Alien Resurrection had a heavy load to carry upon its release in 1997. Alien is one of the most popular and beloved Sci-Fi movies of the last 20 years and Aliens proved that it was possible to make a quality, successful sequel to a virtual cult phenomenon. Alien3 almost single-handedly destroyed the franchise for mainstream movie goers and fanatics alike (yes, yes, I know, some of you claim to really like that movie, but let's face it, everybody else hated it). The thought of anybody tackling a fourth movie in the series was met with serious doubt, but also with some hidden optimism that someone could help soothe the wounds of Alien3.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet steps up to the challenge, adding his French flair for the bleak and edgy (Island of Lost Children) to Joss (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Whedon's "finger on the pulse of his generation" script. The combination is a hybrid of the best elements of the first two movies: Fear, great dialogue and Action.
A team of scientists at a military installation have managed to clone a new Ripley, complete with unborn alien spawn, in an attempt to re-populate the species. Clone Ripley is biologically altered by the process, meaning that alien DNA has mixed with her own to give her the super-strength and sharp instincts of the species. The scientists begin their alien breeding experiments with the "baby" they remove from Ripley just as a rag-tag group of space pirates arrive to unload the cargo they've been highly paid to deliver. The cargo is, of course, human sacrifices to the alien breeding process going on aboard the base. Before long, 12 face huggers have used their conveniently placed hosts to give birth to Warrior Aliens which are being contained (yeah right) in the lab.
The group of pirates should be more interesting than they are. This movie, unlike Aliens, doesn't give you much opportunity to develop any real concern over the crew. Ron Perlman's Johnner is the most entertaining of the bunch, the others just add to the body count. Winona Ryder, as the terrorist infiltrator with a secret, is the same as she is in everything else: a non-threatening vehicle to move the plot forward and a milquetoast contrast to the other, more powerful women she is cast against -- in this case Weaver, who uses this powerful storyline to take Ripley to wonderful new levels.
Ripley and the pirates hook up, along with a few stray military personnel and scientists left behind during the massive evacuation of the base. And once again, the countdown to escape the aliens and the pending destruction of the ship begins.
My biggest complaint about this film, other than the lack of interest generated in the secondary characters, is the gore. There is a tremendous amount of gratuitous gore in the film that detracts from the suspense. Jeunet's vision of the future is bleak and apparently full of random acts of cruelty. That's as may be but ripping out tongues and watching warrior aliens chomp people's heads open was a little on the overkill side for my taste. Just knowing they're gonna chomp his head is usually enough to get my blood pumping.
The quality of this DVD is several notches above that of Aliens. The color is great, the image is clear and sharp with nice contrasts between dark and light.
Jeunet's greatest contribution to the Alien legacy is the underwater sequence where our heroes must swim the length of a submerged deck in order to reach their ship and get off the base. Lets face it, these Aliens are pretty freaking creepy on land (and Jeunet's camera loves these beasts, closeups of the aliens in this movie are fabulous) but chasing you in the water? Damn. These scenes alone are worth the price of the DVD.
What extras? Since this is a fairly recent release, the studio didn't go to much trouble loading it with goodies. All you get are the trailers for all four movies and a three minute "Featurette" of the making of Alien Resurrection that largely consists of Winona Ryder sycophantically oozing about how cool it was to work with Sigourney Weaver. Ack.
The camera work on this movie is so good that it's well worth the DVD investment. And the sound was so good, even on my bobo television, that I could hear Ripley's acid blood sizzling against the ground without having to crank my volume up. I didn't catch that in the movie theater until it had burned a hole through the floor.