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Resurrection Is Fun Because it Ignores the Franchise’s Past

Dec 8, 2022


Alien is one of the oddest film franchises of all-time if you try to examine it purely based on the aesthetics. Each installment of the series is essentially a showcase for the auteur behind it; Ridley Scott’s Alien is a claustrophobic version of “Jaws in space,” James Cameron’s Aliens is an invigorating summer blockbuster, David Fincher’s Alien 3 is a depressing prison drama, and Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator is an indulgent, schlocky B-movie that happens to have some of the most famous icons in sci-fi history. Throw in the confusing continuity of the Alien vs. Predator films and Scott’s revamp of the mythology in Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, and you have an unpredictable franchise that reshapes itself with each installment.
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It’s hard to analyze the franchise on a continuity level, as each installment tends to “retcon” the previous film’s ending. Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) escape from the Nostromo doesn’t last long when she’s picked up in Aliens, and the new “nuclear family” she has with Newt (Carrie Henn) and Dwayne Hicks (Michae Biehn) implodes when they’re killed off within the opening moments of Alien 3. Despite the stylistic changes, the first four installments in the series are an examination of female identity through the story of Ripley. Alien is a story of innocence lost, Aliens examines the families that are found, and Alien 3 is a bleak reflection on trauma and loss. It was only fitting the concluding chapter in the saga would be one of rebirth, and quite literally “resurrection.”

Alien: Resurrection may be the laughingstock of the Alien franchise, but it deserves more credit 25 years later. It’s not quite as terrifying as Alien, as gripping as Aliens, or as emotional as Alien 3, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a modern franchise installment with this type of budget that’s quite as strange. An odd mismatch of director, writer, and material produced a graphic, hyper-stylized meta-commentary on not letting old things die. Ripley is literally cloned when a group of scientists on the space vessel USM Auriga start messing around with Xenomorph DNA, because that’s always a good idea!

Alien: Resurrection Created a New Ripley in a Younger Generation

The Alien franchise had been in a creative bind ever since Cameron left the series after Aliens; Alien 3 went through a nightmarish production cycle that led Fincher to disassociate the film from the rest of his filmography. Alien 3 also presented a canonical challenge to another installment; Ripley was dead. How could a fourquel honor her legacy without undercutting the sacrifice she made at the end of the previous film?

Using a clone of Ripley was an interesting choice that highlighted her dissociation with a younger generation of sci-fi heroes; she was now waking up in a decade of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Independence Day, and Ripley’s reclusive attitude doesn’t quite fit within the upbeat optimism of her youthful counterparts. Having a “grumpy old heroine” could have been a sour way to bring back such a beloved character, but Weaver has a lot of fun showing Ripley’s annoyance at being called back into action. Not even death can protect her from having to deal with the Xenomorphs again.

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Annalee Call Becomes the Audience Surrogate

Ripley also gets a protege in Winona Ryder’s Annalee Call, a new crew member of the ship Betty who is already aware of Ripley’s history. By making the events of the previous films “historical,” Alien: Resurrection allowed Annalee to play the role of the audience’s surrogate. She’s fascinated and in awe of what Ripley has done, but she’s skeptical of the role she has left to play.

The dynamic between the two is fascinating, as Ripley is reluctant to care for another young woman after her surrogate child Newt was killed. A twist about Analee being an android allows both women to reflect on the ways that their bodies have been preyed upon; while Prometheus’ Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Alien: Covenant’s Daniels (Katherine Waterston) feel like new attempts to insert a “Ripley-esque” character, Analee actually has to deal with some of the same trauma.

Whedon and Jeunet’s Styles Causes Sensory Overload

Image via 20th Century Fox

While the storyline involving DNA splicing is ridiculous, it fits within the classic Jurassic Park lesson of things that go wrong when you mess with nature. There’s always been a subtle political commentary within the Alien movies, and Alien: Resurrection examines the ills of militarism and corporate dominance when military scientists insert Ripley’s memories into a clone that shares a psychic link to the Xenomorphs. Ripley’s shock when she awakens is one of the more disturbing moments of body horror in the series; her body has been violated, and she’s been cursed with the abilities of her abuser.

Alien: Resurrection pits a writer and director with completely different styles together; French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet emphasizes colorful visuals and idealized realities, while screenwriter Joss Whedon inserts quippy humor and self-aware characters. What do you get when you combine the gleeful innocence of Amelie with the vocabulary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It’s sensory overload, which again helps the viewer ground themselves within Ripley’s state-of-mind.

The production process was reportedly stressful for both writer and director; Whedon admitted in a 2005 interview while promoting Serenity that Jeunet chose to interpret his screenplay “in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable.” Recently, Jeunet fired back, claiming that Whedon made movies “for morons.” He expressed his pride that he was able to make an Alien sequel that “was sexy and weird,” and that he hoped would be “very disturbing to American people.” The sexual undertones of the Alien series bubble to the surface in a film when Jenuet insisted on designing the Xenomorphs’ genitalia.

A Proper Ending for Ripley’s Story

Despite the radical revisions to the mythology, Alien: Resurrection serves as a fitting end to Ripley’s story that gives viewers the same hope that they had at the end of the original 1979 classic. Pitting Ripley against the Alien Queen, who also happened to be a mother, was a great way to give a sense of finality to the series with a moment of spectacle. At this point, the Xenomorphs were no longer scary, as they’d become too prolific in our pop culture language. Jenuet was well-aware of that fact, so he simply inserted as much blood and gore as possible in what’s quite possibly the most violent installment in the series.

Although it’s wacky, weird, and tonally all over-the-place, something as strange as Alien: Resurrection was really the only way to send off such an unpredictable franchise. In a rare moment of reflection, Ripley looks upon Earth during the film’s closing scenes, reflecting that she is a “stranger” on her home planet. It’s one of the most defining moments for her character in the entire series. After everything that she’s experienced, Ripley now feels like she is the alien.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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