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Alien: Resurrection

movie review by
Gary Johnson

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20th Century Fox
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Official Web site for ALIEN: RESURRECTION

Ripley's back. Well . . . sorta. She looks like Ripley (with Sigourney Weaver, once again, in the lead role), but actually she's a genetically-engineered hybrid--a combination of Ripley and alien creature DNA. Physically, she's new and improved. And that goes for the movie as a whole also. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who also gave us City of Lost Children and Delicatessen, gives the movie a comic-book-ish atmosphere unlike any of the previous "Alien" movies.

In terms of the action, Alien: Resurrection looks and feels somewhat like Aliens. Once the action starts and the alien creature attacks begin, the movie contains non-stop action with the human characters armed with machine guns and flame throwers as they desperately race through the spaceship corridors. They hope to reach one of the escape vehicles and leave behind the alien creatures--but it's never that easy.

The actors are all on hand just for the ride. Winona Ryder gets little of consequence to do until the movie's final few scenes. Ron Perlman and Dominique Pinon (both veterans of previous Jeunet movies) provide adequate support, but their characters don't really matter. Brad Dourif (who is almost always interesting to watch) plays one of the scientists, but sadly he's AWOL throughout most of the movie.

Director Jeunet's previous efforts have been marvelously-designed, stunning works of the imagination. Delicatessen, for example, took place in a Brazil-like futuristic environment of oily surfaces and retro-technology. The story traded horrific visions of a cannibalistic future with deadpan black comedy. Likewise, Alien: Resurrection feels different; whereas Aliens felt like a militaristic drama played out in outer space, Alien: Resurrection feels as if it were adapted from comic books. The characters swagger like only comic book characters can. For example, at one point, a particularly tough-nut rebel takes out his foe by ricocheting his gun shot, like a billiards player banking his shot into the side pocket. Whereas the characters in Alien seemed to be recognizably human, the characters in Alien: Resurrection feel like they walked out of a Hong Kong sci-fi drama, such as Savior of the Soul (1992), or Japanese anime. The characters are capable of anything. Heck, Ripley could probably even beat Michael Jordan at basketball (and at one point we do get to see her awe-inspiring moves on a basketball court).

While the movie looks great on the surface, it rarely makes one whit of sense. For example, in a marvelous bit of plot development, we find out scientists have been raising the alien creatures and keeping them in the high-tech equivalent of laboratory cages. But how can you keep a creature confined that can spit steel-dissolving acid? Well . . . you can't. However, at one point two confined creatures kill a third one so that the bodily fluids will spill out and dissolve the floor of the room. Well, why didn't they just spit on the glass shield that blocks them from the scientists who observe them? The creatures certainly seem to be itchin' to bite off the head of a scientist or two. And once the creatures do in fact escape from their cells, in only a matter of a couple hours, the queen moves to another part of the ship, weaves huge cocoon-like structures over the walls, lays dozens of eggs, and then proceeds to use her genetically-altered reproductive system to create a different type of baby. Okay, okay, I know these creatures have a reproductive system unlike anything ever seen on earth, but the filmmakers of Alien: Resurrection stretch the limits of credibility, as they adopt an "anything goes" type of approach.

This movie looks great, but when it's time for the big climactic scenes, we get retreads of scenes from Alien and Aliens. Remember the final scene from Alien, when Ripley blows open a hatch door so that the drastic de-pressurization will suck the creature out of the ship? Well, this movie ends on a very similar note. Alien: Resurrection looks great but when you get past the surface gloss and the hyper-active action, you'll find a story filled with gapping inconsistencies, while the climactic scenes will leave you feeling deja vu. Nonetheless, Alien: Resurrection will frequently take your breath away.

Alien: Resurrection is nowhere nearly as good as Alien or Aliens, but it's a major improvement over Alien 3. If you love eye candy, you'll love this movie. Just check your brain at the door.

[rating: 3 of 4 stars]

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