Good ol’ Ponty is back with another movie review, continuing our mutual countdown of the films we believe to be the Top Ten Worst. You can read his #10 pick here, and my #10 pick here. Ponty continues the fun with Alien: Resurrection (1997). He really rips it a new one. With that, here is Ponty’s review of the 1997 dud Alien: Resurrection:
I remember the thrill of watching Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien (1979) for the very first time. Obviously, it wasn’t on release. I was only a year old when it came out in the cinema, didn’t finally sit down to see it until the mid nineties. Still, curling up on the sofa in a darkened room while Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting score played over the expanse of space, the letters for the film’s title coming up in slow, sporadic strands, filled me with apprehension and excitement. I knew I was in for a treat and boy, did I get it.
What followed was a beautifully paced thriller with tons of memorable moments. Who doesn’t remember the scene where the fully grown xenomorph butchers Brett and lifts him into the air vents, while the cat, Jonesy, watches from the shadows? Or the anxiety of watching Dallas caught out in the air vents, while the crew watch the dot on their scanner draw ever closer to their bewildered crewmate, Lambert hysterically wailing at Dallas to get out of there?
From a personal perspective, I didn’t think Alien needed a sequel but I have little to complain about with Aliens (1986). It was an excellent film and though, for me, it didn’t quite contain the same level of threat as the first, it was compelling enough to keep me interested. We remember Ripley’s nightmare, where she pulls up her nightdress to reveal an alien in the process of coming out of her stomach, before she wakes up with a start. We remember the moment when Ripley goes looking for Newt, in a race against time, with the threat of the xenomorphs, the alien queen and an impending nuclear disaster to think about.
There are gripping moments that make you cheer that extra bit harder when Ripley or the soldiers evade capture or death. Unfortunately, that’s where it stops. While I still believe a second film shouldn’t have been made, I can’t begrudge it but I do think the series should have ended there. While I can watch the 3rd film, it’s essentially a repeat of the first, though in a prison colony rather than on a ship. It really wasn’t necessary. Worst of all, Ripley, after realising she is carrying not just an alien but a queen, throws herself into a vat of molten iron, thus hammering the last nail into the coffin of a series that went on one film too long. Or so you’d think.
Some bright spark decided to bring Ripley back to life, as a human alien hybrid in the unnecessary and tripe laden Alien: Resurrection.
To this day, I have no idea why Sigourney Weaver signed up to this one. She wasn’t short of a few bob and with no Weaver, there was no Ripley, hence no movie. That’s how it should have stayed and considering the events of the previous film, you’d think there was a point where Weaver said to the studios, ‘…but, she died.’ Crikey, both Terminator and the T-1000 both fell into a vat of molten iron and didn’t return, even though the series – not unlike the Alien series, the first two were great – continued to plunder for gold. And so it was with this.
Weaver must have been spun a yarn (and offered a ton of cash), similar to the one that brought Colin Firth back from the dead in the Kingsman series, and considered that her return wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility. It really was. Even if her blood was taken to create her clone, the 4th movie occurred some 200 years after the 3rd. But hey ho. The plot says it’s okay so whatever.
This film is as basic as it gets. A smuggling ship attaches itself to USM Auriga, a floating science station pushing some pretty suspect research, not only on cloning but trying – hehehe – to tame the xenomorphs it has in captivity. How often do we see that in films? Let’s give this dinosaur a cuddly toy and sing kum-ba-ya to it and in time, we’ll be able to bring it to dinner and do golf. Yes, because that works, doesn’t it?
Anyway, this fouled mouthed bunch of mercenaries, headed by Michael Wincott, who is just great at playing Michael Wincott, hand over their goods and are told by the ship’s captain – Dan Hedaya, also playing Dan Hedaya – not to make any trouble, cause, you know, this is a pretty rowdy bunch. As they settle in, scientists are poking and prodding the xenomorphs, Brad Dourif’s scientist blowing kisses to them, and the clone Ripley decides she wants to wander out and play a bit of basketball. The rowdy mercenaries don’t like the idea of getting beat by a girl so they whip out their guns and get their arses handed to them. In the meantime, the aliens have decided they’ve had enough of being locked up and turn on one of their own, obliterating it thus ensuring that its blood can provide their escape. The smugglers, who in the interim, have killed a bunch of the captain’s men, now find themselves in a spot of bother when they realise they’re being hunted by the recently escaped aliens. With me so far?
