Alien: Ressurection

alienDirector: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Ron Perlman, Winona Ryder, Dominique Pinon, Brad Dourif, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott. USA, 1997. Budget: $60 mln. Box office: $160 mln. IMDb: 6.2. RT: 55%. My rating: 3/4. Xenomorphs… shaken & stirred.

– Hey, Ripley. I heard you, like, ran into these things before?
– That’s right.
– Wow, man. So, like, what did you do?
– I died.
(a dialogue from the film)

It may seem strange and irrelevant to write about ”Alien: Ressurection” more than 20 years after its release, especially given that it’s mostly known as a faulty sequel abruptly suspending the franchise for 15-20 years. Or less, it depends how you count. Plus it is the lowest rated movie of the franchise. So why even bother?

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Honestly, I think there was some misunderstanding. Mostly it happened for two reasons:

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  • The tonal mismatch tone of the new xenomorph’s movie was strickingly different from any other entry of the series and many couldn’t stand it… even considering that 3 previous movies was totally different flicks as well (namely: a horror, a blockbuster, a thriller). But in many ways ”Alien: Ressurection” was totally wicked and wry, as if Terry Gilliam directed it (hint: he didn’t, but the director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was directly influenced by Gilliam as a filmmaker).
  • Weak final which worsens the aftertaste of the film

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Lets also have a quick look at how the xenomorph’s formula works… worked:

  • Alien (1979) = 8.1 IMDb – $11 mln budget + $104 mln box office + 7 years till next sequel
  • Aliens (1986) = 8.0 IMDb – $18 mln budget + $130 mln box office + 6 years till next sequel
  • Alien 3 (1992) = 6.4 IMDb – $50 mln budget + $160 mln box office + 5 years till next sequel
  • Alien: Ressurection (1997) = 6.2 IMDb – $60 mln budget + $160 mln box office + 15/20 years to a real prequel

Then the franchise started to twitch all over, detox and show some remote signs of life thanks to 2 crossovers, namely…

As the detox period ended, cracked-and-close-to-dementia Ridley Scott started to sweat…

  • Prometheus = 7.0 IMDb – $120 mln budget + $400 mln box office + the wow effect  + because it really was quite a solid sci-fi thriller with a brilliant cast and cool designs
  • Alien: Covenant = 6.5 IMDb – $97 mln budget + $240 mln box office + unclear future of the franchise
  • Unknown Covenant sequel which will concentrate more on the A.I. than xenomorphs and will supposingly link the events to the original film

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I think that in its own wicked way, ”Alien: Ressurectioncould have easily been considered as one of the most creative and dazzling entries of the franchise. By no means the film is a masterpiece, but it’s not a cash-in, trying to blindly copy/rehash the success of the first two movies (like ”Alien: Covenant” just did). It does have its own style, full of grim grotesque, weird humour and surrealism. It’s not a balanced movie, but it’s exactly the case when you think ”oh at least they tried”.

 

15 years before Scott started digging his own shit again with ‘Prometheus‘ and 20 years before ‘Alien: Covenant‘, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (and Joss Whedon, whose contribution as a witer is important, even if he – in his own words – hated the movie) weren’t afraid to approach the creepy theme of genetic modifications and alien/human crossbreeding.

 

They had enough balls to modify the main character (the main reason why Marvel movies prosper so much nowadays – they’re not afraid to tweak, weaken or strengthen their characters) and dig deeper into the essence of human and xenomorph nature. While many wish the movie maintained a more serious tone, I think that given the whole ridiculousness of the plot, the tone set was quite right. Otherwise it just would be even worse.

C’mon, you cannot have a storyline like that and stay serious. That would be too much. That’s why I kinda like the movie – it knows its shortcomings, it dares to create something new and not simply rehash the old stuff, it has enough humour to smooth things over.

 

Without giving away too much of the plot, there are 3 particularly remarkable episodes that set the tone. I wasn’t too sure about the first one as it had really impressed me as a teen, but after rewatching it nowm 20 years later, I feel as good about it which rarely happens. Here we go, this is the episode where you see that xenomorhps can learn and adapt (just some GIFs as I don’t want to give away too much of the plot):

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Here’s another episode where we learn that Ripley’s character was ‘tweaked’…

It’s exactly what a sequel like this needs and what ‘Alien: Covenant‘ was missing. The lesson is simple, Ridley – if you can’t make it as creepy as hell, at least don’t be so serious. Please.

Finally, the 3rd episode that I find particularly significant and valuable to the core of the franchise is when Ripley enters the crossbreeding laboratory. A perfect example of the new direction the franchise could easily take, especially considering the final part of the movie and Whedon’s ideas about the battle for Earth.

 

It has always surprised me that among all the cast only Sigourney Weaver has been considered as the core value of the franchise – each of 4 movies always featured strong and charismatic supporting characters, and I don’t see what was the problem of making a 5th Alien movie without Ripley (no, I don’t mean ‘Prometheus’ which I must admit did have a strong cast, I mean the real sequel). Lack of good ideas, probably, but not having Sigourney Weaver onboard is no excuse.

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The production. Before moving to the film itself, I’d love to mention some facts about the crew and the production. Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed several curious flicks such as ”Delicatessen” (post-apocalyptic black comedy), ”City of Lost Childern” (fantasy tale, also with Ron Perlman) and ”Amelie”. The script was created by Joss Whedon (”Serenity”, ”Avengers”) and it wasn’t an easy task – he wrote multiple versions of it, all of them denied by producers and Sigourney Weaver as well as she was not interesed in that kind of setting… The original script had a third act on Earth, with a final battle for Earth itself. Here’s what Whedon said in 2005 about the film:

“It wasn’t a question of doing everything differently, although they changed the ending; it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines…mostly…but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong that they could possibly do. There’s actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking, because everything that they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from the script, and people assume that, if I hated it, then they’d changed the script…but it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable.”

