With a brand new Ridley Scott Alien film set for release this week, we at Psycho Drive-In thought it would be fun to look back at each of the films in the official franchise. So every day this week, the Psycho Drive-In All-Stars will be sharing their thoughts, memories, and interpretations of one of Hollywood’s most enduring and important science fiction franchises. I love this movie, and that mostly has to do with the director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Alien: Resurrection takes a lot of cues (and borrows some cast) from his prior film, The City of Lost Children, one of my favorite films of all time. There is a thread of dark fantasy strung through the sci-fi action and even in the grimmest moments one thing is abundantly clear: Jeunet is having a whole hell of a lot of fun. It’s weird to introduce humor into the series with this, the fourth installment, but thanks to the chemistry of the cast, a fascinating script, and the deft hand of the director, it (mostly) works. The mercenary crew of the Betty steal the show from the moment of their introduction. Their banter and dynamic call to mind another pack of merc misfits, the crew of the Serenity in Joss Whedon’s Firefly. It’s likely no mistake, Whedon wrote the script for Alien: Resurrection and it’s hard not to imagine it having been an inspiration for his space Western series. The clashing personalities, dubious moralities and wildly varying motivations of the Betty crew interject incredible life and color into the story, and stand as a sharp contrast to the stuffy military and scientific presence aboard the USM Auriga. They’re just so damn cool. This is my fourth mini-review in the Countdown to Covenant series for Psycho Drive-In and I again find myself coming back to praise the characters of the Alien franchise. You need an investment in them, as the enemy is so utterly cold and lacking in anything other than the most basic animalistic personality. Jeunet directs his cast ably through the series of disasters that constitute the film’s plot, with moments of humor contrasting scenes of utter gory brutality. I’ve often heard the claim that some of it comes off a bit goofy, and while I understand where that’s coming from I feel so at home with it and with what Jeunet is doing that I don’t take issue with it, I’m too busy enjoying the ride. There are several ways Alien: Resurrection pays homage to the previous films in the series. The AI of the USM Auriga is named Father, in contrast to the Nostromo’s Mother, though it still acts stubbornly in the best interests of the corporation in charge. That corporate entity is revealed in the special edition cut of the film to be not Weyland-Yutani as expected, but the conglomerate that swallowed them, Wal-Mart. The chest-burster scene is played for a gloriously over-the-top double kill. Most importantly, Resurrection brings back the idea of the android as central to our consideration of humanity. This completes a rather brilliant arc for that theme. Alien showed us a broken and murderous android in Ash, while Aliens brought some redemption for the android as a clearer reflection of our better qualities in Bishop. Alien: Resurrection takes things to the next level, presenting the android Call as a sort of savior. In the world of Resurrection, it’s humanity that disappoints and defaults to selfish murderous tendencies while the rogue artificial intelligence of Call’s iteration of android have sought to save the world from the worst of their creators. If I have a bone to pick with this film, it’s in a couple of the performances. Winona Ryder handles her role as Call well at first, but as the film wears on it’s difficult to maintain suspension of disbelief toward her character, she’s just not acting the fuck out of it the way I needed her to. I’ve often pondered how perfectly a young Natalie Portman, having aged a bit up from her role in Leon: The Professional might have handled it. The other disappointment for me is Dan Hedaya’s turn as General Perez. He’s positively cartoonish and delivers several cringeworthy eye-rolling moments that the film would have simply been better off without. It’s the only real moment where Jeunet’s infusion of humor doesn’t work. The end of the film is a bit of a mess as well, a frantic and exciting ride that just can’t quite sustain the pace and juggle all of its disparate elements well enough to feel cohesive. The introduction of the Newborn, a terrifying human/xenomorph hybrid really throws a serious “what the fuck” monkey-wrench into the proceedings. While the creature design is sufficiently creepy and its human qualities are downright unsettling it feels like too much frosting on an already well-frosted cake. The film makes some ballsy decisions and certainly doesn’t hold anything back in terms of its scope. Setting it 200 years past the events of Aliens and Alien 3 alone took some guts. Writing in Ripley as a clone did as well. Not all of these chances pay off entirely, but the result is still nothing short of entertaining and a welcome turn from the spare setting and bland textures of Alien 3. The final scenes of the film also turn cheek to its predecessor’s bleakness, offering some hope and the possible hint of some future for Ripley and Call. — Adam Barraclough 1997 just wasn’t a friendly year for French science-fiction. Earlier in the year, Luc Besson’s glorious The Fifth Element had fizzled at the American box office, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s take on Alien shared Fifth Element’s unrepentant aesthetic connection to Metal Hurlant Magazine with its space pirates, mad science, cloning mishaps, and strange humor. Which is to say, American audiences didn’t care much for it at all. The Alien franchise, up to this point, while providing radically different directorial approaches to each film, was grounded in a believable realism – a day-or-two-after-tomorrow style from the costuming to the set design to the tech and weapons. The characters were “real” people: