In a similar way to Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection aspires to be so much more that what it is. Huge themes tackled before – capitalism and the maternal-connection Ripley has with the alien – are explored throughout the film shows how thought-through the project was. But I have a feeling the crazy idea about swimming-aliens was more a producer demanding more ‘action’ rather than considering the thematic-neccessity. Indeed, Ripley is literally ‘one’ with the alien (one-step up from merely holding the alien in her chest, a-la Alien 3), but this is not the Ripley we know – light-years from Lt Ellen Ripley. She is Number 8. Weyland-Yutani had ‘created’ her in order to clone the Alien Queen itself.
Harking back to Alien, instead of the Nostromo crew we meet space-pirates on board the ship ‘Betty’. They are outsiders, akin to the low-paid workers in Alien, but they carry weapons and will happily use artillery much like those troopers in Aliens. But one member on board ‘Betty’ is clearly not as violent … but she has a clear agenda and purpose. Call (Winona Ryder) has a different motive in coming face-to-face with Ripley Number 8.
Rather than dissecting the film piece-by-piece, I shall aim to highlight themes which seemed to offer a very unique perspective to the alien universe. In Alien: Resurrection we are introduced early-on to the moral conflict regarding cloning – and whether it is ethical to create a human for the purposes of science. Brad Dourif portrays a creepy, sinister doctor who clearly holds corrupted ideals about life and science. He obsesses over the aliens and is fascinated by Ripley. We see how she is treated strangely, and indeed she acts strangely – has Ripley ever been so menacing? But of course, she is not Ripley – she is an Alien and Ripley mixed-up.
Combine this initial set-up, with the fascinating sequence when Ripley decides to destroy all the previous attempts at cloning. Ripley 1-7. It is a tragic scene as we see a human-creature struggling to breath and stay alive … but, in a similar manner to The Fly, it begs to be killed. Ripley and the crew are in the uneviable position to eradicate the efforts. Though maybe the use of a flame-thrower was a little excessive. It even harks back to a scene in Alien 3, whereby Ripley asks Dillon to kill her.
Both the contrasting elements of creating and taking life – cloning and killing – also connect to that first crucial plot-point in Alien: “Crew Expendable”. How much do we value life? Can we be in a society that prides itself on the creation of life, in terms of cloning, when we are also so proud that we dictate the death of someone else. These are huge questions that are tackled by Whedon’s script – and which make the film so strong. Even Vriess (Dominique Pinon) is the first character in the franchise who is disabled – using his wheelchair throughout as he cannot use his legs. He is part of the outcast crew, grouped with the pirates, but the choice to have him disabled is clearly noting the value of life in a society that hints at creating ‘superior’ beings (Experimenting on aliens and combining them with humans) and places no value on the life of ‘less-important’ (E.g. The crew of the Nostromo).
One problem of Vasquez in Aliens is how she, in terms of femininity, is a ‘male-version’ of a woman opposed to strong-female, who is feminine in her manner and character. Alien: Resurrection on the other hand has many female characters. Amongst the pirate-crew, we have droid ‘Call’ who is understandably ambiguous – but feminine in her manner, whilst there is also Sabra (Kim Flowers), who is not only co-pilot on the ship, but she can clearly handle a fire-arm. Clearly she can handle herself but she is also romantically-involved with Elgyn (Michael Wincott), as we see in a very revealing scene. Though not explicit, there is a clear diversity in the characters onboard ‘Betty’, and a very clear opposition to the all-white crew who lead the scientific experiements on board the Auriga.
Again, I point my finger firmly in the direction of Jimbo Cameron. In all honesty, the ‘crew’ seemed to be custom suited to have a connection to Alien and Aliens – whilst the multiple aliens on board the Auriga is creating an environment that has multiple threats to be tackled by a military group. Initially anyway, before they are ‘evacuated’. This is all about the action–packed tone of Aliens – the same producers who wanted to hark back to Camerons sequel, probably suggested the swimming-aliens and flame-thrower elements. Could you even imagine a swimming-alien in Prometheus? chasing the crew through water? I think not.
Though, the final act does include a last attack from the ‘alien-human’ which quietly reminds us of the one-alien-on-a-ship dynamic in Alien, it has tried very hard to imitate the action-and-chase dynamic of Aliens. Much like Alien 3 though, I appreciate the depth and scope of this final act – it’s not just an average film. Well, maybe it is. Maybe the depth and scope I enjoyed has been watered down so much with ‘action-sequences’ that it becomes too bland. Having said that, I know many people who would highlight Alien: Resurrection as the best of the sequels – not me. I would deem Aliens as the worst – and not just because of the flaws I found in the film itself. Aliens is the worst because it ruined the following two sequels – the success of the action-nature of Aliens meant that producers (by the sounds of things) constantly changed directors and writers intentions by forcing them to squeeze in action elements destroying what was intended. The conflicts prior to production of Alien 3 was no-doubt due to the expectation that the third film would continue Camerons story of action-and-guns, whilst Alien: Resurrection attempted to mangle the two concepts from the first two-films together… and sadly failed.
Nice post, Simon. It's funny because I really liked Alien:Resurrection when I saw it in the theaters, but wow did it not hold up when I watched it on DVD when the Qudrilogy box set came out. It seemed really hokey and a collection of good scenes instead of a complete film. I like a lot of the actors in here; Wincott and Perlman are great character actors. However, it never really comes together.
I'm a huge fan of the Alien movies and to read such interesting article about it made my day, thank you simon, keep this amazing work.