2379, hundreds of years after her death, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is cloned by United Systems Military in order to extract the xenomorph larvae from her pregnant stomach.
A simple setup: another space station, another alien, another situation Ripley has to get herself out of. If it ain’t broke?
Alien: Resurrection is director Jean-Pierre Jeunet pre-Amelie and writer Joss Whedon just as he was finding success with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two heavy-duty cinematic work horses behind this studio-infiltrated franchise sequel. What could go wrong?
Stylistically, visually: the film is voluptuous. The use of wide-angle lenses through essentially the entire movie, in conjunction with a camera that moves with a personality of its own, the film is visually dynamic in a way that cures the ills of other, more static aspects of the film.
The look of the alien itself is amplified like the rest of the film is. The xenomorph is louder, more grotesque, and slimier. While this in some respects befitting of what the monster is, the subtlety of Scott’s original creation—the unknown creature that slips in and out of the shadows—is replaced with the bombastic slasher villain that we see here.
The film also moves with excellent pacing. Problem is, it does so by eliminating the need for character. The band of militaristic criminals, meant to mirror the rag-tag soldiers of Aliens, don’t have personalities. They have details, like Ron Perlman’s high-proof moonshine and Gary Dourdan’s wrist-holstered pistols. But they are all un-charismatic killers in the end.
Even Ripley, the franchise’s hero, has no soul in this film, and this is readily by design. She is cold and humorless, a copy. The arc of Ripley throughout the series is one of an unwitting victim becoming the survivor becoming a hardened veteran soldier born seemingly with only the purpose of killing xenomorphs.
In Resurrection, this arc is cut off by Ripley having a maternal connection to the aliens. It is an ambitious option for her character, but not a successful one. That she can feel the alien’s presence and smell the larvae inside of a host is strange.
The narrative of the film itself is largely fine, if not more obviously conventional given its lack of character. The film is Aliens with many more weird quirks.
These quirks are at times inventive—a chestburster through the head is one way to do it. Other times, sorely off the mark—the visual display of that alien-human hybrid is, just, unfortunate. But the film can’t be blamed for trying to add imagination to what would otherwise be a tired sequel.
Alien: Resurrection is an odd, detached sequel to the Alien franchise. It is by no means great or anyone’s first choice in the series. It is overly crass and grotesque to an almost slapstick degree. It lacks characters worth rooting for and the central protagonist that we had come to love. It is, in general, much louder than an Alien movie needs to be.
But hey, it looks pretty crisp.
Alien: Resurrection: C
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)