After the terrible Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection tried to actually resurrect the film by bringing in Joss Whedon to write the script and Jean-Pierre Jeunet to direct. Jeunet is the man who went on to make films like Amelie while Whedon went on to direct the Avenger films. But both of them were sort of starting off in their careers when this film happened and it is evident in the loopholes that are left in both their works. However, what this film was able to achieve was that it somehow turned out to be better than Alien 3 and was able to infuse some life into the franchise in terms of visuals. More on that later.
Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has been resurrected as a half human and half alien hybrid after she had destroyed herself and the Xenomorph in the previous Alien film. A stable state is achieved after multiple experiments on her. Once resurrected, she is found to have a strange bond with the Xenomorphs primarily because she has a part of their DNA in her. Soon the surviving Xenomorph and a host of other aliens are let loose on the crew of the ship after some of the scientist go over the top with their experimentation. Ripley must now fight like before in company of the survivors and find a way to destroy the alien which is now her own kind and find a way out of the ship for the others. She finds it increasingly difficult to win the trust of the survivor, especially Call (Winona Ryder) a synthetic who is as close to a real human as the company has ever got.
The film is great to look at. By that I mean that the special effects and the creature designs are spot on. There is a lot of creature violence and some of them are just so ugly that you wish that they meet a horrible end. The final hybrid that come out of the alien which now has a working womb (Ripley’s gift to the species) is just gross. It looks terrible and coupled with the slime that it is covered in and the obnoxious design, it will give you Goosebumps. The way it dies is even more unique. Imagine a creature twice your size sucked in through a tiny hole thanks to depressurization and you get the picture. One more visual effect which really worked wonders for me was the one involving the different test states of Ripley. The one which asks to be killed is the most horrible and also the most effective. That’s one sequence really well done.
The film also has its share of action. There is a lot of climbing, shooting and shooting while climbing. There are a few underwater sequences which are shot beautifully and they really thrill you going by the way they are envisioned and edited. The scene in the nest of the Xenomorph where the survivors destroy all the eggs and also the truth behind the character of Call is revealed is by far the best action sequence of the film. It undermines the climax in so many ways. The film is also edited well. Some of the action sequences and also the way tension is built using cross cuts is wonderful to look at. The cinematography is another rank improvement from the previous installment. The claustrophobic hallways, corridors and overall interiors of the ship are beautifully captured in fluid camera movements which are jerk free. This is one aspect which helps the understanding of the visuals and we are able to watch and enjoy it more.
However, we are forced to ask the question that was there really a need to tell this story? The story though not as bad as Alien 3 is still devoid of any genuine interest. The film basically takes a piggyback ride on the visuals and action which are the only factors in favor of the film. The idea has been done to death and the somewhat leisurely performances by the ensemble cast also don’t help the matter. Sigourney Weaver has been redesigned and re-envisioned mostly physically to turn her into this super hybrid. This works in a few scenes but with the anxiety and tension that her character brought in the previous films replaced by a strange humor, the task of infusing that very tension is left to the other cast members. They are not able to achieve it successfully. The film is filled with visceral imagery and has ponds of slime flowing which may be too much for many to handle.
Weighed in by the poor performances, too much of stress is laid on the visuals and after a while they lose their appeal once you have seen the best that it has to offer. The film is also devoid of any potent human drama which was the forte of the first two films. With the human drama and the fear factor out of the way and the audiences not caring at all for the other characters who are actually at risk, the film quickly deflates. The problem here is that Ripley is never at risk and she was the one we connected with in the first two films and the concern for her safety made us bite our nails in more than one sequence. Here she is as strong as the alien and has acid for blood.
Overall, the film is watchable primarily for its visuals and VFX. Sigourney Weaver fans will also get something out of it and will enjoy watching her kick some alien butt. Apart from that this is a film which can be easily missed. This is in no way in the same class as Alien and Aliens but definitely better than Alien 3.