Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Alien Resurrection (1997)
The Story: 200 years after the debacle on the prison planet of Fiorina 161, a strangely new and inmproved Lieutenant Ellen Ripley is in for a few surprises aboard the military space station Auriga.
Five years after the commercial disappointment of rock video veteran David Fincher's bleakly nihilistic Alien 3, surrealist French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet resurrected the venerable and often imitated franchise with mixed results. Where Alien 3 attempted, and on some levels succeeded in, a return to the stripped-down, survival-horror approach of Ridley Scott's original classic, Alien Resurrection is clearly intended to appeal to fans of James Cameron's rip-roaring, Oscar-winning sequel. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Alien Resurrection is a slickly produced, B-movie thrill-ride with enough guns and gore to entertain, but not enough substabce to return the series to its former glory.
On board a United Systems military research vessel, a team of scientists, lead by the effortlessly sleazy Brad Dourif, have succeeded in using DNA recovered from the prison on Fiorina 161 to create a new and improved version of Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (Weaver), the series' inexhaustible heroine. Growing at an accelerated rate, Ripley soon regains control of her now scientifically-enhanced, super human motor functions as well as her memories of her three deadly encounters with the alien previously. In addition to her new physical prowess, Ripley demonstrates remarkable intuitive powers in her realization that they have surgically removed an alien-queen from her and are containing it somewhere within the station where it will spawn and destroy them all.
Soon, a commercial freighter containing a motley crew of grizzled space-pirates, including adorable android Annalee Call (a glaringly miscast Ryder), docks their ship to unload a curious bit of cargo. As it becomes apparent that the arrival of Hollywood's cutest klepto was no accident, her gang takes control of the research vessel in a hail of gunfire while the alien-queen's offspring conspire to escape within its corridors. Soon enough, the chase is on as our anti-heroes blast their way through the ravaged space station with those slithery, slimy Xenomorph's snapping at their heels. The closer the dwindling pack comes to escape, the more Ripley begins to realize that the link she shares with the alien-queen runs deeper than she could have imagined.
As a high-octane, sci-fi/action flick, Resurrection succeeds on all levels with its eccentric cast of comic-book toughs, hyper-kinetic gunplay, and exciting alien attacks, but fails to generate much suspense and lacks the strong characterization that made the first two Alien movies such a triumph. Even with the interchangeable inmates of Alien 3, we still had our beloved Ripley to root for, but this smirking, macho-posturing posturing incarnation of the character is so, well, alien and far removed from the heroine we've come to know, it's hard to identify with her as she caresses the floor in physic rapture, cuts wise, and muscles her way through each situation. As for the supporting cast of strong-arms, Ron Perlman (City of Lost Children, Cronos, Hellboy, etc.), Michael Wincott (The Crow, Curtains) and Dominique Pinon's invalid Vriess are equally comical and visually striking as they mug and swagger (or roll) their way through each scene, completely overshadowing Ryder's brooding android, who instead of eliciting sympathy, only sticks out like a sore thumb.
Despite the lack of any one sympathetic character and the fact that Alien movies have never been much on plot, monster and horror fans will most likely be more interested in all the chest-bursting, face-hugging, acid-dripping fun the series is known for; and in this area, Resurrection doesn't disappoint. Instead of trying to rely on the same old aforementioned shock tactics, Resurrection serves up a few new nasty surprises in the form of an ingeniously brutal alien escape, a chamber of genetic horrors, and a harrowing underwater chase sequence that ranks as one of the series' most memorable set pieces. And though the alien-queen and her drones are cool-looking as ever, what was once terrifying is merely fascinating here due to the obvious use of CGI, evident since Alien 3. Also, some may find it hard to suppress a giggle when they get a load of the comically revolting, cartilage wriggling, alien/human hybrid that appears during the deliriously ludicrous climax.
Though it may be damn near impossible to surpass or even equal the high cinematic standards set by the first two Alien films, director Jeunet, cinematographer Darius Khondhji, and writer Josh Whedon (TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) succeed in delivering a visually exciting, action-packed blast that's certainly never boring. And while Resurrection's over-the-top, caroon-like antics may be prove to be a bit much for fans of the original's smartly minimalist combination of claustrophobic atmosphere, believable characters, and unbearable suspense, it should provide indiscriminate fans of the series with one hell of an adrenaline fix until Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (in one form or another) inevitably returns for another round of alien ass-kicking at a theater near you.