Thursday, November 9, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Alien Resurrection

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!

Since I examined the gorgeously shot suckfest that was Alien 3 last week, I thought I'd move on to its sequel, 1997's Alien Resurrection.


As I mentioned last time, the third Alien film was a massive disappointment for me, as I'd been led to believe (through no fault of my own, mind you - d'ya need to see that teaser again?) that we'd get a true continuation of Aliens, wherein there'd be some sort of battle between xenomorphs and humans taking place on Earth.  Instead we got a languid, uninspired retread of the first movie, with one alien killing off humans in a confined location, Ten Little Indians-style.  Then Ripley dies.  I hated it.  I hated it all.  The franchise that should really have ended after two films got a completely unnecessary, tacked-on third installment just so Ripley could be killed off.

Fast-forward five years, and suddenly the series was resurrected (I see what they did there...), with a Ripley clone having been created 200 years after her death, on a military/scientific vessel that has begun experimenting with the aliens.  As part of the breeding process the scientists on board have illegally purchased cryo-frozen humans for use as hosts.  A mercenary ship arrives, delivering said hosts, but before long the aliens escape captivity and all hell breaks loose.  That's about all there is to the plot of this film, though I guess that's about twice as long as the premise of the third film.

My hope going into this was that it would really be something different and maybe even right the ship.  We'd finally see something in line with my expectations for Alien 3, or so I thought.  As it turned out Resurrection was just as poorly received as 3 (if not moreso), and the possibility of ever seeing another truly good Alien film again was all but gone.

Still, Resurrection did have some intriguing elements, some amusing horror-action, and plenty of gooey xenomorphs.  Let's take a closer look at this awesomely shitty movie....

(Note: I think if I were making a fourth film around this time I'd have simply revealed at the outset that Alien 3 was a dream, and have Ripley wake up from cryosleep to find Newt and Hicks still slumbering in their pods.  Then the story would adhere closer to the original Alien III script, where the xenos end up on Earth and the company actually intends on exploiting them for their Weapons division.  But that's just me.)




The Awesome


Something Different

After the dull, lazy retread that was Alien 3, it was nice to see the franchise go in a different direction with this film.  Ripley is back, but as a clone of the original character, and with a bit of xenomorph DNA which gives her some superhuman abilities.  It's corny, it's a bit comic booky, but hey, at least they tried something new with this film.  Setting it 200 years after Alien 3 also adds an element of the dystopian future, where the infrastructure is breaking down and mercenaries like the Betty crew have become commonplace.




Sigourno-morph

Sigourney Weaver clearly has a lot of fun with this new incarnation of Ripley, getting a chance to show off her newfound skills but also to convey the conflict arising from her longtime arch-nemesis now being a part of her.  This creature that has ruined her life is now ingrained in her biology.  A smarter, more thoughtful script would've done a lot more with this, but it's a start.  That theme comes into play later in the film when the alien queen seems to treat her almost as a loved one and the alien/human hybrid regards her as its mother.  Joss Whedon's script introduces some novel concepts for this franchise, and it's refreshing to see that at least. 

Oh, Ripley 8 will fuck you ups....







The Company Gets Specimens....Finally

On that subject, we FINALLY get to see something of what happens when the company tries to train and weaponize the aliens.  The first three films mentioned this story thread but in all three, Ripley and friends destroy the aliens before Weylan-Yutani can acquire them.  This was fine for the first two films, but the third really should've shown us the consequences of what might happen if they succeeded.  Resurrection gives us some of that, and it was appreciated.




Supporting Actors

As with all the films in this series, the supporting cast is colorful and delivers pretty strong performances.  Standouts in Resurrection include Ron Perlman as Johner, the tough-as-nails mercenary with a bad attitude; Michael Wincott as the charismatic Captain Elgyn (I like Wincott in everything I've seen him in); Dan Hedaya as the shifty General Perez; and Brad Dourif as the demented mad scientist-type, Dr. Gediman.  These characters are all memorable in their own way, and the cast has fun exploring what little territory the script gives them.

There are some fine actors in this movie




Alien Behavior

There's a great scene early on where Gediman is attempting to train the xenomorphs to be docile, by spraying what appears to be liquid nitrogen at them if they misbehave.  We see one alien respond to the Pavlovian conditioning and it appears Gediman has worked out how to tame them.  But the xenomorphs turn the tables by killing one of their own and causing its acidic blood to eat through their enclosure, allowing them to escape.  It's just a fascinating exploration of how the aliens would behave if placed in captivity.  After three movies of depicting them simply as killing machines, this was a nice change of pace for a little while.

This.  More of this.




