Rixflix A to Z: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet // Studio; 1:49/1:56 (special edition cut); Color
Crew Notables: Joss Whedon (screenplay and story), Darius Khondji (Dir. of Photography), Hervé Schneid (editor), Pitof (visual effects supervisor), Bob Ringwood (costume design)

Cast Notables: Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley), Winona Ryder (Annalee Call), Dominique Pinon (Vriess), Ron Perlman (Johner), Michael Wincott (Frank Elgyn), Gary Dourdan (Christie), Kim Flowers (Sabra Hillard), Dan Hedaya (Gen. Martin Perez), J.E. Freeman (Dr. Mason Wren), Brad Dourif (Dr. Jonathan Gediman), Leland Orser (Larry Purvis), Raymond Cruz (Vincent Distephano), Tom Woodruff Jr. (Lead Alien), Archie Hahn (newborn vocal #2)

Cinema 4 Rating: 5

I don't care what Joss Whedon thinks. Well, I do care, and I agree with his stated opinion that this film was rendered "wrong" in just about every aspect, but it doesn't matter. Whether it is the frustration pronounced by a screenwriter who was simply tired of having his hard work twisted into sludge on the screen (including his own "Buffy", before he resurrected her for TV), or the budding television producer who was itching to do things his way, it doesn't matter what he thinks. Like David Fincher and Alien³, you can disown the work, but what you feel about it doesn't matter. The work still exists, it's sold on DVDs and it plays in the homes of the unsuspecting and the gullible (sometimes, and often, the same people).

But, first, let's focus on my expectations and how they can lead so easily to dashed hopes. When I saw this film in the theatre, I was already in love with the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, at that moment a director with a pair of feature films under his belt, and both of them works of immense creativity, energy and imagination, Delicatessen and La Cité des enfants perdus (The City of Lost Children). I was excited about Sigourney Weaver's fourth turn as Ripley (or rather, her first as Ripley's clone), the seemingly immortal battler of the alien threat, and I, and perhaps only I, was thrilled about Winona Ryder being in the film, if only in a pervy way. (Remember, this is before she went off the rails as a personality, and I still had a thing for her. Alright, I admit it: her damage actually makes her a little hotter to me.) And Jeunet was dragging some of his regulars to the film: Dominique Pinon, Ron Perlman and some of his crew. So, yes, much like Alien³, and against my normal code, I strode into the theater with a lot of stuff and nonsense in my head, dreaming of a return to Alien glory, as with the first two films in the series.

Here's what I ended up liking: the alien sacrificial-escape scene, Weaver's basketball shot (not faked), the seven previous versions of Ripley, Weaver herself (as always), and Ryder in the tight little jumpsuit. The alien effects are fine (until the big reveal of the cross-pollinated offspring of Ripley). I also enjoyed the underwater sequence, because the swimming aliens reminded me of how much I would still like to see a modern version of The Creature From the Black Lagoon. And Whedon's script is fine, and while I still don't care about his opinion on the matter (but I do), this leads into what I didn't like: everything else. The dingy cinematography (which works fine in Jeunet's other features, but simply leads to nausea here), the unmemorable set design and costumes, and... the acting.

Especially the acting, and sometimes from actors that I happen to enjoy in just about everything else they do, such as Perlman, Pinon, Wincott and a sorely miscast Dan Hedaya. Every line, outside of those said by Weaver, is said in a too overwrought and campy fashion. And Ryder? Well, she's cute here, but she has never been much of an actress; strange that the only scene where her voice and range seem to fit the movie is at the point where she has been revealed as an android and has plugged into the ship to control it. You could say that her voice adopts a machine-like quality, but really... all they did was add some treble to her normal speaking voice and she kept acting in her same monotonous way. Which leads me back to something else I did like here: Brad Dourif, who is usually waaaayyyy over-the-top in everything (this is a good thing), but he tones it down just mildly enough here to make him seem like the smartest actor on the ship, outside of Weaver.

In rewatching the film, and this is with full knowledge of Whedon's career path and my being an ardent follower of it thereof, I was struck by how much the crew of the renegade cargo ship The Betty reminded me of the crew of the renegade cargo ship Serenity in Whedon's later Firefly. Not so much in individual personalities (though there are some obvious parallels on display), but rather in their just being at all. I know that Whedon says he got the idea for Firefly from reading The Killer Angels, but is it possible that his script for Alien: Resurrection, and the screen version devolving from it, contains a premature attempt at assembling Mal and Co.? I have never read any interviews with Whedon where he mentions this, but again, I really don't care what Whedon thinks about this.

But I do...


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