The phrase “troubled production” is one that’s hard to quantify. One could simply say a small casting or directing change early in a film’s production could fit the bill, or that it would require several script changes and plot ideas before the phrase could become apt.
Alien3 certainly fit the bill. Having several ideas tossed around before they wound up with a film that was basically five or six different concepts thrown into a smoothie maker; and an end result that, while good, could have been a lot better.
There are several people we could blame for these kinds of things. But I’d like to blame Hollywood producers. They tend not to see the bigger picture in these kinds of things and instead just look at how much money it could make at the box office.
Not a bad way to do business, but it results in some really stupid shit happening in the film industry. Like franchises coming back after they most certainly ended. After all, if you were a film exec, would you really let a popular money spinner die just because the plot of the last film required it?
Of course not, which brings us to: Alien Resurrection. Oh, by the way: Spoilers Ho!
I’ll open by saying this: a lot of people might criticise the title, what with ‘resurrection’ being one of the most overused words in film. But in this case, it works, the film is basically about a resurrection, and is a resurrection of the franchise. Plus, not calling it Alien4 actually makes sense, since it doesn’t really feel like a sequel to Alien3. You see, the fourth Alien film does something a little bit different, by bringing in an entirely new cast of characters and a director who didn’t know much English. It’s only a sequel in the sense that it takes place after the last film, but that’s not saying much. You could count Alien Resurrection as the beginning of a new franchise. That is, if they ever made any sequels to it.
The film opens with a pretty disgusting credit crawl, the significance of which is lost on us at this point. Bit of foreshadowing I guess. The first real scene in this film takes place on a military vessel in deep space, and features Sigourney Weaver, the lead from the first three alien films, floating naked in a giant test tube.
“Wait a minute!” I hear you cry. “I thought you said it was ‘an entirely new cast of characters.'”
Well, I did, because in this film, Weaver is not playing Ellen Ripley from the first three films, she’s playing a new character: Ripley’s clone, Ripley 8.
The first line of dialogue is a voiceover from Ripley, giving us a line from Aliens, that was originally spoken by a different character, Newt, the little girl. Which is actually not surprising, because originally, the protagonist was supposed to be Newt’s clone, not Ripley’s. I’m pretty sure that would have been a lot more interesting, for some reason.
Ripley is being cloned by a team of scientists trying to get at the alien queen Ripley had inside her during Alien3. Which makes me think someone, either me or the writers, don’t know shit about cloning, because that makes no sense!
Oh, the sample of DNA they got was contaminated with alien DNA, I guess that’s all right then…wait…NO IT’S NOT!!!! All that means is, once cloned, we might get an alien-human hybrid. Not a human with an alien inside! Do I really need to explain why this is stupid!?
So they get the alien out of her, and discover that they managed to extract the alien while keeping the host alive. In fact, she’s perfectly healthy. Remember this, because if you’re like me, this is going to piss you off later.
We eventually learn this new Ripley has a bit of alien DNA in her…shocking. Because of this, she’s stronger, faster, more aggressive, more cunning, and has a few other interesting abilities. A psychic link to the aliens, a genetic memory from the original Ripley (which makes absolutely no sense), and super healing powers…also, acid blood.
But the General running this experiment is none too pleased. The original Ripley died trying to wipe these aliens off the face of the galaxy. If she remembers that, she might try to continue her mission, and that’ll be really bad for him and the scientists in his employ.
It’s not long before Ripley begins talking in full sentences. We see her discussing the situation with two scientists: one who seems pretty nice; and his boss, who is a smug cunt.
Of course the lead scientist makes some good arguments. Assuming they can contain it, these aliens could be the scientific opportunity of a lifetime. How could they possibly pass it up!?
But of course any sympathy they might garner is quickly lost when we meet the crew of the Betty, delivering a crucial package to the scientists. A bunch of kidnapped humans in stasis.
The crew of the Betty are mercenaries, and are very ruthless and cunning. Once they arrive on the ship they are searched for weapons, and pass, even though we know at least one of them has weapons and he’s smuggling them in.
Warrick Brown from CSI is introduced while testing out a pair of pistols that are covertly strapped to his arms and deploy on command. Though what command, I have no idea.
The ship’s captain gets his first real bit of personality when we see him negotiating with the General for payment. Pointing out whatever the General is doing, isn’t approved by his superiors. After all, he’s operating well outside regulated space. So in exchange for not asking questions, he asks the General for accommodations, and any parts his engineer might find useful.