Cornered by the aliens, the crew find themselves in a gun battle where they lose a few of their men, including the irritating Call, and just as all seems lost, Call returns from the dead to save the day. Turns out she’s an android – of course; every Alien film needs an android. Anyway, in a nod to Aliens 1 and 2, Ripley finds a load of clones of herself that didn’t quite work out and as one of them, with its appendages all over the place, mutters ‘kill me’, Ripley lets loose the flamethrower and tearfully burns the clones. Her anger is shortlived as the alien side of her physiology feels the queen who is below them, preparing to give birth to yet another mish mash of alien and Ripley – another science experiment doomed to go wrong. The hybrid pops out, giant like an alien but albino, it kills its alien mother before swiping the face off Brad Dourif while he’s making goo goo sounds at it. It and Ripley have a moment together (the albino hybrid sees Ripley as its natural mother) before Ripley decides that it’s best not to hang around and bolts for the escape ship, which the survivors are getting ready to launch. They get the hell out of dodge but in a final twist, the alien hybrid has made it onto the ship and after tearing one of the survivors in two, Ripley uses her acid blood to break a small hole in the window of the ship which the alien hybrid is then sucked into. The ship lands on earth. The end. Phew!
There are a number of crimes in this movie, mainly bringing Ripley back from the dead, but we’ll skip that for now and look at what makes this film truly disturbing.
The direction bothered me. Fresh from the success of Amelie (2001) and Delicatessen (1991) in his native France, Jean-Pierre Jeunet was pivoted to the helm of the 4th film in the Alien franchise. Maybe the producers thought he could add a touch of his quirkiness to the film but it didn’t work out that way. Anyone could have directed this film and it would still have turned out the way it did. It was as generic an action as you could see and as flat as Winona Ryder’s acting. Jeunet brought Dominique Pinon with him (who starred in Delicatessen and featured in Amelie) but having his friend there made little difference to the film. Pinon played the wheelchair bound Vriess, one of the smugglers, but aside from a little comic humour, none of it funny, his inclusion in the film made no difference to anything.
Call was made for Winona Ryder. Labelling her as an actress is pretty insulting to the acting profession but the idea of her playing something not human should have been perfect for her. She couldn’t even do that right. Tourettes Winona, as I’ve come to call her, tried to do petulant, tried to do drunk, tried to play it straight and failed abysmally on all parts. When she was dragged into the water by one of the xenomorphs, I cheered. When she returned, I wasn’t overly happy, as miserable as that awful moment in Pirates 3 when Orlando Bloom is stabbed in the heart (yeah!) and then returns from the depths (boo!). It’s like picking up what you thought was a gold nugget to find a crumbling turd in your hand. She has to be one of the luckiest actresses in Hollywood, picked for roles because producers mistake her gormlessness for innocence.
Ron Perlman was no better, essentially playing the arrogant and unhinged Johner as if he was still Hellboy, but I was particularly disappointed with Weaver. I don’t really blame her for her performance – her role was a clone – but the vulnerability she had when she was human has all but disappeared in this film. To be expected; she is, after all, part human, part alien and she knows her strengths. The problem is she is only looking after herself and has no Newt type character to protect anymore. She is surrounded by big burly blokes and engages in what I saw as a pissing contest, marking her out as the biggest and baddest of the bunch. It was disappointing to see the role of Ripley reduced in this way. Reviving her was bad enough – to me, the single biggest crime in any franchise – but I didn’t like how this character, who had become stronger throughout her experiences with the aliens, was given a physical presence rather than an emotional one.
The dialogue is extremely clumsy and expletive laden and the pace clunky. This movie was a multi million dollar mess that never needed to be made but this is Hollywood. If there’s a cow to be milked, milk it they will, squeezing every last mangy drop they can. Thank God we still have the original movie to return to.