Alien: Resurrection
1997
Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder star in the fourth installment of the Alien series. Two hundred years after Lt. Ripley (Weaver) died, a group of scientists clone her, hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the new Ripley is full of surprises … as are the new aliens. Ripley must team with a band of smugglers (including Ryder) to keep the creatures from reaching Earth. Includes the theatrical and extended cuts of the film.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

This is an otherwise terrific film poisoned at the core by two terrible mistakes, one of them necessary and one of them not.

The necessary mistake is bringing Ripley back to life and making another "Alien" movie at all. The third film may have been made in a scramble, but it had an ending worthy of the series and the character that Sigourney Weaver had given so much effort to defining. But, "Resurrection" seems aware of the price it must pay to have the conceit of a surviving Ripley, and it goes to extraordinary lengths to make the dual comeback (Ripley and the series) not just tolerable, not just plausible, but actually desireable. This Ripley has a sense of humor that the other lacked, and in fact the film as a whole is much more eager to entertain than it's predecessors; it's easily the most "fun" film in the series to watch. Sometimes it gets cartoony in its ambition, such as in Dan Hedaya's cross-eyed astonishment at his own impending death, but the film is such a marvel of visual invention and aggressive characterization that it's all but impossible not to be pleased on some level by the results. It's easy to look at Jean-Pierre Jeunet's films and see one of the most visually interesting directors working today; with his usual collaborators Marc Caro and Darius Khondji, he has come up with some of the most exciting camera angles and color palettes I have seen on film. If he can take a film series that is simultaneously sacred and tired, and instill it with this much individuality and freshness, I'd watch him make just about anything.

The unnecessary mistake is the turn the film takes in its third act, after an intriguing opening act and a brilliant middle section. The idea of a human-alien hybrid baby has surely been around since the word "sequel" first occurred to Alan Ladd Jr. (you can even see a drawing of one in the original design concepts for "Alien³"), but it's such a bad idea, so offensive to the art and the audience, that it should never have been attempted; imagine the battalion from "Saving Private Ryan" coming across Hitler in ladies underwear, singing German children's rhymes, and you have some idea how badly this character damages the film. And it doesn't help that the creature itself is so hideous! The aliens have always been hideous, but in a cool and thrilling way; this thing is just so utterly repulsive that when it's on the screen, you can't bear to look at it. I swear, when that thing got face-to-face with Ripley and sniffed her, I'd have turned the movie off if it uttered "ma-ma!" in a baby's voice, which is the direction the sequence seemed to be going. I suppose that if we are to reap the benefit of Jeunet taking his chances with some wild visuals, we must witness the disasters when he misfires. The creature's death scene, which should be satisfying because it involves the death of the creature, somehow tops the ugliness up to that point; Winona Ryder's look of disgust as the creature's organs splatter onto the floor and are sucked back up into its abdomen says it all.

As I am nearly finished with the series, I'd like to point to The Onion A.V. Club's review of the boxed set. It briefly makes an interesting analysis: Since the films each contain the same basic elements, can each one not be seen as a "variation on a theme" illustrating each director's unique strengths and weaknesses? That case is weakest for David Fincher and strongest for James Cameron ("Aliens" is perhaps the archetypical Cameron film), but I like the idea all the same.

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