Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Alien Resurrection (The Horrors of Halloween Part II)

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) and written by Joss Whedon (Serenity) this is the fourth installment of the Alien franchise following on from Alien3 and though decision is split on whether or not this can be classed as a horror film, I see it as a Science Fiction Action film with Horror tendencies and as a direct decedent of a truly brilliant, genre shaping Sci-Fi Horror that is reason enough for me to review it as part of my “Month of Horror” segment.

Set 200 years after Alien3, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has been resurrected on a military space ship through the miracle of cloning by The United Systems Army who wants the Alien Queen that was gestating inside her at the time of her death (Would cloning Ripley really clone the Alien Queen inside her? I’m pretty sure cloning doesn't work that way). A small team of mercenaries abduct and deliver the hosts required for the aliens development but then would you believe it something goes wrong and the aliens manage to escape and begin slaughtering everyone on the ship, leaving a rag tag group of survivors including the cloned Ripley to attempt to escape.

Its interesting to look at the sift in balance in the later Aliens movies as the studios attempts combined what was best about the first two highly successful movies for instance Alien3 combines the single Alien on a rampage idea of the first film with the gore and death-count of the second, while Alien Resurrection instead combines the multiple threat of a large number of Xenos(Aliens) from the second film with the claustrophobic environment of a confined spaceship from the original, gently tipping the balance as they attempt to draw out what was best of the earlier movies , this is in no way a bad thing but does leave a lot of room for error.

Now in my Aliens review I mentioned the symbolism used to subtly suggest the theme of motherhood throughout the film.
Now Alien Resurrection is as subtle as a sledge hammer about the way in which it portrays the theme of motherhood, With the character of Ripley forming some weird parental bond with the aliens, openly referring to herself as being the Aliens mother and being shown as genuinely happy when they manage escape confinement even though a matter of minutes later they are attempting to bash their way through a door to kill her.
And as a final nail in this symbolic coffin you have the Alien Newborn which (despite being a interesting idea) is simply several different kinds of wrong and boast one of the most bizarre creature designs I have ever seen.

Ripley is far less enjoyable to watch than in previous installments due to the already mentioned ‘mother of the enemy’ story-line that leaves the audience unsure of her goals or motivations due to the cross species cloning, its also interesting to see a version of Ripley that doesn't feel the need to try and save everyone, often simply sitting back and watching as other characters are killed off.

Annoyingly the seemingly most interesting of the pirate/Merc characters is killed off first which leaves Winona Ryder’s Call in the limelight for most of the movie in the most unbelievable acting and out of place casting in the series to date also it doesn't help that her character is completely unlike-able and even the major plot twist about the character fail to make the character interesting.
The character of Christie played by Gary Dourdan Is enjoyable to watch as one of the main decision makers for the group, even though his screen time is bitterly short compared to less entertaining characters.
The main issue I have with many if not all of the other characters is that they seem far to removed from realism and being highly cartoony, contrasting against the more believable and relatable characters of earlier on in the series, which are now replaced by characters that can deflect bullets of heating pipes resulting in a real lack of atmosphere and tension throughout the entire movie with the film sacrificing tension for mild laughs.

Many moments in the film seem overly goofy such as the character of General Perez (Dan Hedaya) pausing to pull out a piece of his own brain and Call trying to drink while wearing boxing gloves
But there are many great sequences such Ripley stumbling upon all the previous failed clones some of which are truly horrifying to look at and the emotional impact this has on the character is one of best moments of the film, a gut turning sequence involving unarmed soldiers trapped with an alien inside and escape pod and a great death involving a Chestburster are all personal favorites.
But the best scene in the film is without question the underwater sequence which shows the aliens in a environment unconsidered in any of the previous installments and which makes them appear more  dangerous than ever making this not only the best scene of the film but one of the best in the series.

The effects in my opinion are the best in the series and a true testament to how far cinema has come in terms of creating realism with the aliens looking brilliant and slimier than ever. My only problem with the effect in this film is that of the death of the Newborn Alien which frankly I’m pretty sure defies physics.

I understand that this review is going to be largely unfair as I am that worst of creatures ‘a fan’ and as such it is incredibly difficult to please me and looking back now I can fully understand why critics opinions are so largely split by this film as it fluctuates wildly between moments of idiotic-ness and brilliance.

So in summary is this an enjoyable film? - Yes (well enjoyable enough)

But does it live up to its name and other truly brilliant Sci-Fi Horrors?
Not by a long shot,  but there is still some great moments throughout this film that makes it deserve a watching.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting also how the movies oscillate between subtle and tacky. Alien is highly wrought art with one alien, a load of realism and hammer horror as its generic inspiration. Aliens then becomes an awesome action film but with cartoon characters and extrovert, in-your-face delivery. Back to Alien3 and it's a brooding jacobean tragedy in space (especially with the extended cut and the alien-as-dragon ghost-of-Ward supernatural stuff). Back to Alien Resurrection and it's like Alien met MTV - comedy, parody, everything's large as life and twice as ugly again.
    A similar pattern with the James Bond actors, actually.
    By rights the series should've become atmospheric-introspective again, but then AVP came along, and then Prometheus did a clumsy if enjoyable job. The so-called Director's Cut of Alien3 was superb and made the most fitting end to a series in which space was lonely and brooding.
    Which is kinda sad because I want more Xenos.