On the contrary, H. R. Giger loved the film. I’m with Giger this time.

Worth watching? So, what a paradox, if you think of ”Alien: Ressurection” in terms of pure geeky nerdy fun, I think it could easily qualify as one of the best sequels ever, because it’s not afraid to turn upside down and expand the original cult movies and very little sequels have enough balls to do so. It could have been much better, yes, but it is far from being as bad as many claim. I really recommend it, if you like wry humour and don’t sit and pray the whole day for the sacred 1979 horror (which is as delicious now as it was back then) and 1986 blockbuster (which in my opinion was an absolute breakthrough for its time, but from other point of view reduced the sense of danger coming from the xenomorphs, making them more similar to an insects…). Finally, it’s that kind of movie that even if you hate it, you can still enjoy it. Just know that it’s different.

Spectacularity: 3.5/4
Acting:  3/4
Directing: 3/4
Screenplay: 2/4
Final vote: 3/4

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Here’s a lovely poster of Alien 3 for those who don’t agree with my review.

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Artwork of Chris Foss / sci-fi designs

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Chris Foss is a well-known sci-fi illustrator who started to work in the early 1960-s, and I think it is exactly the case when his works speak for himself.

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Foss also worked on Jodorowsky’s ”Dune” and Ridley Scott’s ”Alien”…

chris foss Spice Container, design for Dune, 1975.

‘Spice Container’, design for Jodorowsky’s ”Dune”, 1975.

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Another design for Jodorowski’s ”Dune”, 1975.

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‘Refinery on Asteroids’, one of the unused ”Alien” scetches.

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‘Pyramid Birth Temple Interior’, one of the unused ”Alien” scetches. Seems like H. R. Giger was a more suitable choice for this dark universe, isn’t it?

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Den of Geek did a very lenghty interview with Chris Foss, it’s a fascinating reading. The man has seen it all…

– The ‘chest-burster’ was based on an episode of food-poisoning, though I’m sure Dan’s told you the story. (Foss)

– No…? That’s not mentioned in the Alien quadrilogy documentaries either. (Den of Geek)

– Oh, well I’ll tell you: long before he came to Paris [for Jodorowsky’s Dune], [O’Bannon] ate some fast food and woke up in the night in incredible pain and actually had to be taken to hospital; and imagined that there was a ‘beast’ inside him. And that was exactly where that thing came from.

– So far the credit has gone to Ron Shusett, at least as far as the quadrilogy documentaries are concerned.

– Absolutely not. (Foss)

Interesting. As time goes by, I see that O’Bannon starts to get more and more credit for working on that film. By the way, I wrote before about ”Dark Star”, where O’Bannon did one of the main roles and co-wrote with John Carpenter (it’s a very atypical Carpenter movie, by the way). Working on that script actually was an initial inspiration for the ”Alien” script.

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Coming back to Chris Foss… the picture below has an unusual history. This is the original by Foss:

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And this is the modified version by artist Glenn Brown:

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Looks like a copy-paste with increased brightness and contrast, isn’t it? The second work was sold by Glenn Brown for the first time on the auction in 202, and then sold again on auction for about $5.7 million. Read more about this weird story here.

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Here’s one thing that suprised me – Foss has never really been a science fiction fan and he usually didn’t read the books he illustrated, painting the scenes directly from his creative mind.

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Amazing, isn’t it? Here‘s a very detailed article about the man.

Alien / goofs

I’ve always considered this film to be a perfect one (and still think so), just these 2 shots bother me each time I see them… The doll of Ash on the left should have been done way more carefully.

Dark Star

dark_star_ver2Director: John Carpenter. Screenplay/story: Dan O’Bannon, John Carpenter. Starring: Dan O’Bannon, Brian Narelle, Dre Pahich, Cal Kuniholm. USA, 1974. Budget: $60,000. IMDb: 6.7. My rating: 3.5/4. Odd science fiction space comedy.

– Now, Bomb, consider this next question very carefully… What is your purpose in life?
– To explode, of course.
– And you can do it only once, right?
(Doolitle convinces the bomb not to explode)

– All right, Bomb… prepare to receive new orders.
– You are false data. Therefore, I should ignore you.
(Doolitle convinces the bomb not to explode)

I must confess – I have never really liked John Carpenter. And I barely enjoy horror movies (with some notable exceptions like “The Shining”). I watched “Halloween” recently and enjoyed it at times, but if we forget for a moment its heritage, I find this cult slasher pretty mediocre. While admitting Carpenter’s immense influence, I’ve always seen most of his films made with little creativity, without that special sparkle that would lighten up everything. He is too technical in his approach, like an artisan, not an artist, who is methodically repeating similar feel and techniques in different movies. Note: I didn’t watch “Halloween”, “Escape from New York” or “The Thing” when they were released – movies that I don’t find bad, but just… pretty average in everything and with superficial characters? I’ve always felt Carpenter cares most about showing what happens to his characters, but not really the characters themselves.

But “Dark Star”, Carpenter’s and O’Bannon debut movie, made me change my mind about him. This little space comedy is like a fireworks show that you setup by yourself on a New Year’s Eve in the backyard. It’s an extravagant parody on space movies and “2001: A Space Odyssey” in particular. Fresh, well-crafted, wry and weirdly funny. Continue reading