With Prometheus’ release in theatres almost two months ago, people have been ranting incessantly about “plot holes”, lazy writing, as well as a general sense of disappointment. While I can’t necessarily disagree with some of the negative criticism that director Ridley Scott’s recent science fiction opus has received, I feel the urge, a sudden compulsion, if you will, to tell everybody to chill the hell out. I’m not saying that it was great. It had its fair share of problems. But things have been worse for Alien fans. By worse, I mean Alien Resurrection.
Take a moment to absorb that. I bet you thought that all of those memories, nay, nightmares, of that mess were all but erased. You thought the characters in Prometheus were flat, forgettable, irritating, or flat-out bizarre? You thought that it was completely unnecessary, a total waste, considering the massive amounts of talent behind and in front of the camera? Well just get a load of Resurrection!
First, a little background: despite the critical disappointment of 1992′s Alien 3, 20th Century Fox decided to continue squeezing as much money as possible out of the Alien franchise, as its third installment was still a financial success (though, to be fair, it was just as pointless as what was to come next, but more on that later). They got Joss Whedon (now famous for creating Buffy The Vampire Slayer and directing The Avengers film adaptation) to write the screenplay, as well as Jean-Pierre Jeunet, known for his unique visual style, who was approached for directorial duties, although, beforehand, others such as Peter Jackson, Bryan Singer, and even Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, were given the chance to helm the picture.
You can clearly see the potential within such a project. While it wasn’t something that audiences were really clamoring for, the possibilities for rejuvenation within the series was not completely out of the question. Having watched Mic-Macs, another film directed by Jeunet, I can say that he certainly has a strong visual style that, although not necessarily what I would like to think of as the perfect example of developing the Alien universe, still showed great potential in the eye candy department. To me, and probably many fans at the time, our trust leaned more on Whedon’s side of the development process. Known for his lightning-fast humor and great characters, he seemed like the ideal choice to bring the movie back up to the levels of Aliens, if not Alien itself.
Unfortunately, somewhere down the road, somethings were lost in translation, so to speak. The film details the new exploits of Ellen Ripley, who, following her death at the end of Alien 3, finds herself being cloned in some sort of facility, where the eeeeevvviiiilllllll Weyland-Yutani Corporation (Apparently, in the extended cut, it had been bought-out by Wal-Mart. Yes. I’m serious. Don’t look at me like that) are hoping to extract the queen embryo that had died along with the original Ripley. How? Well, as the movie puts it: they found some samples of Ripley’s blood on Fiorina 161. Look, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but as I recall, she’s barely even harmed for the duration of Alien 3, save for, perhaps, the opening, in which her ship had crashed on Fiorina. If the filmmakers are suggesting that the scientists found the blood samples on the ship, why didn’t they make it apparent in the previous film? Despite this being such an important piece of information (the whole reason this damn movie exists in the first place), then why are we given such vague details about it?
In fact, let’s go back to Alien 3 for a moment. If I recall correctly, it had also pulled a similar stunt in order to get the plot going: having Ripley impregnated by a facehugger. Much like with this whole blood sample fiasco, we are never given reason to believe that such a thing would be possible in the previous movie, Aliens, which seemed to end on a very conclusive note (as in, “this is IT”), suggesting that the entirety of the alien species, at least the ones on LV-426, had been bloody annihilated. It didn’t exactly scream for a sequel. It’s not like Alien, in which several questions were left unanswered, and could have easily resulted in a follow-up. If that weren’t enough, the very idea that a facehugger had found it’s way onto the ship is utterly confusing. For one, the queen alien’s “birthing sack” had been blown up, so any theories that it had laid an egg while it remained hidden on the craft are completely out of the question. Thus, we are left to believe that it secretly carried an egg with one of it’s extra arms. But again, this is never really elaborated in either Aliens or Alien 3, merely coming off as a cheap retcon used to put reasoning behind the continuation of the series. The disaster that was Alien 3 is, and always will be, a complete and utter pointless rehash of what had been done so much better in the past. With this in mind, Alien Resurrection is just that. An absolute chore for anybody with a sense of logic. It’s complete existence is negated with a single afterthought.
Now you see how unnecessary another adventure following Ellen Ripley is, but, for the hell of it, let’s take a look at how the movie hold’s up on its own.
As mentioned earlier, Ripley had been cloned. The facility in which the film is set, which hosts a series of “lovable” and endearing” characters (such as General Perez, played by Dan Hedaya, as well as Brad Dourif as Brad Dourif), has hired mercenaries to collect several people that some scientists can use as subjects for tests, which, of course, involve the titular aliens. To start off, I couldn’t care less about any of the characters featured throughout this picture (I was using sarcasm before, if you couldn’t tell). Any sense of likability that we got out of the Ripley character is now gone, replaced by “Obnoxious Action Movie Heroine #27”. What made her the standout amongst other film protagonists was the fact that she showed emotion.
You could see, in previous installments, particularly Alien, that she was probably under a lot of stress, or wracked with sadness at the loss of her friends. Due to her new personality, one that is completely devoid of humanity, as well as the Mercenaries’ utter lack of fear in the aliens, often killing them without even so much as flinching, as though they are invincible, a great deal of tension is missing from the experience. I NEVER felt a sense of urgency because I always knew that Ripley would use her nifty new powers to save the day. She’s like a superhero. At one point, during the film’s climax, she manages to jump a great distance in a single bound without any effort. I realize that it’s become a trend for female characters to be strong, to empower women, but when you’re making an action film, a genre that’s essentially tailored to adrenaline junkies, you have to do just that: get us pumped up. A character like the cloned Ripley, however bad-ass she may be, is completely uninteresting as a character, as you never feel as though she has any reason to fear for her wellbeing. Her character might’ve been an intriguing secondary character, but putting her at the forefront of the story was, honestly, a big mistake. Every character is either a fearless mercenary, an emotionless robot/clone, or a mad scientist. Basically, there’s not a single person you find yourself rooting for because, it would seem, nobody in the movie seems to give a shit about what’s happening.
But look: it’s not a completely awful movie. There are some moments that actually coerce the audience into having a genuine emotional response, though that might depend on how much of an Alien fan you are. One such instance is seen when the scientists try to educate the Ripley clone, and show her a card with a little girl illustrated on it, causing her memories of Newt, a character with whom she had a strong bond. This can either be considered touching (by fans), or confusing (by the general audience, who will likely have no idea why she reacts to the image in such a way as she does). Unfortunately, moments like these are kept to a minimum, and quickly brushed aside for awkward, droll humor (she said “fuck” instead of “fork”. LAUGH!).
By and large, Alien Resurrection is a total failure, both as a sequel, as well as a standalone film. For fans, it’s a strong departure from the dark, visual mastery that previous films had managed to convey. For the common audience, it’s a complete bore, stuffing explosions and blood down our throats as though it will compensate for the lack of any real excitement or thrills. It simply fails to please anyone. People are screaming “bloody murder” in reaction to Prometheus, and it’s inability to live up to the hype, yet we should all be appreciative of how ambitious it was, for the fact that it was actually trying! It’s not perfect, but you could tell that the creative forces behind the production were actually putting in what you could call an effort.