Alien: Resurrection is the Voldermort of the Alien franchise; it’s the film that shall not be named for the rage it causes. It ain’t all that bad. Okay, it may need a two-drink minimum to hit play but it’s not close to the loathsome Alien Verses Predator and Alien Verses Predator: Requiem. Put on rose tinted glassed because we’re diving into Alien: Resurrection with no shame.
There’s a few silver linings to the fourth entry in the Alien franchise that employed iconic French director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, to resurrect Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) from the dead … as a clone. The idea came from a pitch from Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator, Joss Whedon. As is a tradition with the films later in the Alien franchise (See: Alien 3), Whedon would later express his displeasure for it by stating in an interview, “there is always going to be a shitty Alien movie out there. A shitty Alien movie with my name on it.” Whedon is fine, he directed The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron that made billions for Disney and Marvel.
The story idea was good enough to lure Weaver back (plus $11 million) whose involvement was essential to generating interest in the project. Jeunet at the time was known for his films Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children and became the number-one choice after the filmmakers Danny Boyle, Peter Jackson and Bryan Singer turned down the gig. Another incentive for Jeunet was the $70 million budget he was given by Fox; the highest for a film in the Alien franchise at the time (Prometheus is the current record holder with $130 million).
Jeunet gives Alien: Resurrection an odd yet playful Euro science fiction feel close in resemblance to fellow French filmmaker, Luc Besson, who bested Jeunet in the same year with The Fifth Element. The camera swings around wildly and is always in a hurry to zoom in on each character at odd angles. Alien: Resurrection is flamboyant compared to its predecessors and has more of a slasher vibe as opposed to the haunted house in space feel that permeated through the first three films. Jeunet has the aliens get inventive with their kills, which is where the mischievousness kicks in. With this eye for Jeunet’s style and mirth, you can appreciate the difference the director brings to the franchise, even when he’s burning it down. Like Whedon, Jeunet was fine after, he would recover from the experience in style with an idea for his next film: Amélie.
Considering the outcome of Alien 3, the curiosity around Ellen Ripley’s return was a huge draw card for Alien: Resurrection. Weaver’s reappearance was the seal of approval Fox needed to get fans back for another one. Ripley returns, as a clone, 200 years after Alien 3, whose DNA is infused with the alien she was carrying when she died so she now has enhanced strength and reflexes, acidic blood and a psychic link with the creatures. What could possibly go wrong? Weaver gives a loony performance as ‘Ripped-ley’. A lot of the behind-the-scenes stories around the film’s production center on Weaver having the final say on everything from where the film would shoot, down to the minutia of the plot. There has long been a rumour that Weaver dictated she wanted to have sex with the alien queen as part of her list of demands to return to the role, which explains the alien/human hybrid, The Newborn, featured in the finale. So, it seems like nobody said ‘no’ to Weaver throughout the production and she ran wild with her performance. And it kind of works in an entertaining way as clone Ripley bluntly tells everyone how bad things are going to get. In one scene, she’s asked how she battled the aliens in previous encounters, she responds with: “I died.” It’s not all self-awareness, though; the scene where clone Ripley encounters the lab of failed attempts to replicate her is the lone chilling moment of the film. In fact, it’s the scene that provides the justification for the whole film, if only the rest would match the horror of this moment.
One final touch that makes Alien: Resurrection tolerable (just) is the reveal that Winona Ryder’s character is synthetic. The last synthetic we saw was the mangled Bishop in Alien 3. 200-years later we find out that synthetic beings have begun creating their own kind and Ryder is on a mission to kill the clone Ripley. Ryder gets a few action moments and there’s something interesting about the synthetic being the most human character in the film; clone Ripley even makes note of it at one point. It never goes any further than being a surprise twist but synthetics blending in as humans across the galaxy is a potent one that’s never fully explored.
So, should you revisit Alien: Resurrection? It’s not the important question here, you should really be asking yourself, am I drunk enough? There’s stuff buried in this film that make for a fun sit if you feel like being relentless with optimism.
Alien Resurrection screens this Saturday night on SBS VICELAND at 8:30pm.