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Alien Resurrection

The concept of making another Alien film seems initially to be a very bad idea – we are all too familiar with the setting, the character Ripley and the gruesome life cycle of the Alien itself – so the very notion of repeating the same old formula stinks of blatant commercialism.

However, like it’s predecessors, at the helm of this film is a distinctive director (Jean Pierre Jeunet) as opposed to the all too familiar “rent-a-sequel” hack. Herein lies the problem – the film constantly struggles to cope with the baggage of the previous films and the vision of it’s director. To justify it’s budget it throws in every kind of alien seen before plus a few marketable new ones, the age old “spot the android” game, the “but we’ve only got XX seconds before the ship blows” and “when is that chest going to burst?” routines and the consistently useless cargo bay door, a technical problem that 250 years of progress has failed to solve!

Ripley is back, but she’s not herself today. The human race have decided in their infinite wisdom to clone her in order to breed a passive xenomorph slave culture with the result that number 8 is both mother of the alien and therefore alien herself. Conveniently retaining memories (by genetic selection…) she is an unlikely heroine in that we view her with the same suspicion as all the other characters. With the addition of superhero powers, acidic blood and the ability to play basket ball better than Michael Jordan she is one of the few genuine uberfrau of modern cinema despite her appearance as a terminal anorexic.

The crew of the ship consists of scientists, soldiers and a bunch of misfit traders, all of whose motives are questionable and in many respects they are the cannon fodder. Characterisation is generally lacking, less so with the misfits, but to an extent even they are characatures. The film relies upon the plot and the dialogue to produce the tension, and character motivation seems to be driven by the need for ambiguity and distrust within the narrative.

The whole feel of the film is testament to Jeunet’s directorial and design skills. Visually it harks back to The City of Lost Children in it’s gothic-industrial architecture with Victorianesque anachronisms. The mise-en-scene is very brown and grimy, and the lighting brown, giving a sepia toned quality that highlights the blend of future and ancient. Grotty spaceships seem to be in mode at the moment (see also Space Truckers and Event Horizon) and about time too – who wants a spaceship that looks like a hospital? There are some lovely gadgets, notably cubes of whisky and doors that open on the basis of breath identification. (Do they still work if one has been drinking aforementioned whiskey?) This attention to detail is characteristic of Jeunet’s previous films and it works as a tool that entices the audience into the diegesis smoothly and quickly.

The films success lies in the retention of Jeunets long time French collaborateurs, the majority of special effects (CGI and otherwise) were produced by the same companies that produced City of Lost Children and indeed it is better and refreshing as a result. It’s hard to imagine ILM producing quite so much saliva. The final denoument, in a scene originally excised from the original Alien, is at once repulsive and impressive.

And what of long time partner Marc Caro? Sadly he is relegated to a minor credit. (see other article by us) That’s Showbiz.