May 23rd, 2012


Alien Resurrection, Years Later

Though it is hated by many, I love Alien: Resurrection.

It's not a perfect film, I know that. Whoever agreed to hire Jean-Pierre Jeunet to direct it must have ate a whole bag of coke before coming up with that idea. But I love it because he did, because it shows you what happens when a truly creative person is let into a franchise.

A franchise has a set of rules, unwritten or written, and the success of the franchise film or book depends on how well that the artist or artists involved can play to those rules. The Alien franchise, a science fiction horror film, works best when the aliens themselves are the threat, when they are dark and fast and terrifying. As much as I have disliked other James Cameron films, he understood that perfectly and Aliens presented an opening act that served to introduce a cast who would be dramatically and violently cut down in the centre of the film to cement the aliens as an apex threat. That lesson was laid out by Ridley Scott in Alien with the violent birth of the creature from John Hurt's chest, but Cameron really did bring that moment out in what I consider a superb way. David Fincher's Alien 3 didn't deliver on that--an alien birthed in a dog was never going to cut it, and the film is a low note, right until the end when Ripley falls into the furnace, clutching the baby alien mother.

But in Alien: Resurrection, Jeunet doesn't really give a shit about the aliens. The Joss Whedon script offers the moment wherein the mercenary crew bring in the sleeping bodies that they have stolen, but before that, in the opening scenes of the film, Jeunet has established that he is more concerned with Sigourney Weaver's recreated Ripley, a hybrid of alien and human clone work, the monster birthed out of the military's Frankensteins. In every scene, Weaver is in control, sure and violent, and wonderful to watch, but she's all the alien that Jeunet needs, and ignoring the rules of the franchise, he follows that, letting his quite considerable skill out on it. Whedon's script, which is pure franchise work, is broken--though it was always going to be, since the film never got the budget for a lot of the scenes--and it is worth taking a moment to compare the mercenary crew that appears there as a prototype for what would later become Firefly. Darker, ironic, both more ruthless and more self serving, the crew has none of the heroism that is baked into Firefly, but oh, in a different world, Michael Wincott and Dominique Pinon and Ron Perlman and Gary Dourdan and, in a role that no doubt led to River, Sigourney Weaver...

Perhaps it'll just be me who thinks that.

There is a moment in Alien Resurrection when it just goes straight into weird, where the alien mother is revealed to have a reproductive system, where the Newborn and Ripley are in tender moments, where a macabre sense of humour settles into the final deaths of the doctor, where the rules of the Alien franchise are lost, broken. You're not meant to laugh. You're not meant to find it strange, to marvel at the oddness of it--that's not how an Alien film works, that's not how the rules of the franchise, brought back in Aliens Vs Predator, are meant to exist.

But yet, I love it so.