“You’re programmed to be an asshole!”

Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 11:22 pm Comments (3)

And so, I’ve finished the Alien quadrology (I can’t help but laugh every time I hear that) with Alien Resurrection. It is better than Alien3 in a lot of ways, but it just came across as the least appealing film.

Ripley died in the last flick, but two hundred years later a new organisation clone her using a blood sample so they can extract the alien. Surprise surprise, that eventually goes tits-up, and Ripley, a scant few crew and a bunch of bounty hunters are trapped on the space station with them. That’s about as far as the plot goes, really.

Uneven as it was, I felt Alien3 would’ve been the best place to end the story. Ripley has lost everything she knows and loves in her encounters with the xenomorphs, and she dies taking out the species with her. Sure, there’s probably (if not definitely) more of them somewhere, but given how they’ve just messed up her life, that’s not a bad way to go. This one does make her a clone, but it’s not the exact same Ripley we’ve come to know – she’s aware that’s a clone, and due to her stint of being impregnated with the queen she’s acquired a mental connection of sorts with the species, not to mention super strength and acidic blood. It’s interesting to observe her concern over being a clone – especially when the other clones are seen having been subject to obscene mutations, a blending of human and xenomorph biology. For all she’s done to protect humanity from the aliens, people have only kept screwing her over and making things worse, and now she’s responsible for this new form of beast.

The problem is that the movie takes quite a while to feel like it’s going somewhere, and when it does, it only seems to focus on Ripley’s bond with the aliens; and not in an interesting way, but in an unsettling way. We’re talking needlessly long footage of her nuzzling her half-human half-alien hybrid child thing. You know, the kind of thing you don’t really want in a story.

Mutating the aliens into a supposedly stronger being is an intriguing concept, but the result just bored the piss out of me. Xenomorphs are freaky because they’re basically stacks and stacks of penises moulded into an alien shape; they murder for fun, they screw with the bodies of their victims in a variety of grotesque ways, and they’re pretty much nightmare incarnate. That’s freaky! The human-xenomorph hybrid is basically a vaguely human-esque stack of mashed potatoes with big eye holes and an occasional tendency for crushing human skulls. There’s just not enough time to play up its predator factor. Yes, from an emotional viewpoint the fact that Ripley was kinda-sorta responsible for this mood swinging, violent yet child-like monster is a great concept to explore, and a whole story exploring the drama of being the mother of a monster would be one I’d like to see. But from a movie-goer perspective, if you’re going to make this thing overshadow the real aliens, you gotta make it kickass. Giant needy monster babies that crush heads don’t quite compare with acid penises.

In a way, I just found the movie hard to take seriously; partly because it feels very different from the other films in the series, and partly because it is legitimately ridiculous. Everyone’s making stupid faces! The entire crew of the space station seems to be composed of people with funny eyes and a tendency to waggle their eyebrows furiously. You’ve got them trying to look seriously shocked when something unfortunate happens, but they end up looking like they’re trying to mug for the camera in hopes of getting a guest appearance on Harry Hill’s TV Burp. You’ve got emotional deaths, and then you’ve got deaths where someone just waits stupidly for their head to get crushed, or picks a bit of flesh from the back of their head where they’ve just had an alien burrow itself in (while making funny faces). There are times you almost think the movie’s just trying to be a parody.

The face of Alien Resurrection.

And then there’s the bounty hunters. At least, I call them bounty hunters because the movie certainly doesn’t go out of its way to say who they are. The whole time I saw them I just couldn’t help but feel it was Joss Whedon making a prototype of the crew in Firefly. I’d love to extend that analogy, but I only ever saw one episode of Firefly and I wouldn’t even be able to name any of the characters, so that falls flat. Some of them survive long enough to get some degree of personality, and some who do survive for a fair while have absolutely nothing to their name by the time they snuff it – how would you describe the pilot woman besides… “pilot woman”? Ron Perlman totally steals the show, but the others seemed like they were trying to create a distinctive cast for their own stories, but didn’t have the time to actually flesh them out at all.

I think that’s one of the reasons the film didn’t sit well with me; it just doesn’t feel like an Aliens movie. It’s like they wanted to focus on the drama of Ripley’s clone and her alien bond, yet they also wanted to shoehorn in a new breed of alien, but they also had these great ideas for a group of ragtag tough dudes in space, and – man! – these guys had ideas for some really cool action sequences! It feels like they tried to rope those all in to a two hour film, and it just didn’t feel satisfying. Given how Joss has stated his dissatisfaction with the film, I was under the assumption they butchered his script, but apparently the director merely misinterpreted his work. Hm.

I’m actually surprised at the amount of crap I’m flinging at the film, because I did enjoy it to a certain degree. I didn’t like the plot, I wasn’t fussed on the characters, the aliens didn’t impress me… so what did I like it?

Well, it’s got some great action sequences.

I totally loved the underwater sequence – the series relies so much on the characters keeping in contact even when far away. This time they’re all nearby in single-file, but they can’t speak up at all. The aliens are more manoeuvrable underwater than the humans are, meaning if they can’t fend them off, they’ve got no chance of outrunning them. The part afterwards on the ladder is entertaining, but it’s totally fucking ridiculous as well. If you’d ignored that this was an Alien instalment you could get away with it, but man, what the hell.

Personally, I’d say this is my least favourite in the series. From a production perspective it’s probably one of the best (in a traditional Hollywood sense), but for story, atmosphere or comparison to the others… I just felt it fell flat. It’s no longer Aliens, it’s just a traditional action-horror flick with the creatures brought in. Yeah, Ripley’s there, but now that she’s a bit wacko, I couldn’t help but lose the attachment over the past movies. It’s a very different vibe, it’s a very different setting; even the way it’s shot is wildly different. It’s not dreadful, but for someone who’s come to love the previous movies, it just didn’t sit well with me from the start. I don’t think I’ll bother watching the Alien vs. Predator movies, but knowing me I’ll be suckered into it of my own accord anyway.

And having finally seen it in context, the alien getting sucked out ass-first makes for a pretty crummy climax.

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