Monday, September 16, 2013

MR Alien 4

Oh, zut! Here comes the French Alien!

Movie: Alien Resurrection 
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Release date 1997
Genre Science-fiction film
Country USA

Following up the f*cked up Alien³ (let's be honest here, even Fincher hated it), Alien Resurrection is the difficult sequel that had to make the franchise work with what the last episode left.

After the abysmal reception of Alien 3, the series had been put on a hiatus since 1992.

20th Century Fox finally approached Joss Whedon by the end of the 1990s, impressed by his previous work. Whedon was given full creative control to write the screenplay, his only guideline was to bring Ripley back.

His first script revolved actually around a clone of Newt from Aliens. The original idea was finally bring the Xenomoprhs to Earths, so  the final third act was meant to take place on Earth, where our heroes would then battle the aliens for the planet itself.

Neither Fox nor Sigourney Weave - who signed on only if they could make something unique and different with the series - liked that idea.

To direct the film the studio wanted Peter Jackson at first (fresh off several horror films at the time), but Jackson didn't like the IP. Instead they redirected their choice to French film director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Yep. As strange as it sounds, the offer also even surprised Jeunet who thought it was a bad idea since the series "ended" with Alien 3.

What Jean-Pierre Jeunet brought to the table was his unique visual style and some more dark comedy to help keep the violence (unlike the studio wanted).

Joss Whedon's screenplay takes the franchise 200 years into the future.

Ellen Ripley died carrying the embryo of an Alien Queen back on Fiorina 161.

But several attempts at making a clone of Ripley of DNA samples were made since then. The Weyland-Yutani or the Colonial Marines are no more. Instead there is a United Systems Military in place watching over space now.

Aboard the USM Auriga, scientists are finally able to clone a proper Ripley and even get the Alien Queen surgically removed from her body. They start breeding Aliens as weapons and keep this "Ripley 8" for further studies.

To quickly produce so many Aliens on such a large scale, they require human body hosts.

Enters the mercs!

Mercenaries are paid to bring in humans found in stasis aboard vessels and other lost pods.

The crew of the Betty, a bunch of smugglers and mercenaries, end up on the military spaceship when the Aliens finally escape their prison cells.

Ripley 8 joins this unlikely crew and try to get out of there alive.

A member of the Betty, Call, is revealed to be an android. Call sets the station on course to Earth to destroy the ship along the Aliens.

Ripley 8 discovers she gained some abilities from the Xenomorphs. The Alien Queen as well, she gives birth to a Newborn Alien, a new kind of Xenomorphs born from a womb, no egg...

The climax with the Alien being sucked out of the window was actually an idea meant to be used in the original first film, almost used in Alien 3 and finally put on screen in this 4th film and made a reality thanks to Jeunet who liked the challenge.

Similarly, there's a great fantastic underwater scene which finally shows us that, yes, Aliens can swim! It's impressively filmed and was no doubt the biggest challenge of this entire new episode.

Sigourney Weaver once again comes on top of her form for the role of Ripley. She get to play a very unique take on the character for this occasion, deadlier and up to Xenomoprhs this time (and she should be, it's already the fourth time taking on these monsters, Alien-DNA or not).

She is joined by a great cast of mercenaries, such as Michael Wincott in the role of Earth Elgyn, a fantastic and always badass Ron Perlman as Johner, Gary Dourdan as Christie, Dominique Pinon as Vriess, Kim Flowers as Hillard, and finally the always wonderful Winona Ryder as Call.

We even get to see Chucky himself Brad Dourif as a great mad scientist! What's not to like?!

There's lots of great one-liners in Whedon's dialogues that didn't get too much butchered and still came through after all the rewrites. There's this sense of flair in his type of outcast characters/mercs. It still shines though.

H. R. Giger did build a little mural used on set for a very disturbing little scene that comes near the end, strangely it was the only film in the series that didn't credit him. Though he never commented much on the film itself apart from calling it an excellent film, he has gone to say the "creatures in Alien:Resurrection are even closer to my original Alien designs than the ones which appear in Aliens and Alien3".

The Newborn alien (or as I like to call it jokingly, the "French Alien") was originally meant to be more spider-like and the size of a Queen in Whedon's script. But Jeunet preferred it to be more Human-like. It even had genitals while filming but as the director said later on "even for a Frenchman it was too much". So they had it edited in post-production.

The little we get to see of the new monster was probably only one stage of its growth, probably similar to a chestbuster since they're even the same color.

So what didn't really work?

The tone of this episode change for more of a fantasy/horror approach than pure science-fiction as the previous two sequels were.

Now, I know each film of the series has its own identity. Some people probably wanted another Aliens, or something closer to the first film.

Alien Resurrection offered us surreal characters and a bizarre world. Even the ending is left ambiguous, more vague.

It's all an exercises in style, and in my eyes in that regards Jean-Pierre Jeunet did a fantastic job.

The film has some great colors and great looking Aliens thanks to a solid photography through the picture. It's even almost pretty creepy on some parts, not due to the actual horror but rather the setting and the tone. Which is perfect.

Alien 4 leaves the whole corporation aspect and replaces with a military force.

The Aliens themselves look great thanks to a mix of suit work, animatronics and some light CGi effects.

Finally the music by John Frizzell offers a great score, fitting for the series.

And despite all this, it got mixed reviews at the time. But I think it's own of these movies that really grow on you over multiple screenings. With a very unique atmosphere, a mark of the franchise in which each director can build their own interpretation of the series.

Overall, it's a pretty uneven film.

While some scifi aspects come through (cloning, breeding Alien weapons, etc.), the film embraces more fantasy elements and a surreal feeling. It's different, but I find it fitting for yet another different entry in the series.

Now I know the Newborn Alien is generally despised but I found it pretty weird and creepy. A perfect example of DNA-meddling gone wrong. The poor creature doesn't even seem to understand what's happening to him as he is killed by his own mother (or grandmother?).

The Director's Cut of Alien Resurrection is also worth a look. It adds more development for the Whedon-esque crew of mercenaries and some fun original alternate scenes (such as a rather funny opener).

Originally there were plans for a 5th episode but due to the bad results of this one they had to be canceled. Joss Whedon wrote an Alien 5 script which would have seen an Earth-setting, but Sigourney Weaver was not interest in continuing the franchise that direction. Jean-Pierre Jeunet himself was amused by the idea of coming back for another episode if they could explore the Aliens' origins and planet, going back backwards in the timeline.

Then James Cameron worked on a plot for the 5th film himself. But all these ideas had to be left aside when the Alien Vs. Predator crossover started taking form.

Finally in 2002 Ridley Scott was again interested in the prospect of a new Alien project and willing to go back to franchise to revisit the original planetoid, to finally explore how the Xenomorphs were created, where they come from... which results finally in Prometheus in 2012!

I give it:
2 / 3 UFOs!

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