blue-collar workers on a freighter, marines, prisoners, all contrasted with the rich and powerful behind the scenes pulling the strings and running roughshod over individuality in the name of corporate profits. And then they killed off Ripley – the heart and soul of the series – in what was pretty clearly a last hurrah for the film series (not counting the Alien vs Predator films). Four years later, though, everyone was surprised to learn that Fox was going to move forward with a new Alien film and the only real caveat was that they needed to bring Ripley back from the dead. So, Joss Whedon wrote a treatment and got the scripting job. By the time Alien: Resurrection debuted in November 1997, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series had also made its appearance on the pop culture landscape, if only by seven months. This wasn’t a glamor job and Whedon wasn’t hired because of his name. He had crafted a solid piece of pop sci-fi that brought Ripley back in really the only way that he could: cloning. But cloning meant a level of technology not really hinted at in the previous films, so this necessitated another leap of faith on both his part and that of the studio – which should be noted, was pretty amazingly flexible after the horror stories of the Alien 3 production. A setting 200 years later was approved and as if to really drive home the fact that the Fox was open to anything this time around, they actively sought out Jean-Pierre Jeunet to direct (after Danny Boyle fell through). Jeunet, up to this point, had directed two films in France: Delicatessen (1991) and The City of Lost Children (1995), both with his co-director and production designer Marc Caro. If you haven’t seen these films, you don’t know what you’re missing. Caro brought a remarkably dark-but-whimsical steampunkish aesthetic to both films and was instrumental in making them the classics they are – particularly City of Lost Children. But Fox didn’t really want Caro. They wanted Jeunet. So Caro’s input into Alien: Resurrection was minimal, providing some of the initial costume designs but leaving it at that. Unfortunately, the two have not worked together since. With its fantastic use of models, matte paintings, and practical monster effects combined with the first fully CG xenomorphs in the franchise history, Alien: Resurrection only really falters when it comes to its conclusion and the introduction of the half-human xenomorph hybrid – and I’m not talking about Ripley. Did I forget to mention that Sigourney Weaver’s return to the role was inspired by the fact that this time around she would be playing the only successful clone of Ripley after a horrifying string of disastrous attempts? However, since she had an embryonic Queen Xenomorph gestating inside her when she died, the cloning process resulted in a xenomorph hybrid Super Ripley, which allowed Weaver to get extremely weird and animalistic with her performance. When the more traditional xenomorphs inevitably escape and begin terrorizing everyone on the space station, Super Ripley is enlisted to lead the ragtag proto-Firefly crew of space pirates (featuring Jeunet vets Dominique Pinon and Ron Perlman, along with headliner Winona Ryder as the obligatory android) to safety. We even get Brad Dourif as the lead mad scientist and gravelly-voiced The Crow villain Michael Wincott as the pirate captain. There’s witty banter, bickering, excellent scale models, upgraded xenomorph, face-hugger, and egg effects work, and a race-against-time plot as Earth itself is in danger of xenomorph infestation. But then, there’s Junior. Jeunet’s and Whedon’s attempt at creating drama and humanizing the xenomorph threat is just awful. It’s hideous in a way stumbling upon an aborted calf in a darkened field might be. But the repulsion almost immediately gives way to absurdity as the damned thing just looks bad. The human eyes in the huge sunken eye-caverns may be the biggest problem, and while I understand Jeunet’s rationale (he wanted it to be able to emote!) it’s just not effective in the slightest. Especially when its final moments are so ludicrously sappy. It’s hard to believe they couldn’t settle on a stronger ending out of the (at least) five that they reportedly tossed around. All in all, if I shut the film off before Junior’s appearance, Alien: Resurrection is a damn fine addition to the franchise. See larger image Alien Resurrection Blu-ray A group of scientists has cloned Lt. Ellen Ripley, along with the alien queen inside her, hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the resurrected Ripley is full of surprises for her “creators,” as are the aliens they’ve imprisoned. And soon, a lot more than “all hell” breaks loose. To combat the creatures, Ripley must team up with a band of smugglers, including a mechanic named Call (Ryder), who holds more than a few surprises of her own. (20th Century Fox) New From: $7.19 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Dignan I have never been able to muster the hate that so many seem to feel for this movie, nevertheless it is my least favorite of the franchise. Thanks for all the great write ups this week about the series, good reading! Paul Brian McCoy Thanks man! Shawn EH I wasn’t a big fan of the director, so that didn’t help, but I hated the look of the film. It didn’t pull from the parts of Metal Hurlant I liked like Alien itself had done with the Moebius astronaut gear etc. And then Dan Hedaya’s comic overload as mentioned by Adam, and Dourif was on autopilot as well, and the aliens themselves just didn’t look or act that great. With no queen or spider motifs to speak of, we instead got sharks sort of. The only highlight for me was Hybrid Ripley, as Sigourney always finds a way through the character, regardless. And this even though its the only one to get close to my original fantasy for the sequel, which is Aliens on Earth! That’s a pretty childish idea I suppose at this point, certainly didn’t work well for Jurassic Park 2 for example.