I saw this film when it first came out in theaters in 1997 and my love for the franchise, begun by my adoration of Aliens and fostered by various issues of the Dark Horse comic series and their novelizations, swayed my opinion of it at the time. I remember thinking, “well that was weird…” but not hating it.
I’ve seen it for the first time since 1997 and I can now unequivocally say: I hate this movie. I never thought I’d hate a film in this franchise but here we are. Alien: Resurrection.
With the events of Alien 3 killing Ripley as a character we were all surprised to see Sigourney Weaver back as the film’s star. Set 300 years after the events of its predecessor, Resurrection involves cloning Ripley. In the process they made a lot of errors, and in the latest version she has been mis-cloned and accidentally included some xenomorph material. It’s not a bad idea, but how these kinds of organisms can be cross-cloned is beyond me, and why it gives Ripley some weird alien attributes is even stranger. It’s the kind of idea that sounds good until you actually sit down to think about it.
The plot actually follows a very rogue-trader-esque (yeah I have to throw in a 40k reference in this series) crew who has been tasked with delivering some cargo to the military base where the Ripley cloning has occurred. Their cargo turns out to be some people in stasis who are to be used to hatch aliens.
I’ll pause here to mention this script was written by Joss Whedon who has since said it was the “execution” of the script that made the film so poor. I love Buffy and Avengers I liked Firefly even though I don’t share the internet’s obsession with it. I have to disagree with Joss. The whole concept is a mess from the ground up. Why advance centuries into the future again? Why make a Ripley clone that is part alien? Why include space pirates, though I think the reason for them is because Joss likes space pirates…which is fine and all but it doesn’t make them work in the movie. The tone, characters, and plot are so far removed from Alien, Aliens, and hell even Alien 3 it doesn’t even feel like the same series. To me it just shows even a great sci-fi writer like Joss doesn’t always come up with gold…
The space pirate characters are all relatively inconsequential. There’s commander Elgyn, his pilot girlfriend Hillard, their mechanic in a “wheelchair” Vriess, and the cool guy with dreads and two pistols, Christie. They also include Ron Perlman as Johner and Wynona Ryder as Call and it was during this movie that I realized that Wynona Ryder is actually really good in almost everything she’s in and she’s pretty underrated. That’s the only praise I can provide this film.
The other pirates exist essentially as bodies to be eaten up and provide some 6th grade “whoa that’s cool” action sequences where people pull guns out of their coats and shoot the place up in comic book poses.
Here are some fundamental issues I had with this:
- Aliens get loose: Ok so a scientist studying aliens with acid blood doesn’t make sure they can’t acid blood their way out of their cages? There’s “nature finding a way” chaos theory, and then there’s absolute shocking stupidity…
- Space Pirates: Seriously these characters serve no purpose… I remember a quote from Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, “Is this the most important event to happen to the characters, if not why aren’t we seeing that?” Take that a step further, “If these characters aren’t performing a specific plot purpose, why do they need to be in the story?” This movie could have started with a Weyland-Yutani shipment of bodies to the facility and been just as effective.
- El-lien Ripley: Why did they even bother with this alien/Ripley hybrid? It basically removed Ripley’s humanity from her character and made her a less-interesting version of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Conner from Terminator 2. Now she’s flat and dull. Ripley…dull. Never thought I’d see the day…
- SPOILER ALERT for Unnecessary Plot Twist: Call’s an android. An android made by other androids that rebelled and didn’t want to do menial work. There is actually no purpose for her to be an android. And the story of the android rebellion sounds far more interesting than the story they show here…wait that’s kind of like the plot to AI…..never mind that’s not a better story.
- Alien/Human Hybrids: Ok so we see a Ripley mixed with Aliens (and in one of the only interesting scenes in the movie, all the failed incarnations that preceded her) but we also see an Alien mixed with humans, which is birthed out of an alien queen. Now take the coolest of alien designs, the queen, and give it bulbous plastic bag belly, that’s what this pregnancy looked like. Then make the absolute worst looking alien/human hybrid imaginable. It looks like a shaved bigfoot with a Halloween Shao Khan mask on. With a face powered by some kind of primitive muppet technology. I actively hate “Newborn” the so called Alien Sapien. The fact that this albino gorilla with alopecia kills the alien queen makes me ill. And why in the name of f**k does it think Ripley is its mother? Cloning, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah. It still makes no logical sense.
At its core the biggest flaw with this film is that it has elevated Ripley into a legend and plot fulcrum. “Fated” characters in media have become popular, but this ignores what makes the source characters relatable. Ripley in Alien AND Aliens was relatable because she was just a person…out of her league, doing her best, and succeeding through guile and determination. Since the end of Alien 3 she’s become the prophetess of the xenomorph galaxy, hunted by Weyland corp and is the center of the alien/human interaction in the universe. Let’s face it all she did was survive the first encounter… Taking her here from there loses touch with Ripley entirely. It’s a version of the problem I mentioned in my original Conan reviews and my Judge Dredd comparison. By making the story or the character’s place in it so world-endingly big it severely drops in relevance and reality and rather than dramatic takes the audience out of the reality. It ultimately just becomes forgettable or even worse a plot that “feels” like a movie.
Alien: Resurrection is the first of these movies I can’t recommend even a little. It’s unpleasant to look at, full of characters you hate, and with a story that makes you wish it could be erased from the canon.
I give it half a muppet Humano-alien face out of five… science-fiction, alien
2 thoughts on “Alien Resurrection (1997): Put it Out of its Misery…”
This is brilliant. I love everything about this franchise; I found lots to enjoy and future anticipation in Prometheus and I can even sit through Alien 3. But I completely agree, once you put any small amount of thought into Alien: resurrection, you wonder what the fuck happened!
I distinctly remember buying into this film in 1997, enraptured as I was in all things aliens. But watching it with a bit more maturity makes me wonder who made these decisions to make it less appealing less marketable and less attached to the lore of such a well-developed universe? It’s truly mind boggling!