You may be asking: Why do they need these humans? Well, if you really are asking that, you know nothing about the Alien franchise. They’re using the humans as hosts to breed new aliens. Which is stupid! You see the way the scientists operate is by having the facehuggers implant the humans with alien foetuses, then just waiting until the explosive chest-birth, killing the human. I got a better, more ethical idea: Ask some of the soldiers to volunteer as hosts, then try to extract the aliens using the same method you used on Ripley 8! See, then no one has to die and you didn’t have to pay off mercenaries to kidnap a bunch of humans!
Why is it that all the scientists in Alien movies are evil!? We even see the lead scientist smile as the facehuggers come out!!! He shouldn’t be smiling! He shouldn’t enjoy this!
Next, we see the mercs encounter Ripley at the ship’s basketball court…actually a half-court. You know on a ship that size, you’d think they’d have room to build a full basketball court. What follows is a brief scene where Ron Perlman flirts for a bit before getting his ass kicked. Then, Warrick hits Ripley with a bar bell, before getting his ass kicked too. It’s disappointing, because I get the feeling this little fight scene could have gone on a little longer before being broken up by the scientists. But instead, we get this rushed little burp.
Which brings me to the biggest problem with this movie: it’s pacing. The whole film goes by way too fast. Instead of slowly introducing the necessary concepts at a pace we can deal with, it drops them like a ton of bricks, and blows by at a hundred miles an hour.
For instance, let’s go back to the opening. We could have gotten a scene with the scientists discussing the experiment, and how important it is, how long they’ve been trying and how it’s finally been successful. Instead, we are dropped right into the alien being removed from Ripley. No exposition, no back story, no cold open, no anything!
Then, once the movie gets going everything moves too fast. We just get scenes establishing the plot as quickly as possible. You know everything I’ve covered up until now? That’s the first 20 minutes. This probably could have been pushed out to an hour, and included some scenes of character development. For the entire cast, we get absolutely no development. All we get is a scene establishing two pieces of driftwood from the Betty are in a relationship, and I couldn’t care less.
The only interesting characters are the comically evil scientist, Ripley, Perlman, Warrick, Winona Rider, and the wheelchair-bound engineer who I’m gonna call Pinkie after the cyborg-monster from Doom. Now why is that? Well, for the scientist, Perlman and Warrick, they are all so over-the-top you simply can’t ignore them; Pinkie is only interesting because of his interactions with Perlman; and Winona and Ripley are basically the main characters, but these two don’t get much character development either.
All we really get is a single scene where Winona breaks into Ripley’s cell, says she already knows all about the aliens, and explains plot-points we already got, before Ripley reveals her telepathy with the aliens.
By the way, I don’t get the scene with the boxing gloves. Why was she wearing them? Was it supposed to be funny?
Meanwhile we see what the nice scientist that was talking to Ripley earlier has been doing. Teasing the aliens, then shocking them with a burst of liquid nitrogen, and apparently liking it. Oh I hope you die first.
Back to Winona, she leaves Ripley’s cell and is caught by the lead asshole/scientist, and then the weirdest line of dialogue pops up:
Asshole: Where are her friends?
Soldier: They’re in the mess hall, sir.
Asshole: Well you find them, now!
What? He just said he knew where they were, and you asked him to find them? I just…what!?
Anyway, they go to the mess hall and the asshole accuses Winona of being a terrorist. What? For breaking into Ripley’s cell, she’s a terrorist? Spy maybe…but terrorist? This film was made before 9/11, so I think I can understand. Back then, terrorists were pussies who didn’t do much. But I would still think you’d need to kill someone to qualify as a terrorist.
So the asshole accuses Winona of being a terrorist, then he proves what kind of dumb shit he is by telling the entire crew of the Betty that they’re all going to be executed for aiding and abetting, whether they knew about her terrorist connections or not. So the professional mercenaries kill almost all the soldiers that were previously holding them at gunpoint in a matter of seconds. Which ironically, is a pretty shitty scene, not because it was rushed, like last time, but because it’s not. Each gunshot is drawn out. Before Warrick fires a shot, he seems to pause for three seconds for no apparent reason.
So while all this is going on, the scientists are watching on the security monitors, trying to alert the security staff. Wait a minute, shouldn’t the security staff be watching the monitors?
