I’ve gotten into this habit of watching movies on my iPad mini. We have a perfectly good TV, but apparently, I’d rather hold the TV in my hand and watch it that way. Anyway, last night I finished watching Alien Resurrection, the fourth installment in the Alien series and a desperate attempt at a reboot after the commercial and critical failure of Alien 3.
It’s 200 years after Ellen Ripley took a swan dive into a pool of molten lava, taking with her the alien queen embryo gestating inside her. But never mind the fact that she died because she’s back. Using blood from Fiorina 161, military scientists have managed to create a clone of Ripley, all in an attempt to harvest the alien queen. Their plan is to create an army of aliens that, once trained, will be the ultimate soldiers. Silly military brass – clearly they haven’t watched the first three movies because if they had, they’d have realized how folly their idea is. A team of mercenaries on the good ship Betty, having been paid by the military, kidnap a group of space travelers in cryosleep so that they might serve as hosts for the aliens.
The aliens don’t stay in their containment cells long. Before you know it, they’re out and wreaking havoc all over the ship. But here’s the thing – because Ripley was created by a feat of genetic engineering, her DNA has mixed with that of the queen alien that was growing in her chest. She’s got super strength, acid for blood and can sink a basketball from beyond the three point line without looking. So she’s the perfect person to lead the crew of the Betty back to their ship.
I remember seeing Alien Ressurection in the theater back in 1997 and really liking it. It was a pleasant return to form after the dirge that Alien 3, a movie that I have come to appreciate if not completely enjoy. It took the Alien series in a brand new direction and in that sense, I applaud it for its bravery in trying something new. I’ve always loved the attention to detail that the series has given to the life cycle of the alien, from egg to facehugger to chestburster to fully grown adult. The introduction of the alien Queen in James Cameron’s Aliens was the stroke of a genius, lending further credence to the popular theory that the aliens have a lot in common with hive insects.
A few words about the aliens in Alien Resurrection. These aliens are, by far, the most slobbery aliens of the series. They look like they’ve been bathed in glycerin because slime is just dripping off of them. Using a mix of CG aliens, models and puppets, they are also among the least convincing. This is most evident in the scene during which the crew of the Betty is fleeing the aliens through the flooded kitchen. The scene works suspense-wise, but when the aliens show up, their movements are too streamlined and their presence too cartoonish. Simply put, every time the CG aliens are used, they don’t look real. Much more effective are up close shots of aliens in containment and the alien Queen, who, to my knowledge, was always a puppet.
And then there’s the Newborn.
The Newborn divides Alien enthusiasts – was it the right way to go, or was it blasphemy? Call me crazy but I actually really liked the idea that the mixing of human and alien DNA gave the Queen the ability to have a live birth, resulting in the Newborn. A new branch of the species with both alien and human traits was a fascinating concept. The argument against the existence of the Newborn is that it sullied and ruined the alien, necessitating that all further aliens be a human/alien hybrid. To this I say pish-posh, because it’s not as if the species has been wiped out. It’s just that the military knew where to get the Queen, and that’s how this particular line played out.
Sadly, Alien Resurrection doesn’t hold up as well as I thought it would. As I mentioned, the CG is pretty terrible and honestly, I wish they could have just left Ripley dead and started over again. If they wanted to reboot the series, they should have done a hard reset. Perhaps the studio was concerned that people wouldn’t show up to an Alien movie without Sigourney Weaver. She plays the part well, but she also seems a little tired of Ripley. Similarly, the crew of the Betty are all pretty generic and we never get to know any of them all that well, even Winona Ryder’s Annalee Call. They all mix together in my head like so much alien and human DNA. It’s also the cheapest looking Alien movie of the four. As I was watching it, I imagined that nowadays, it would probably have gone straight to DVD. The script mostly goes through the motions, shambling along like a zombie, never really gaining any momentum.
It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s nothing to write home about either. The series deserved a better reboot than what it got, and I’m curious to see where they’ll go with the next Prometheus movie (for lack of a better term.) But Prometheus is fraught with more controversy amongst Alien fans than the Newborn.
And speaking of the Newborn, one of these days I’m going to get my hands on the Newborn Alien figure that was produced. But at $36 + shipping, it might not be worth it!