney Weaver’s performance is not one of them; it’s her best in the series.

The premise and Ripley aside, Joss Whedon’s script is awful.

And so is the creature at the end.

Series fans have to watch Alien: Resurrection anyway.  Otherwise, you could pass.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

LIMBURGER.

There is some good stuff there for those who try, but most people don’t want to get near it.


Pairs Well With...

CHEAP VALPOLICELLA.

Tastes acidic.  You’ll probably have a headache afterward.

“What's in-fucking-side me?”

“There's a monster in your chest.  These guys hijacked your ship, and they sold your cryo tube to this... human.  And he put an alien inside of you.  It's a really nasty one.  And in a few hours, it's gonna burst through your ribcage, and you're gonna die.  Any questions?”

“Who are you?”

“I'm the monster's mother.”


I think that Alien: Resurrection is one of those films that was simply destined to please nobody.

It was never going to be as fantastic as Alien.  It was either going to look too much or too little like Aliens.  And whatever it was, it definitely wasn’t the Alien and Predator series crossover that people had been begging for (and expecting to see next on the screen) ever since Alien 3 had come and gone.

Somewhere deep inside, I think the studio knew that, just like they knew that as long as they coughed up enough money to bring Sigourney Weaver back again, enough people would show up anyway to allow the film to turn a profit.  Anyone who’s seen the creature at the end could certainly be forgiven for wondering if the suits just said “so who gives a shit about the rest” at that point.

With that said, the premise, though slightly farfetched, is still just solid enough.  Two centuries after the events of Alien 3, the Powers That Be have managed to acquire genetic samples from when Ellen Ripley had an alien gestating inside her.  They still want that alien for its potential as a bio weapon, see, and it seems that they haven’t been able to find any more of them since Ripley went on her last alien killing spree.  Not to worry, though; after a few false starts, the cloning geniuses have finally succeeded… or have they?  Too well, perhaps?

If you’ve seen any of these movies before, you already know the answer…

On the other hand, maybe that’s not such a foregone conclusion.  After all, the people who made Alien: Resurrection certainly saw all of the movies that came before, but not all of them got the messages there.  I would argue that the single worst offender on that score is writer and future geek community golden boy Joss Whedon.

In the years since Alien: Resurrection came out, many of Whedon’s fans have loudly assumed that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and other random suits must have shredded what Whedon wrote, because obviously no Whedon script could turn out like Alien: Resurrection did.  In 2005, Whedon set that record straight with a series of comments in an interview on bullz-eye.com that to me only makes things worse.

He started off okay, saying that no, what was on the screen, save for the ending, was pretty much his script.  He could have stopped there on the high road, but then he went on. 

“[I]t was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong.  They said the lines... mostly... but they said them all wrong.  And they cast it wrong.  And they designed it wrong.  And they scored it wrong.  They did everything wrong that they could possibly do.  There’s actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking, because everything that they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from the script, and people assume that, if I hated it, then they’d changed the script... but it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable.”

While I am certainly not going to begrudge any person his or her viewpoint, I’ll admit that my jaw was on the floor at the tone of that statement.  (‘Everything’s wrong but my script, which was awesome.’)  But questions of decorum aside, what that statement and other elaborations Whedon has made on that statement says to me is that one of the first mistakes made was… keeping Whedon’s script.  Apparently what he wanted was to have his script played out in a more wiseass, wink-and-nod, tongue-in-cheek fashion (for which he has, of course, since become very famous).  And while I can indeed picture that with this script, what that also means is that Joss Whedon had no business writing the final draft on anything that touched the Alien universe.  Alien is a universe of true horror.  Not horror comedy, not Buffy the Alien Slayer; true, ice-in-your-veins horror.  While he’s got a good premise and a nice take a Ripley – at least the way Sigourney Weaver reads it, even though that was “wrong,” from what Whedon says – the rest of Whedon’s script is where the problems start, no matter what the man says.

As for the rest of it…

Any problems I have with the casting involve choices that seem to serve the wiseass nature of Whedon’s intentions.  Ron Perlman (Conan the Barbarian) and Brad Dourif (Dune) are both fine actors, but they don’t play well in this universe.  Anyone who’s ever seen the classic 1980s sitcom “Cheers” will never take Dan Hedaya seriously again (not his fault); casting him as someone who in a better written script would have more clearly stood out as one of the major villains is just a disaster… though it wouldn’t have been in Whedon’s world.  I think you get the hang of this now, right?

With only one real exception (though granted it’s huge), the production design of Alien: Resurrection is decent enough.  The score’s not bad; not all that memorable, but not awful.  As for the director…  My first complaint is that – assuming he had a choice – he didn’t demand another pass on the script by a different writer who actually understood the point of the Alien universe.  Accepting that he may not have had a choice, my next complaint is that he’s too faithful to the script regardless, allowing too much of its wiseass nature to bleed through.  With all of that said, being realistic about things and understanding King Budget, I don’t think anyone could have saved this flick as it stands, so I’m willing to give Jeunet a reluctant pass.

As for that one real exception to the pass for the production design, it is, of course, the absolutely godawful abomination of a what-the-hell-is-that final hybrid monster, which has absolutely no business in an Alien movie.  To say that it looks unfinished isn’t enough.  To say that it looks like it’s barely a step removed from a children’s nightmare film is inadequate.  It’s just terrible, and the fact that the studio didn’t want to pay for anything better tells me that they weren’t really committed to making a great movie.  Joss Whedon’s script built the coffin; this creature nails it shut.

And yet…

There’s one thing about Alien: Resurrection that proves to be irresistibly compelling, and which, for me, still makes it more watchable than Aliens.

In a sentence, Sigourney Weaver puts in her best performance of the series.

The one thing that Whedon’s script does a great job of is the characterization of Ripley with an alien edge; reading his comments that imply that he didn’t like the way this was read by Weaver (since she’s part of “everyone”) is just mind-boggling to me.  Sigourney Weaver’s devilish portrayal of the new Ripley is beyond brilliant, bringing a sinister sharpness to the screen that is nothing short of mesmerizing.  Dangerous, powerful, sexy, dark, tough, smart, rockin’ – pick your superlative; they all work.  It doesn’t matter that the rest of flick is near the edge of falling apart all around her; Sigourney Weaver single handedly makes and owns Alien: Resurrection.  Hands down, bar none.  No matter how bad the rest of it gets and now matter how dumb the final monster looks, you watch this movie anyway because Sigourney Weaver is just that damn good.  Period.  (Oh, and the basketball shot is not a camera trick.  She really made it in one take.)

And then you wish that the rest of the movie wasn’t such a train wreck while you have your drink.

Bottom line, Alien: Resurrection is not a particularly good movie, and however many laurels he’s picked up since then, a lot of it is Joss Whedon’s fault.  (Not that he should really have any issues with that, mind.  If you think that the crew of the Betty seems familiar, it’s because he used them as the template for the crew of a ship called Serenity on a show called “Firefly.”  So he still got a success out this in sideways fashion, and really, so did the rest of us.  The man does good work in the right setting; this just isn’t it.)  If you’re not either a serious series fan or a Sigourney Weaver fan, you can pass this one by.  If you are a series fan or a Sigourney Weaver fan, however, Weaver’s performance still makes this required viewing, though it’s probably better picked up as part of a box set than as a solo purchase.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2012


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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