Aw, fuck it. So while the scientists are distracted, the aliens take this opportunity to stage a break out, by killing one of their own and using the acid blood to burn a hole in the floor they can escape out of, and the alien they sacrifice is none too happy about that. I like the fact that there was a quick scene where the aliens are discussing the plan first, and we see the fear in the…mouth…of the alien they end up killing. It’s actually kinda sad.
So the aliens have gotten out of their cage and the fun begins.
Several characters end up dead, and we begin to learn the tone this film is trying to go for; a tone I like to call: comic horror.
The first notable kill we see is an alien sneaking up behind the General, and tonguing the back of his head. Basically punching a hole in his skull. The General reaches behind and pulls out a piece of his brain, looks at it, and falls over dead. I’m sorry, he would have died a lot sooner than that.
It’s needlessly gory and pretty fucking stupid. I don’t ever remember this many on-screen kills in an Alien movie before. Most of the time the alien drags their victim off-screen and kills them there, and honestly, I find that more scary. This isn’t scary, this is disgusting and almost comical. Also, I never thought the aliens would do this much killing with their tongues. I would think they would use their claws and tails more frequently. But I guess that’s hard to put on-screen. Which is why you have it happen off-screen!
So the mercs begin to try to find a way off the ship, when they suddenly find their captain, dead. They then notice an alien sneaking up behind them, who chases them straight into a dead-end. Then suddenly, the alien is killed by Ripley, who was sneaking up through the grates.
The scientist asshole tells the mercs that there are a total of twelve more aliens out there. Wait…what? Twelve? Earlier in the film, they clearly established that there were a total of eight humans they used as hosts, and since every alien has to be birthed from a human, that leaves four aliens that came out of nowhere! Did half the humans have twins? Did they get more humans from another source? I thought they were difficult to come by! Aw, fuck it…
So then, some really weird lines begin popping up again.
Ripley: So, who do I have to fuck to get off this boat?
Perlman: I can get you off…maybe not the boat, but…
Ahaha…haha…ha…ha. Hilarious…I guess. That’s the problem, this film is obviously trying to be funny, and isn’t.
So we then learn that the ship is automatically programmed to return to home base after any serious problem, like a containment breach in the medlabs, and ‘home base’ just happens to be Earth. Okay, this is fucking stupid. They had to have known the aliens escaping might have been a possible scenario. They had to have known that the aliens getting to Earth would have meant the aliens wiping out all human life on the planet. So why didn’t they change the programming? Why didn’t they reassign ‘home base’ to: the middle of the nearest star? Did they want to be responsible for the deaths of billions?
So how long till they get to Earth? Three hours…WHAT!? It was established early on that they were operating outside regulated space! Unregulated space is a mere three hours from Earth!? That’s the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard!
Now, some may argue that maybe this ship has a hyperdrive that can cruse 50 million light years in three hours. That’s possible, but if that were the case, I have no doubt 50 million light years, a three-hour drive, would become regulated space. In fact, we would have colonized that entire area.
Then Ron Perlman offers another gem of a line:
Perlman: Hey, Ripley. I heard you like…ran into these things before.
Ripley: That’s right.
Perlman: Wow, man. So, like, what did you do?
Ripley: …I died.
Like, totally man. Seriously, when did Ron Perlman turn into a surfer?
While we’re on the subject, it’s worth noting that Weaver is gold in this film. She pulls off the new Ripley’s cold emotionless swagger, pretty damn well. A sharp contrast to the original Ripley, who was fiery and passionate.
Eventually we make a startling discovery about Ripley, and the reason she’s called Ripley 8…because there were seven others that came before her, all failures. We got a glimpse of all of them during the opening credits, and when we finally see the seventh one, we understand just how evil the scientists are. For Ripley 7, every moment is agony, she begs 8 to kill her. So Ripley 8 does something the scientists should have done a long time ago: end her sisters’ suffering. Though I don’t think a flame-thrower is the most humane way to do it. Though it is the most dramatic.
It is a dramatic scene, and I think it was really well done. That is…if you ignore the gaping plot-hole: That a bullet between the eyes is much better than setting them on fire.
Next our heroes run across the birthing lab, where the aliens were born. Several humans are hanging there, with gaping holes in their chests. However, one is still alive. They eventually decide to bring him with them, in spite of the fact that he’s housing a chestburster. We also learn that he had no idea any of this was going to happen, and he didn’t even know he was on a ship. I’ll repeat my statement from earlier: This is fucking stupid.
