Friday, March 11, 2016

Alien: Resurrection review

    Alien: Resurrection is a difficult movie to review. Not for the reasons Alien 3 was, in that it was a good movie with several off-putting plot elements, but the fact it's a bad movie. However, Alien: Resurrection is a gloriously bad movie. It is a movie which is so bad that it's entertaining and kind of wonderful.

    The production of Alien: Resurrection is, by itself, an interesting story. The movie was written by Joss Whedon in the days before Buffy: The Vampire Slayer was anything other than a Kristy Swanson movie. As a future god of geekdom, Joss was a fan of the Alien franchise and seemed like the same sort of guy Kevin Smith was for Hollywood to put in charge of a series which had a huge geek following. Unlike Kevin Smith and Superman, though, Joss Whedon actually got to make an Alien movie.

The Betty's crew are the xenomorph chow for this movie. They're all badasses but explicitly terrible people.

    The problem with creating a fourth was considerable, not the least because Ripley had died at the end of Alien 3 along with the last xenomorph queen. It seemed like a good opportunity for a reboot but Sigourney Weaver was such an iconic part of the franchise that any sequel needed her. Also, just, "ignore a couple of films" like they did in Superman Returns wasn't an option because that was dumb idea then too.

    The premise Joss Whedon came up with was pure comic book with centuries having past and people still interested in recovering the xenomorphs. You know, despite no one actually knowing what they can do other than an insane fundamentalist Christian prisoner who is the only known survivor of the xenomorph's rampage. Oh, and Ripley, who gave a report no one believed but no evidence remains of because all evidence in the first two attacks was nuked beyond all recognition. Yeah, there's real evidence as to why the Aliens are the deadliest creatures ever to exist :sarcasm:.

Sigourney Weaver seems to be having a lot of fun this time around. Ron Pearlman too. Perhaps for different reasons.
    Cloning Ripley and the Alien Queen from whatever DNA was left after being dumped into molten lead, the United Systems Army successfully manage to bring back both. Because of racial memory, Ripley possesses all of her previous memories and has gained xenomorph-based superpowers while the xenomorphs have gained human-like qualities. Ripley has super-strength, super-senses, super-reflexes, and acid for blood.

    You know, I actually have no problem with this.

    If you're going to go with something utterly ridiculous as a reason for bringing back the main character of a franchise then going all-out-crazy is as good as any other reason. It's better than my solution of Alien 3 being a virtual reality dream Ripley had in cryosleep while the Company extracted the Alien Queen (written when I was 14). Excluding time-travel, it's probably the best way they could have done it.

    The United Systems Army doesn't have its own prisoners or, you know, animals, to experiment on so they hire a bunch of space pirates/smugglers to deliver them colonists in order to infect with xenomorphs. This is done by the crew of the Betty, which is a prototype for Firefly's crew except evil and less entertaining. One of them, Cal (Winona Ryder), is there to assassinate Ripley in order to prevent the return of the Aliens. Too late, of course, the creatures break free and start killing everyone.

There's some genuinely creepy stuff in this movie. None of which gets dwelt upon.
    To reiterate, this is a terrible but fun movie. There's some interesting ideas within like hybridized human-xenomorphs, questions of identity (is she still Ellen Ripley), robots created by other robots, and other stuff which is like candy to nerds but all of this is lost in a sea of over-the-top acting. All of the actors are entertaining, though, except Winona Ryder. This is surprising as I usually like her but her character is annoying as hell.

    The only exceptional performances in the movie are Ron Perlman as Johner and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley-8. Ron Perlman isn't even a main character but his complete "I don't give a crap" attitude throughout always brings a smile to my face. Ripley, by contrast, is portrayed as caught between the predator-instincts of her Alien side as well as the humanity she's left behind. There's some genuinely heartbreaking moments like the fact she can no longer remember Newt's name.

    I also have an affection for Brad Dourif's Doctor Gediman who doesn't so much go over-the-top as don a rocket pack and reach orbit. Seriously, his character is a completely whacked-out mad scientist who achieves some of the movie's most memorable moments by hamming it up. It doesn't help me take the movie any seriously but the most entertaining parts of the movie are when it doesn't try to be serious.

The underwater xenomorph attack is one of the few moments I loved.
    Everyone acts like a complete moron in this movie with the xenomorphs left in cells which are not acid proof despite, you know, that being the chief means for their escape in every film. Then the military reacts to the release of thirteen Aliens by fleeing the ship without fighting. A guy "sacrifices" himself when a dead xenomorph is hanging onto his boot versus shaking him off. Oh and they decide to crash a ship into Earth and probably kill millions in a country-sized explosion versus stopping it.

    I don't even know how to talk about the Xenomorph Newborn and it's "no, just no, gravity does not work that way" manner of death. There's some good moments in the movie, don't get me wrong. I really loved Ripley-8 encountering her "sisters" in the laboratory and loved watching the xenomorphs move underwater. The special effects are hit and miss with several terrible CGI shots and (ironically) too good a view of the xenomorphs. But, Sigourney Weaver achieves an over-the-shoulder basketball dunk which is genuinely impressive. Yes, I'm taking time to complement that.

Awww. Can we keep him? No, seriously, he's more likable than most of the cast
    Action-wise, the movie goes back and forth between realistic and cartoonish. There's one point where a character named Christie (Gary Dourdan) kills a man with a ricocheting bullet behind him in a way which would give Daredevil's Bullseye problems but has difficulty shooting an Alien three-feet away coming up a ladder behind him. At one point, an xenomorph comes out of a guy's chest but the process results in him gaining temporary superhuman strength and psychotic rage.

    Man what?

    Having read Joss Whedon's original script, it's clear he wrote it with the intention of doing a deconstructive parody of Alien which was both serious as well as comedic. Lines like, Weyland-Yutani being bought by Walmart are designed to be as tongue-and-cheek as anything by Tony Stark in The Avengers. Here, however, the director and actors choose to play the silliest elements straight which adds its own humor factor. The final result is a B-movie with an A-budget akin to Resident Evil or the Underworld movies in quality. Actually, significantly less but Sigourney Weaver is still my teenage self's crush so I give it more props than I should.


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