Failed Clones

An even better scene is the one where Ripley discovers the seven failed attempts at cloning her.  Most of them have already died but #7 is being kept alive despite its hideous deformity, and begs her to kill it.  This scene is both distressing and heartbreaking, as Ripley, in tears, torches all seven clones.  It's just a wonderful piece of character and world building that adds some depth to an otherwise pretty shallow picture.

And more of this.





Slick Visuals & Effects

As with all the films in this series, the special effects and cinematography look incredible.  Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet lent a unique, artistic eye to the film, while the effects company that worked on Alien 3 returned for Resurrection.  One interesting new touch was the slight reshaping of the aliens' heads, a sharper slant of the forehead to make them appear more sinister and streamlined.  It's minor but it was a nice tweak.  The creature effects are convincing and disgusting as always, with my only gripe being that the hybrid creature looks a little goofy.  In a scene like that you don't want unintentional humor, and unfortunately the design of that animal veered a bit in that direction.  Otherwise though, no complaints about the look of the film.  The production design is your standard lived-in look that fits in line with the other three movies.

Why does his nose have a uvula?



So Alien Resurrection had some stuff going for it.  Sadly it also had a lot wrong with it...




The Shitty


Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder is a fine actress, but her performance in this movie comes off like she'd rather be anywhere else.  She just doesn't play the Call character with any conviction and at no point did I believe she was a grizzled space mercenary, or an android for that matter.  She's too soft and tender to be the former and too emotional and empathetic to be the latter.  Besides that, her character really doesn't have a purpose in the film except at one point to hook into the Auriga's computer and tell it to crash into Earth.  Call is easily the least interesting android in any of these films and it seems like Ryder knows this.

Winona, you are out of your element!




Second Half

The first half of this film introduces some intriguing possibilities, like the ones I mentioned above.  What happens when the company finally acquires alien specimens?  What does Ripley 8 do with the knowledge that she's now part alien?  How do the aliens interact with each other when they aren't busy killing every human in sight?  What's the aliens' homeworld like?  What's Earth like in the 23rd century?  What would happen if the aliens actually made it to Earth?  The film explores the first two questions on a cursory basis, but then in the second half plunges headlong into tired Ten Little Indians horror movie tropes, just like Alien 3 did.  Considering how much of a hit that movie was not, you'd think Whedon and Jeunet would've made an effort to avoid yet another retread of the first two films.  And of course once again the entire movie takes place in one confined location with a maze of dark corridors through which the aliens chase the humans ad nauseum.  For fuck's sake guys, come up with SOMETHING original to do with the story.  Not you Ridley....




Horror Movie Characters Are Stupid

The worst bit of hackneyed horror movie tripe in this film is the scene where Michael Wincott's character gets killed.  The survivors are desperately trying to get back to the Betty to escape both the aliens and the Auriga, which is on a collision course for Earth.  But as they walk by this one hallway, Captain Elgyn spots a corpse lying next to a gun.  So in the slllllowest fashion possible, ignoring that he's on a strict timetable AND already armed, he creeps over to the dead guy so he can presumably steal the gun?  Even though he's already got one?  Turns out the cadaver is a decoy and there's an alien hiding under it.  The alien reaches up through the floor and pulls Elgyn into the hole, killing him.  What an intelligence-insulting, convoluted way for a major character to bite it.  How'd the alien know someone would fall for that bait?  Jeezus fuckin' Christ this scene is stupid.  We are all dumber for having watched it. 




The Psycho Effect

Seemingly inspired by Janet Leigh's sudden exit from the film Psycho, each of these movies features an important character of some authority being killed off surprisingly early.  In Alien it was Captain Dallas, in Aliens it was Sgt. Apone, in Alien 3 it was Dr. Clemens (and Superintendent Andrews), and here it's Captain Elgyn (and General Perez).  Why did the filmmakers feel the need to follow this template in 3 and 4?  In the first two movies this approach worked, because a) it was shocking and b) the remaining characters were compelling enough to pick up the dramatic slack.  In Alien 3 and Resurrection that's not the case.  At all.  Once Clemens, Andrews, Elgyn and Perez are gone there are very few characters left to really care about.  Thus we don't.




Dialogue

This movie's got some cringe-inducingly awful dialogue.  It's right out of a badly written comic book and I'm not sure if Whedon was trying to make the movie funny or just didn't understand how real people talk.  But check out some of these classics:

Johner: Hey, Ripley. I heard you, like, ran into these things before?
Ripley: That's right.
Johner: Wow, man. So, like, what did you do?
Ripley: I died.

(This was clearly written just for the trailer.  One of the cardinal offenses in screenwriting.)


Johner: Don't push me, little Call. You hang with us for a while, you'll find out I am not the man with whom to fuck!

(Hey George Lucas - you can write this shit but you can't say it.)