So the team ends up needing to swim through a flooded kitchen and once they get to the other side, they find themselves in the middle of an egg nest. Ripley gets attacked by a facehugger, and a full-grown alien is on their tail. So Warrick shoots a few exploding shells into the air, while everyone’s underwater, killing all the eggs.
Here’s my question: Where did the eggs come from? There’s no queen nearby. Did the drones manually carry a couple dozen eggs here, knowing our heroes were going to go right through?
Wow, this film is stupid.
So with the eggs dead, our heroes get out and start climbing up a structure that dominates the centre of the room in order to reach a freight elevator. First to the top is the cunt scientist, followed by Winona. The scientist then convinces her to give him her weapon because the door won’t open. Winona complies, he shoots her, and she falls into the water.
Why did he shoot her? There was no reason! I honestly have no idea what this guy’s motivations are! Does he just want everyone dead? Is he some type of psychopath? I said it before: comically evil.
With the alien still hot on their tail, it jumps up and grabs Warrick, who has Pinkie strapped to his back. They had to ditch his wheelchair. So Warrick tries shooting, but then, for some reason, just stops and yells for Perlman to finish the job, and I have no idea why. Did he drop his pistol? It’d be nice if we saw that!
So Warrick is hanging there, with a dead alien hanging on his foot, strapped to Pinkie’s back, with Pinkie hanging on to the ladder for dear life, and his grip is slipping. So Warrick undoes the straps holding them together, and falls into the water…and then…he dies?
Am I just confused as to what’s going on? How did he die? Did the dead alien on his foot hold him underwater? Why didn’t he pull the alien claw off?
It’s one of the stupidest deaths I’ve ever seen in film.
So then, the door at the top opens, and Winona appears in the door frame. I guess she found another way around…so why didn’t everyone else take that route!? Especially considering this one opens in an alien egg nest! I thought they took this route because it was the only way! If that’s not the case, this whole movie is even more contrived!
Oh, you may be wondering why Winona is still alive. Well, she’s a robot. Specifically, one that was built by other robots. She’s the embodiment of the singularity. Her entire line was destroyed by the robot companies or something. Apparently they didn’t like taking orders. Only a few escaped, and Winona was one of them.
So, it turns out this revelation happens at an appropriate time, because the team realizes they need to patch into the mainframe to both lock the cunt scientist out so he can’t do more pointless evil and give them a path to the Betty; and the only way in, is to patch in directly using a robot. Yeah, that’s not contrived. You’d think they would space out these scenes. You know, reveal she’s a robot, then wait a while before her robotness becomes useful. As I said earlier, this film has a major problem with pacing.
So on their way to the Betty the aliens abduct Ripley, and she’s given an audience with her daughter, the queen, and we finally see what the queen got out of the cloning process. You’ll remember Ripley got a few alien traits, well the queen got a few human traits, specifically, a human reproductive system, and from it, a new breed of alien. One that looks pretty fucking deformed. It looks like a failed experiment, and it begs the question: Who is the father? If she did gain a human reproductive system, it would mean sexual reproduction. I have no idea what this is.
Anyway, Ripley manages to escape, get to the Betty, and everyone flies off. But not before a final encounter on the Betty with the new alien who apparently snuck in through the two-inch gap that was left when the cargo hatch jammed. I think it was supposed to call back to Aliens, but I’m not sure. It’s such a weird scene, especially when the alien dies, which has to win an award for weirdest and most impossible death in a movie. I’m pretty sure that physics doesn’t work that way.
So the warship crashes into the Earth, which I’m sure killed no one on this highly populated planet, and the film ends immediately afterwards, about as abruptly as it began.
So yes, Alien Resurrection is a bad movie. It’s terribly paced, has gaping plotholes, and shitty science. I know I probably over-nitpicked this film but once I commit to something, I go all the way.
But, with all that said, there’s one thing I have to admit: Alien Resurrection is fun. It’s a fun movie. It’s stupid and juvenile and fun. It certainly has more colourful characters than earlier entries in the series, and the death scenes, while not my taste, are certainly unique…at least from what I’ve seen.
I enjoyed it, I’ll say that much, even while I was yelling at the screen. There are certainly worse ways to spend two hours, so give it a watch, if you haven’t already.