By JASON LLOREN
Blast San Francisco Bureau
The bitch is back!
Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley to square off against the mother
of all movie monsters in modern film -- the creepy, crawling, slimy,
Wait, didn't they cap Ripley's ass in the last "Alien"? Yes. But thanks
to the miracle of modern science fiction, actress Sigourney Weaver plays
a clone of the matronly Ripley, some 200 years after we last saw her and
the Alien baby she was carrying burn to death at the end of "Alien 3."
Despite some narrative weakness in "Alien Resurrection," French director
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director behind the hilarious apocalyptic black
comedy "Delicatessen" and the dark dreamy fantasy "City of Lost
Children," brings a fresh visual style to the monster-vs.-humans
The Resurrection begins aboard the science vessel Auriga, captained by
Gen. Perez (a very hairy Dan Hedaya). Scientists there are engaged in
cloning experiments that not only give birth to Ripley's genetic ancestor
(who now has a little of those monstrous genes herself -- her blood is
now acidic!) but to a new litter of Aliens. Apparently when they used
tissue samples from Ripley's corpse, they extracted Alien DNA as well.
Think "Jurassic Park" with more slime.
Then comes along the ship Betty, which brings a shipment of human bodies
that are to be used in the cloning experiments. The smugglers here are
Call, played by Gen-X babe Winona Ryder and a rag-tag crew that includes
a big bully (Ron Perlman); the wheelchair-bound mechanic (Dominique
Pinon, a favorite of Jeunet); and the token African-American (Gary
Dourdan) character whose has a trigger finger like Travis Bickle.
The plot of the film at the beginning is not entirely clear. In one scene
Call has a confrontation with Ripley that I still can't figure out.
Obviously there's more to the smugglers than meets the eye. But no
matter: Once the real plot begins -- the Aliens get loose! -- the real
fun begins. Ripley and the smugglers are now in a race to get back to the
Betty before the Aliens can rip them to shreds, all while the Auriga is
on a flight path toward Earth.
Simple enough, right? But here is where the inventiveness Jeunet
demonstrated in his two previous films comes into play. The director has
an almost cruel sense of playfulness with the characters and the violence
that has become a hallmark of the series. Jeunet capitalizes on the
freakish nature of the humans and the Aliens. Ripley herself is part
monster, part human; Pinon's a cripple; Perlman's a big ape; the
rastaman's face gets scarred by Alien blood. Even Call is not all she
seems to be.
The biggest freak in the film is sprung onto the audience late in the
film: the Newborn, the evolution of the Alien species. It is grotesque
and monsterous, yet almost curious like a baby. At the same time, it
appears creepy and oddly human in appearance (the damn thing has eyes!).
Jeunet pokes and prods at these creatures like a kid pulling the legs off
a captured cricket. And he almost seems to delight in it. In one gross
but funny scene, Perez gets a rear-side lobotomy, then picks a piece of
his brain and stares at it.
In another surprisingly emotionally strong scene, the humans enter a tiny
lab of Ripley rejects, previous clones that are nothing more than
twisted, distorted forms of flesh and skin. Many float in huge glass
containers like deformed stillborns. The scene is straight out of some
The look of the film mimics the heavy metal look of "Delicatessen" and
"City of Lost Children." But the strange and claustrophobic corridors,
some slick with slime and bathed in dark and red colors, also feel like a
That visual metaphor extends to a well-done action scene that involves a
flooded portion of the Auriga. In this underwater sequence, the humans
are seen fleeing from a pair of aquatic Aliens, all of these beings
floating slowly as violence erupts. The ballet-like movement of the
characters underwater make them look like fetuses in some strange giant
Weaver is strong, cool and erotic as Ripley. Walking, running and
swimming around in her tight leather outfit, this Ripley moves like a
panther. Unlike the sometimes frightened chick in "Alien," or the
headstrong, determined gun-totin' mama of "Aliens," this Ripley is
colder, more detached from the other humans in the film and seemingly
more selfish. At the same time, she's strangely funny. She's a freakin'
Ryder's Call is the most humane of the bunch, and the character adds an
air of sweetness to an otherwise eerie film. The rest of the human cast
are mostly two-dimensional cannon fodder; they're there to be ripped,
bitten, slashed, burned and strangled by the beasts.
The relationship between Ripley and Call felt underdeveloped. But the
overall story arc of the film is underdeveloped as well. The strength of
"Alien Resurrection" is the way the visual inventiveness and strong
performances of the female leads propels this sci-fi horror franchise
back from the dead. And with the finale ending up on Earth, don't be
surprised if we see a fifth "Alien" invade the planet.
