The UnPopular Opinion: Alien Resurrection
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
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After using this column to profess my dislike for two Joss Whedon projects (SERENITY and THE AVENGERS), it feels somewhat ironic that I am going to praise the one film that Whedon created that he himself despises most. Granted, he wrote the screenplay for ALIEN RESURRECTION and did not direct it, but it is my favorite work from the BUFFY creator. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, ALIEN RESURRECTION is a major departure from the three previous films in the franchise, but a very interesting one.
ALIEN RESURRECTION re-imagines the ALIEN franchise as a hybrid of fantasy and horror rather than a science fiction film. The movie is an exercise in body horror that would make H.R. Giger proud (despite being the only one of the four films he has no credit for). That is a credit to director Jeunet, who is best known for THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN and AMELIE, fantastic French films that took the world by storm. ALIEN RESURRECTION shares a lot in common with both of those films and his first movie, DELICATESSEN. All of the movies explore themes of isolation in a surreal world populated by the odd and the bizarre. In other words, a perfect universe for science fiction.
You found me beautiful once. Honey, you got real ugly.
I will admit that ALIEN RESURRECTION is the weakest entry in the ALIEN series, but as a movie on it's own, it works for me. There is a playfulness at work in Jeunet's film that does not exist in the previous ALIEN movies. While this light touch works better in AMELIE or A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, it serves the same purpose here as it did in THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN which is to create a sense of unease. Dan Hedaya's character, General Perez, and Brad Dourif's Dr. Gediman both provide moments of strange levity that make you question whether you should laugh or be afraid.
Taking place 200 years after the events of ALIEN 3, ALIEN RESURRECTION allows itself to rewrite the rules of the series. Gone are Weyland-Yutani and the colonial Marines from the prior movies. There is a new military corporation in charge and bands of pirates like the crew of the Betty. The crew of the Betty, led by Michael Wincott and featuring Winona Ryder and Ron Perlman, can be looked at like a dark precursor to the cast of FIREFLY. They are a ragtag group from many different origins who are pulled together in search of loot and adventure. Whedon's trademark dialogue does appear mostly intact despite the vast reworking his screenplay sufferred during filming. Characters get some good one liners and the complex plot involving cloning and hybrids makes enough sense that it does not interfere with the action.
Sloth love Chunk!
Take, for instance, the major action sequence in the movie. The underwater chase that has our band of misfits holding their breath to traverse a blocked passage is straight out of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, but with Xenomorphs. That scene alone beats anything David Fincher had in ALIEN 3. Jeunet filmed that sequence first due to the complexity involved with anything shot underwater and it worked out perfectly.
There is a lot of hate concerning the Alien Hybrid in the movie. Many of you likely think the creature looks stupid or weakens the plot, but the balance of having Ripley return with her DNA merged with that of an alien plays perfectly against the alien combined with human DNA. It is a yin and yang thing, people! You cannot have one without the other!
Joss Whedon has stated his original script had the aliens reaching Earth with a climactic sequence that was excised from the final film. Instead, ALIEN RESURRECTION gives us a much more vague ending leaving us to wonder if the aliens made it to our planet. I think if this film had been received more positively, we would have gotten a fifth ALIEN set on Earth.
Am I the only one who is turned on by Sigourney Weaver?
The best parts of ALIEN RESURRECTION are the ones taken right from the Ridley Scott original: the reveal that a central character (Winona Ryder) is really an android, the surprise chestburster scene (this time through someone's head!), and the slow removal of each character one by one as the aliens devour their prey. Combine that with Jeunet's dreamlike camerawork and you get a wholly unique and original take on the ALIEN story.
If you look at the ALIEN saga as a whole, no two films share much in common. They are all individual exercies in genre and style that generated very different results. Of the films, ALIEN RESURRECTION was the riskiest gambit since it took a director out of his element and a screenwriter with non of the credibility he would later earn and gave them a major franchise to play with. The results are much better than you may remember and I encourage you to give ALIEN RESURRECTION another shot.
Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to email@example.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
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