Movie Review: Alien: Resurrection -- You can't keep a good woman downBy Vladimir V. Zelevinsky
Out of the Alien trilogy (ex-trilogy now), I always preferred James Cameron's Aliens, the adrenaline-pumping action-adventure saga with a layer of subtext and the true feeling of wonder in the end. Compared to it, the original Alien was a visually impressive but otherwise mediocre horror movie, and the only good thing about the dreadfully confused and confusing Alien3 was its fiery conclusion. Now we have a next installment, Alien: Resurrection, written by Joss Whedon, the co-writer of Toy Story, and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children). The result is a curious mixed bag, less enjoyable than Aliens but a bit more so than the first movie.
If you were unlucky enough to see Alien3, you know that Ellen Ripley died in the end (by the way, if you haven't seen Alien and Aliens, there will be a lot you won't understand, so beware). But now the government needs some of Ripley's DNA to breed aliens for use in bioweapons program, so they bring her back using a sample of blood taken shortly before she died. However, there's a catch. When the blood sample was taken, Ripley was already impregnated with an alien queen embryo, and the alien blood cells were mixed with her blood. After the doctors remove the also-cloned alien embryo, they leave Ripley on her own; but since the process is imperfect, Ripley now has some alien DNA mixed with her own.
This makes for a very rich subtext; the idea of Ripley and the alien physically becoming one is extremely interesting, and the ways the movie reveals many aspects of this interbreeding provides a lot of unforgettable moments (there's more than a passing similarity with the nightmarish Toy Story sequence set at Sid's house, with the misshapen toys crawling around). Unfortunately, the plot is uniformly dull, being pretty much a rehash of the plot of Alien (people flying through space trying to avoid getting eaten by aliens.)
Visually, Alien: Resurrection is a marvel, easily the best of the series. However, the pacing is erratic (it's unclear how much time passes in the first 15 minutes of the movie: a week or a year?), and the action scenes are overall unimpressive. The acting is good, with the sole exception of Winona Ryder, who doesn't make a very good action heroine.
Two scenes in the movie feel really wrong: in the end, when Ripley finally meets the alien queen, we get some obvious exposition and ridiculous commentary on the action from the cocooned people in the background; and, finally, the last monster she has to defeat is, actually, not monstrous at all (many human characters in this movie are scarier).
It's also worth mentioning that the trailer is misleading. This isn't an action movie, but more of a psychological horror. It also features gallons of bodily fluids (although not much of it human), and is, frankly, very disturbing. Alien: Resurrection deserves credit for being disturbing and thought provoking, even though one of these thoughts is that the plot and subtext don't really fit together.