Alien Resurrection

I’m watching the special edition of Alien Resurrection.  Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet gives an introduction explaining that the theatrical version is the director’s cut, so this is just an extended edition.  At least he’s showing ownership over his work, flawed as Resurrection is.

Resurrection opens in quirky fashion.  In extreme close-up, we see the gleaming teeth of an alien.  The camera pulls back, we see that the teeth belong to an insect.  An odd man kills the insect.  He then takes a strange interest in the drink he holds, inspecting the straw.  The camera pulls back further to show that he is working on a space station.  It’s a strange, ill-fitting way to open a horror film, particularly in a franchise like Alien.  

Within five minutes I’m sold on how good the film looks.  Visually, it’s consistently handsome.

Ripley is an underrated cinema icon.  She’s perhaps the most tragic figure in cinema.  Over four films, nothing but bad things happen to her.  Of course, technically, this isn’t Ripley.  She’s #8, a Ripley clone.  This fact is used to differentiate between the cruel, cold staff of the ship, and the more humane ones.  The baddies call her 8, the goodies, Ripley.  She was cloned using a blood sample from Fury 161, back when she was with alien.  She was recreated in order to also clone the queen alien inside here.

The crew of The Betty, a salvage ship, reach the station.  My mind being a sieve, I can’t remember what their cargo is.

Ripley is questioned about being on “Fiori 16”.  The actual name of the planet (from Alien 3) is Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161.  This seems too obvious to be a continuity error, but I can’t figure out the reason for it.  To see how well 8 can recall Ripley’s memories?  Surely not, it must just be a mistake.

I wonder about the timeline from Alien 3 to here.  It’s later revealed as 200 years.  Then I wonder about the full timeline, from Alien to now.  I can’t be bothered figuring it out.

We briefly see a computer game.  Thankfully we don’t see much, as it looks like a Playstation 2 game.  There’s a reason you don’t see games that much in sci-fi, they will never look impressive enough.

The captain of The Betty has an amazing voice.  It’s so rough and gravelly, he looks about 50 years to young to own it.

I generally dislike Ron Perlman, with the exception of Hellboy, the part he was born to play.  I couldn’t stand him the first time I saw Resurrection, but he’s not quite as annoying as I remember.  Irritating, a poor version of Jayne from Firefly, yes, but not that bad.  And a few characters in Resurrection are inferior versions of characters from Whedon’s later work, it would be unfair to single out Perlman.

The Betty docking sequence is sci-fi porn.  The music soars as the future-tech connects with future-tech.  Well-handled and believable.

We see The Betty’s cargo – seven people who had been in cryogenic sleep.  The crew hijacked their ship and abducted them.  Remember, as much as The Betty’s crew seem like thugs with hearts of gold, they did steal sleeping people and sold them to the military.  They can’t have imagined something good was going to happen to them.  The people weren’t going to wake up to cakes, presents, beer, and chips.

Insta-cringe as the basketball scene begins.  To my knowledge there has never been a realistic basketball scene in a film, unless it involves horrible basketball.  C. Thomas Howell more accurately represented bad players in Soul Man better than any actor has managed for average ones.  Ripley dunks and I am embarrassed.  Perlman tries to steal the ball, while considering molesting her.  It gets stupid.  She gives Perlman a knock, then Gary Dourdan (of CSI fame) smashes her face with a barbell.  She quietly bleeds acid.  Thankfully the troops turn up and the scene ends.

The crew of The Betty have been granted board on the station.  For a fairly mundane moment, it’s scored with some mysterious music.  This just becomes annoying.  The Betty’s cargo has now been utilised as hosts for more aliens.  The aliens are in cages, and Dourif watches them in awe.  Like Bishop in Aliens, he’s unable to hide his respect for the most potent of killers.  Yet he’s also not afraid to show his dominance over them.  He’s conditioning them to learn that when he hits the big, red button, bad things happen.  You know he’s going to be dead soon, for his cheek.

Perlman, Call (Winona Ryder) and someone else sit and drink.  For some reason Call tries to drink with boxing gloves on.  She throws one off and it hits the camera.  If I had been immersed in the story that might’ve annoyed me.  Thankfully I’m a bit bored at this point.

The cinematography nicely conveys Ripley isolation, as she lays alone in her room.  Call breaks in, considering killing her.  She knows a lot about Ripley.  We learn more about her too.  The alien was removed from Ripley but “not all the way out”, as she puts it.  She maintains a bond with, by the sounds of it, all the aliens.  Somehow, she also knows that the guards are looking for Call.  I’m not sure how, unless she can smell them on the other side of the door.