Distephano: I thought you were dead.
Ripley: Yeah, I get that a lot.

(*Eye roll* Another goddamn trailer line.)


Ripley: She'll breed. You'll die.

(And a-fucking-nother one.  Knock that shit off!)


Call: He is breeding an alien species. More than dangerous. If those things get loose, it's gonna make the Lacerta Plague look like a fucking square dance!

(Was Winona playing this role like Veronica in Heathers?  She delivers this line exactly like that character.  "You think you're a rebel?  You're not a rebel.  You're a fucking psychotic!")




Still No Goddamn Earth

So the movie ends with the Betty reaching Earth's orbit and Call and Ripley looking out the window at Ripley's long-lost home planet.  And then it's over.  GOD DAMN YOU.  It took four fuckin' movies for us to make it back to Earth and the movie ends before we even see what it's like there now?  And no aliens make it back so we can see what that would be like.  Come on!  What is it with this series that no one wants to tackle that premise??

This is from the Director's Cut.  The theatrical version doesn't even go this far.




Wrong Director?

Joss Whedon was extremely unhappy with how this movie turned out, blaming not the script or any changes made to the script, but the fact that everything was brought to life differently than he envisioned it. 

"It wasn't a question of doing everything differently...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."

Jean-Pierre Jeunet in fact wasn't really all that interested in making another Alien film and it seems like he only took the gig because it was a high-profile, big budget movie.  Might explain why the film has an air of lethargy about it.  While it's visually slick and the money can be seen all over the screen, Resurrection just feels like a movie no one involved was really that excited about.  If no one has any enthusiasm for the project, you'll feel that when you watch it.  This stuff comes across and it's one of the fascinating things about film. 




Nitpicks

-Where in the fuck did they get a sample of Ripley's blood?  It clearly had to have happened sometime during Alien 3, since the whole reason they cloned her was because she had an alien baby inside her.  But at what point during that film would they have gotten a blood sample?  Did Dr. Clemens take some while she was unconscious?  And just because she had the alien in her belly, why would the clone have it?  Her having been impregnated wouldn't have altered her DNA, would it?  And would a clone of someone who died 200 years ago retain all the memories of the original?  This whole premise makes no sense.

-The Purvis/Wren death scene is absurd.  Purvis has an alien ready to pop out of his chest, and decides to kill the turncoat Dr. Wren by holding Wren's head to his chest at the exact moment of "birth."  The alien bursts out of his ribcage, killing Purvis, and apparently the velocity is so strong it also goes through Wren's skull.  Dude.  Come the fuck on.  It's not a tracer bullet, it's an animal ripping out of a guy's chest, which is not nearly as solid as a skull.  Not to mention the chestbursters kinda halt their momentum after the inital burst.  Also, couldn't Wren manage to pull himself away or move his head, especially since Purvis had just been shot?  Wacky physics aside, the execution of this scene is so over-the-top it becomes unintentionally funny, with both guys screaming at the top of their lungs the whole time.  This is straight-up C-movie schlock.  Goddamn embarrassing.

Dude, how long is the chest burster supposed to be??


-While we're on the subject of Dr. Wren, wouldn't he have waited until they were all safely aboard the Betty and away from the Auriga before springing his trap?  I guess he couldn't WAIT to fuck over those merc lowlifes, huh?

-For an android Call is quite a weakling.  I always got the impression and Ash and Bishop had greater strength than a human, but Call doesn't seem to have the ability to defend herself at all.  What exactly was her role on the Betty, since they didn't know she was an android?

-Is the vacuum of space strong enough to suck a 7-foot animal out through a dime-sized hole?  I'm no physicist but the climactic scene seemed like a stretch.  I guess the hybrid alien's blood melted the hole so it got bigger, but still.  Also, where are these cinematic space vessels manufactured that uses standard household window glass??  Surely the windows on these spaceships would need to be a few inches thick, yes?





Conclusion

Man, I wanted to like this movie.  I really did.  Alien 3 pissed me off so much I was ready to accept any attempt to get the franchise back on track and end it on a high note.  And in a lot of ways this was superior to 3.  Unfortunately in a lot of ways it was dumber too.  Whedon and Jeunet tried to do something different with the series but ultimately the film devolves into yet another haunted house movie and all the potentially great ideas are left mostly unexplored.  Such a shame.  For the record though, I consider this movie better than Alien 3.  But neither is good.  This franchise should've just ended with Aliens.  Nothing was ever going to top the first two films, so just leave it alone.  Christ.  That being said, since Alien Covenant was an embarrassing flop, will Neil Blomkamp now get to make HIS Alien movie??


Thanks for reading - join us on Facebook HERE for all the Enuffa.com news!







No comments:

Post a Comment