By JASON LLOREN
Blast San Francisco Bureau
Few sci-fi franchises have staying power ("Star Wars" and "Star Trek"
come to mind) and none are as varied as the "Alien" films. Each film has
a distinct look and feel, even if the basic humans-kick-monsters'-asses
plot remains the same. Hell, even as the design of the Alien remained the
same, it behaves and moves differently in each flick. Here now is a quick
rundown of the three predecessors to "Alien Resurrection" (all available
on video and laserdisc):
Alien (1979) ***
Ridley Scott's eerie sci-fi film first introduced the Alien, a dark,
slimy, spidery, skeletal beast with a barbed tail, retractable fangs and
acid for blood. Filled with a small but impressive cast that includes
Yaphet Kotto ("Homicide: Life on the Streets"), Tom Skerritt ("Picket
Fences"), John Hurt, Ian Holm and Veronica Cartwright (hey, wasn't she on
"Lost In Space"?), "Alien" also introduces us to the relatively unknown
Sigourney Weaver (what the hell was so wrong with her given name Susan
anyway?) as Ellen Ripley.
They are the crew of the space tug Nostromo -- basically intergalactic
truckers -- when they intercept an SOS. The signal leads to a strange
alien craft on a nearby planet. Inside they find a nest of eggs. One of
which cracks open throwing out a big lobster-thing that hugs Hurt's face.
Film history is made.
"Alien" still stands as one damn good movie, boosting one of the
butt-ugliest, scariest movie monsters in ages. Laden with sci-fi special
effects, "Alien" is more horror monster movie than lasers-and-rocketships
epic (Anyone remember what the film ads read? "No one can hear you scream
in space," or something like that). The film is eerie and claustrophobic
as the Alien -- who is seen mostly in silhouette -- knocks off
the crew one by one.
Aliens (1986) ***1/2
Whereas "Alien" was quiet and spare, James Cameron's sequel is a
thunderous, slam-bang, balls-out action flick. Centered around Ripley and
a crew of intergalactic marines as they face off against hordes of these
damn creatures, "Aliens" is easily the most exciting of the film series.
The film picks up where "Alien" ended. Rescuers find Ripley aboard her
ship in suspended animation, some 50 years later. After communications
are lost with a colony on the same planet where the Alien eggs were first
sighted by Ripley's crew in "Alien," she is recruited to team up with
some Marines to check it out. Guess what they find.
"Aliens" is filled to the brim with sphincter-tightening action-suspense
scenes, peppered generously with bullets and explosions. In fact, many of
the Alien ambushes on the marines felt like something of 'Nam. This is
the film "Starship Troopers" wishes it were.
Aliens film also boast a stronger role for Weaver, who gets to kick a lot
more ass this time using machine gun, grenade launcher and flame thrower.
She even fights hand-to-hand against the more frightening cockroach-like
Alien Queen using some damn Tonka Truck-looking suit. In addition to
Weaver, the film also has an impressive cast: Paul Reiser ("Mad About
You"), Lance Henriksen ("Millennium"), Bill Paxton ("Twister"), Michael
Biehn ("The Terminator") and Jenette Goldstein.
Alien 3 (1992) **1/2
Even though this film is decidedly downbeat -- shit, it is depressing --
this film is kept strong by its cinematography, set designs and David
Fincher's fine direction.
The film begins with a bummer as we learn that, except for Ripley, the
survivors of "Aliens" didn't quite make it after fleeing from the beasts
in their escape ship. Instead Ripley's ship crash-lands on a former
prison colony on a distant planet inhabited by a group of violent skin
head rapists and murderers who have discovered religion (Even worse,
they're mostly Brits). Soon after arriving, Ripley figures out that
somehow an Alien castaway was aboard her ship and is now offing the
The biggest problem with this film is that it's simply the same ol'
straight-to-video evil monster pic, with the killing machine finding
inventive ways to kill its prey one by one while the heroine cries sheep
to the unbelieving set of characters around her. In other rookie director
hands, this film would've been OK. But Fincher creates a genuinely bleak
environment that stands out for the franchise. Looking back now, some of
the computer-generated movements of the single Alien seem rough, but
Fincher uses inventive camera work and cinematography to keep the action
flowing and the suspense compelling.
Again, we get a good supporting cast (even if most of them end up being
chewed to death): Charles S. Dutton ("Roc"), Pete Postelwaithe ("The
Usual Suspects") and Lance Henriksen.