A slick move from the aliens.  Three of them are in a cage, being watched by Dourif.  Two turn on the other and murder it to bits.  Its bleeding burns a nice, big hole in the floor.  The remaining aliens escape.  Oh dear.  And they let the others out.  Oh dear oh dear.  Dourif soon gets a small pair of teeth to the face.

These aliens have more of a misty-mouth than the other films and I don’t like it.

With all the aliens free, the station crew make the smart move and evacuate.  A move that more victims in films should make, instead of toting a weapon.  Surprisingly, some of them actually do manage to escape, and eight or so get into a escape pod and flee.  Crew members fill a second pod.  Sure enough, at the last second, an alien gets in.  There’s a hammy shot of a grenade being dropped in after it, in which we follow the grenade.  This undercuts the tension of the scene, which otherwise is well done.

The Betty crew race back to their ship.  The captain make a classic cinema move, veering away from the crowd.  No one notices.  The captain has two guns already, but he has spotted a third, and it’s all shiny and nice.  It’s in an abandoned corridor.  Hmmm.  An alien-shaped pipe falls and scares the hell out him.  He obviously hasn’t played the Alien vs Predator computer games, or he would’ve expected that.  A pipe-looking alien appears and kills the charcoal-voiced captain.  These scenes, where a character wanders away from the crowd and the noise, they’re good for tension, and the silence here works well.  But from a logical view they generally make no sense.

This scene reminds me of the time I went to Alien War and it scared the hell out of me.  I’d love to go back, and yet I think it’s best if it just lives on in my childhood memories.  Like the time I went number two in the Pope’s hat.

Ripley has a change of heart and decides to help the crew escape.  They decide to stick together, trust each other, all that stuff that happens in all these films.

These scenes are passable, not great, but the character work and the acting lets the film down.  Gary Dourdan is a ham, the disabled guy is wrong for the part, the female pilot has nothing to work with, as does the remaining soldier.  Wren, the man in charge of the station, fills the hole of distrustful character, and he’s far more watchable than the rest.

The survivors discover that the stakes are higher than just their own lives.  When an emergency is declared on the ship, it auto-pilots back to Earth.  They have to stop this happening, or the aliens will take over the planet.

8 finds the previous attempts at cloning Ripley.  They’re not pretty.  8 might not be great to look at, but she’s much more attractive than 1-7.  One clone is still alive, though begging for death.  Is there an utterance of “kill me” in every Alien film?  Because there was one in Aliens too.  Trivia – this remaining clone, barely human, all hideous twists and squinty b00bs, was actually inspired by the type of women you would see in a Wetherspoons pub at 3pm on a Tuesday.

Now we’re on to the best scene in Resurrection.  The team has to swim through a flooded kitchen to get to another part of the station.  As they prepare to swim, the pilot woman has a moment.  She holds her head in her hands, overcome with fear and grief.  Her (presumed) love, the captain is dead.  Many others from this station are also gone, and her team is in grave danger.  It’s a good moment, in that it shows the accumulative emotional effect of recent events.  And, of course, it means she going to die soon.  This is the only moment in all of the film where she actually commands attention, she’s been a blank slate otherwise.

They swim, and aliens follow.  Pilot woman is caught by the ankle and dragged away.  A quick grab by the alien, a terrified look on the woman’s face, silence and doom.  As far as deaths go, it’s a nice chance.  With so many high-octane, noisy and explosive deaths in Resurrection, it’s a nice change of pace.  Haunting, as opposed to just surprising.

The squad try to surface at their destination, but there’s a patina over the surface created by the aliens.  Their trapped underwater with aliens in chase.  It’s horribly claustrophobic, which is why it’s my favourite scene.  They break through the skin to discover an assload of alien eggs.  Trouble.  Dourdan fires off some explosives and the eggs flame, just like they did on Ripley’s watch in Aliens.  Ripley gets a facehugger to the grill, but it’s soon thrown off.  I don’t remember that from the theatrical cut.

The aliens are much less scary in Resurrection.  I don’t know if it’s just the atmosphere of the film, if it’s due to the mediocre Alien vs Predator films, or something else, but they no longer have the same effect.

The crew climb a ladder.  Wren, showing his similarities to intergalactic arsehole Carter Burke, shoots Call and escapes.  An alien spits acid (a new one to me) onto Dourdan’s face.  Perlman is forced to wildly fire at the alien, possible hitting Dourdan too.  Dourdan is in fact so sick of all the abuse he’s getting that he kills himself, dropping off the ladder back into the alien-filled water.  The remaining peeps are trapped, however, as Wren locked the door behind him.  The door opens, and Call is revealed as decidedly undead.  She’s a robot you see.  The crew are safe for at least four minutes.

