Connect with us
Alien: Resurrection
Image: 20th Century Fox

Film

Hollywood Got Weird with Alien: Resurrection

In the execution and vision is where Alien: Resurrection becomes a singular genre experience.

Alien: Resurrection, 20 Years Later!

There was a time in Hollywood when franchises were improvised, for better or worse. A movie became a runaway hit, and another was commissioned. It would either extend a story by retconning it into an interconnected series (Star Wars as the best example) or kill a franchise dead in its tracks by rehashing what the first movie already did (Ghostbusters II as the worst).

The Alien saga that began with Ridley Scott’s 1979 chamber horror masterpiece has evolved over some 40 years into an enduring — if not always relevant or innovative — franchise that never so much grows as it does mutate. With this year’s Alien: Covenant confounding and astounding in equal measure, it’s fun to remember where this series was at the halfway point of its longevity.

1997’s Alien: Resurrection was essentially a Hollywood do-over. After Alien 3‘s tepid if not toxic reaction, the series was presumed finished. But like the fourth installment’s revived Ellen Ripley, you can never count out a viable cash cow. Alien Resurrection is the very definition of superfluous; the saga had reached its logical end with Ripley sacrificing her life to destroy the alien and finally achieving a small measure of peace.

Alien: Resurrection
Image: 20th Century Fox

Thus, some screenwriting finagling was necessary to justify her return. Enter the second biggest science fiction rewriting tool next to time travel: cloning. The fourth installment finds Ripley reanimated some 200 years after her last xenomorph encounter, but now with added alien blood and super strength. It’s a silly if rejuvenating conceit that allows for a more high-concept alien experience. Penned by genre diehard Joss Whedon, the script at face value is more of a trial run for his Firefly TV show than it is a full-fledged entry into a twenty year saga. The dialogue and plotting on the page have more in common with the cheesiest parts of James Cameron’s sequel than the terror of Ridley Scott’s original — lame quips, macho archetypes, A to B character arcs, etc.

It’s in the execution and vision where Alien Resurrection becomes a singular genre experience. Director Jean Pierre Jeunet was hot off of two imaginative pictures: Delicatessen and City of Lost Children. It wasn’t long before Hollywood beckoned, as it was wont to do in the ’90s, snatching up music video directors (David Fincher for Alien 3), commercial directors (Michael Bay), and any Euro import they could find (Renny Harlin).

Ridley
Image: 20th Century Fox

Jeunet’s sensibility is one of absurdity. He has a whimsically wry understanding of genre movies, whether it’s the dark charm of Delicatessen, the sci-fi phantasmagoria of City of Lost Children, or the romanticism of Amelie and A Very Long Engagement. That off-kilterness — quintessentially French — is in many frames of Alien: Resurrection, but the film is far from a parody. It’s a gonzo extravaganza of violence, gore, and body horror, and it seems like the last gasp of a Hollywood that was willing to lean into its darker side.

This is a film that revels in the twisted potential of its plot. Its most famous scene (which has been parodied countless times by now, including by South Park) involves Ripley discovering the seven failed clone attempts preceding her. Housed in glass tubes, six of them are ghastly monsters, more alien than human, but the seventh is undoubtedly Ripley. Sprawled out on an operating table, insect-like appendages jutting out from its female body, Ripley 7 begs to be put out of her misery. It’s an unforgettable image that speaks to a larger issue: Hollywood doesn’t do weird anymore.

Alien: Resurrection is a film that climaxes with an Alien queen giving surrogate birth to an alien human hybrid, a “baby-faced” Newborn with the bone structure of a human and the slimy flesh of an alien. It’s a creature that was derided by many genre fans, who felt that this monstrosity had crossed the line for a series so pragmatic in its horror. Twenty years later, it’s a marvel of animatronics technology and thinking outside the box. What do you do once the monsters have become so famous after three movies? You strip your series for parts and assemble something new out of the pieces. You mutate and go for broke.

Alien Resurrection does just that, almost relishing the myriad ways it can eviscerate, impale, and violate human characters. This is a movie that implies a sexual bond between its heroine lead and the creature she is battling. It’s a movie that asks us to have sympathy for that Newborn when its body is sucked out of a spaceship’s hull piece by piece. It’s a movie that was a major studio’s big Thanksgiving release twenty years ago. Let that sink in.

This isn’t to say that one should lament a lack of viscera in contemporary blockbusters. More so, the adherence to playing it safe, to only embracing the make believe, has definitely neutered the landscape of films. The age of movie monsters has been long dead, abandoned for disaster movies and superhero romps that play like disaster movies. The summer after Alien Resurrection‘s release was overrun with apocalyptic special effects pictures (Armageddon, Deep Impact, Godzilla to name a few), all designed to satiate our glee for destruction.

Alien 4
Image: 20th Century Fox

But our yearning for the macabre, the strangeness that movies can provide, has been severely undernourished. Hollywood doesn’t understand the vulnerability of the flesh anymore, that what made the Alien saga great, and what triggers our imagination for new sequels, is a morbid curiosity for how science fiction — specifically big-budget sci-fi — can mangle our bodies, and warp our minds in the process.

Written By

Shane Ramirez is a professional actor and videographer, as well as a budding filmmaker and novelist residing in San Marcos, TX. A life-long film enthusiast, Shane has written for everyonesacritic.net and examiner.com, and has produced his own short films. He is versed in the arts of cinematography, photography, and editing. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, Terrence Malick, Christopher Nolan, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Krzysztof Kieslowski.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. John Cal McCormick

    November 27, 2017 at 6:04 am

    I’ve only seen Alien Resurrection once but it’s really memorable to me because my then girlfriend broke-up with me via text message while I was watching it. I was more upset about Alien Resurrection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Vesper poster Vesper poster

Vesper: Sci-Fi That Thinks Big With Limited Means

Culture

Full Metal Jacket (1987) Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Full Metal Jacket – Stanley Kubrick’s Misunderstood Masterpiece

Film

Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies

A Full List Of Upcoming Marvel Studios Film And TV Releases

Culture

Robocop 1987 Robocop 1987

RoboCop is a Social Satire That Gets More Relevant With Age

Film

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Comics

Nope Nope

Jordan Peele’s Nope Explained: A Spectacle of “Bad Miracles”

Film

Anti-War Anti-War

Three Bestselling Anti-War Novels, Three A-List Film Adaptations…Three Flops:  Castle Keep, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five

Culture

Alex's War (2022) Alex's War (2022)

Alex’s War, a Documentary Study of Alex Jones, Misses the Big Picture 

Film

Signs movie review Signs movie review

M. Night Shyamalan Signs Finds Comfort at the End of the World

Film

All Out 2022 Predictions All Out 2022 Predictions

Way Too Early Predictions for All Out 2022

Wrestling

Biography: WWE Legends’ Look at Goldberg is One of the Best Wrestling Documentaries Ever 

TV

Detective vs Sleuths Detective vs Sleuths

Detective vs. Sleuths: Buckle Up for a Bumpy Ride

Culture

Unforgiven movie review Unforgiven movie review

Unforgiven Ushered the Western into its Afterlife 

Culture

The Gray Man movie review The Gray Man movie review

Netflix’s The Gray Man is its Most Expensive and Emptiest Star Vehicle

Culture

Incredible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin Fan Film Takes The Franchise Into R-Rated Territory

Culture

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987 Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop is an Anti-Fascist Classic 

Film

Connect