Ripley and Call go into a prayer room, where Call hacks into the station’s computer system.  To scare Wren, she publicly announces “All aliens please proceed to level 1”, which is the only funny bit of the film.  Ripley has become protective of her.  Ripley mentions Newt (though not by name) as someone that she tried to protect and failed.

As they head to The Betty, Ripley is dragged through the floor and into the queen alien’s bosom.  Her going through the floor to screams of “Ripley” is similar to Newt falling in Aliens, though this time it’s Ripley falling.  The queen looks enormous in this shot, much bigger than at any other time.

On the trip, the crew acquired another member – Purvis.  He was one of the cargo.  The only one who survived, but now has an alien inside him.  On The Betty, the alien starts bursting out of him, which for some reason makes him stompy.  He grabs Wren, the alien escapes his ribcage and goes right through Wren’s head.  The camera takes us right into Purvis’ ribcage so we can watch it all happen.  This results in it seeming pretty stupid.

Back with Ripley and the queen.  Dourif and others have been cocooned.  Cocoons are nice, you don’t really see them in Alien films anymore.  Dourif has gone mental, and narrates the entire scene, showing his a reverence for the beast.  He explains that Ripley has given the queen the ability to give birth.  She no longer needs to lay eggs, therefore needs no hosts for them.  And apparently she doesn’t need a husband either.  Like Jurassic Park, nature will find a way.  She did of course lay eggs earlier – seven used on the cargo people, loads shown on the underwater scene.  She’s like a dual mode baby-machine.  Dourif delivers the line “And now she is perfect” very well.  In fact, his madness in this scene might be the best acting of the entire film.

The baby is born.  It looks stupid, like an alien prop that bits have fallen off of.  It also appears to be made of old milk.  It goes in for a cuddle with its mum, and instead kills her.  It bites Dourif’s head in half too.  Meanwhile, Ripley escapes.  She’s decided to make a break for it, and sprints to The Betty.  She gets on and takes a pilot’s seat.  Sure enough, the doors aren’t closed.  Call heads to the empty, creepy rear of the ship to close them.  Sure enough, the milk-beast is there.

This was the most glaringly obvious part of the film.  The alien snuck in the ship, just as it was about to leave in Alien.  Oh yeah, and in Aliens as well.  This isn’t what fans mean when they say that they want continuity across the franchise.  Despite her psychic bond Ripley takes a while to recognise that the monster’s on board.  Finally she clocks on and heads back.  She cuddles up to the alien to let Call escape, and, frankly, it’s a bit disturbing.  We’re supposed to see this as mother and daughter reunion type-situation, even though technically Ripley is its gran.  Regardless, it comes across as more erotic than familial.  The two of them get close and sensual and tongues are a-waving.

But Ripley is just biding her time.  She flicks some blood or spit or something at a window, the acidic content burns a hole.  The alien is sucked onto, and eventually through, the hole.  Its guts pour out the window and into space, while it shrieks and Ripley cries.  It’s a complicated relationship.

This part of the scene is unoriginal too.  There can’t be a lot of ways for a puny human to kill a biological killing machine, but this is like the airlock scenes in the first two films.  Say what you want about Alien 3, at least it captured (twice), burned, then froze and shattered the alien.  Also, there’s no exciting imagery to an alien’s death coming from a thumb-sized gap in a window.  Although, if the alien had reconstituted in space, formed wings, and flown to Earth, while laughing and mocking Ripley, that would be a good ending.

Call and Ripley have now landed on Earth.  It’s a pretty wasteland.  Call tells Ripley that she could easily disappear, which is also nice.  So many films end with the great relief of just survival, ignoring that the characters have to live on, and their explanations to the relevant authorities might be a little unbelievable.  “No officer, he flew out of the sky, ate my parents, killed all my classmates, and then took me to the moon.  Can you take these handcuffs off now?”.  Honour goes to From Dusk ‘Til Dawn for showing what happens after they leave The Twister.

Game over.  Credits roll.  Resurrection wasn’t quite as bad as I remember.  It has many faults, but it’s heart is in the right place.  A team of outlaws bring innocent people to the military so that they can be used as hosts for aliens.  A queen alien takes on attributes of its host, making it the perfect breeding mechanism for more aliens.  The outlaws have to stop these aliens, particularly the queen, from reaching Earth.  That’s a good story for a film.  The writing, acting, directing is flawed, but better a bad attempt at a good project than the other way around.

No doubt there were comments around the time of production of this film “resurrecting” the franchise after the poor (and unfounded) reception of Alien 3.  Then it badly maimed it instead.  But if the time ever comes for an Alien reboot, Resurrection should be a consideration.  Some better casting and direction, and a consideration of Whedon’s earlier script, which had the final battle on Earth, and there’s some promise to be found.

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