Lauren (finally) watches: ALIEN: RESURRECTION

So we’ve come to the last Alien movie in the chronology. There were two more movies made after this, but they’re both prequels to the original, so as of right now, this one still stands as the final chapter in the Ripley saga. Is that because it gives the series a satisfying ending? Or is it just so bad that it stalled out the franchise for the next 15 years?

Based on the Rotten Tomatoes rating… I’m guessing the latter.

If you missed any of the earlier installments in this series, catch up here:





My expectations:

Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

My predictions thus far have been educated guesses based on what I know of the directors’ bodies of work, the way stories are typically told, and the events of the previous movies, but this one is a bit more of an enigma for me. It’s directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose work I’m mostly unfamiliar with, save Amélie. (Yes, I’ve heard that Delicatessen is great. No, I haven’t seen it yet.) While that could indicate that Jeunet is interested in nuanced, character-driven stories told through a heightened, fantastical lens, and in exploring the internal complexity and emotional range of female characters… it’s just one movie. Not nearly enough to discern a pattern.

All I know about Alien: Resurrection is that it’s The One With Winona Ryder, who was a pretty big deal in 1997, which makes me think that her role is probably fairly significant. I also know that Sigourney Weaver is back, and since she was not only dead at the end of the last movie, but also incinerated, I’m guessing that in this one, she’s either a clone or an android. Both would be interesting, and I can see an argument for each, so I’m just going to let myself be surprised there.

I also have been consistently surprised so far by the compressed timeline of these movies, as I kept figuring that with a 6+ year break between sequels, some time would have passed for the characters. Also, most actresses could not pull off playing the same age for 13 years, but apparently Sigourney Weaver is some sort of ageless vampire.

Sigourney Weaver in Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

However, despite being released a mere five years after Alien³, I really think I’m right this time about a time jump in Alien: Resurrection, and here’s why: Someone is going to have to bring Ripley back, and there was no reason to do so at the end of the third movie. The only reason The Company wanted her was because she had an alien inside of her, but she destroyed both of them. So I figure there’s got to be a time jump in order for a plausible reason to have presented itself.

Now, what that reason is, I’m not entirely sure. Maaaaaaybe some form of “you’re the only one who knows how to fight them” logic, but I don’t quite buy that since it’s not like Ripley ever figured out some super effective way of neutralizing the xenomorphs. All she did was shove two of them out an airlock and inexplicably explode a third one with molten lead, sprinklers, and bizarre physics. None of these methods seem particularly repeatable, so I have no idea what they’re going to want her for… but I’m eager to find out.

Since this one has two (presumably) central female characters, I am extremely hopeful for some solid character development this time that doesn’t rely on sexist stereotypes or problematic tropes. Ripley’s been consistently great, but the other women in this franchise have been super disappointing up until this point. And if this series never ventured into “sexual assault against women played as character development for men” territory again, that would be great. Based on Amélie (which was released 4 years after Resurrection), I do have some tentative hope that Jeunet might have the sensitivity to finally deliver multiple female characters that feel nuanced and authentic, but I’m not holding my breath.

Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder in Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

After this movie, the ALIEN franchise stalled out for 15 years before Ridley Scott returned with Prometheus in 2012, which is a prequel to the first movie. So I’m also anticipating this movie having at least a decent sense of closure, since I feel like if this one was left open-ended, the current state of the ALIEN series would be sequels, not prequels.

Then again, maybe this one is just so bad that it’s better to pretend it doesn’t exist than build off its ending, even if it is left open. Or maybe Ridley Scott just desperately wanted to explore the backstory for his original movie, rather than play off of where other directors had taken the story since then. Maybe I know nothing whatsoever.

Let’s just watch the movie.

Watching the movie:

  • The HBO synopsis tells me that this is 200 years after Ripley’s death (nailed it) and that she’s an alien/human HYBRID clone??? I guessed the clone part but tooooootally not the hybrid part. Color me intrigued.
  • These opening credits are kind of grotesque.
  • “Written by Joss Whedon”??? Okay, if I had realized that, I would’ve made a LOT more predictions.

Why are they all just… staring at her? Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

  • How… did they possibly clone her with the alien still inside? Did the alien somehow alter her DNA when it infected her? This feels like quite a revolutionary development in how we understand what the aliens do to humans. Did The Company acquire that piece of the puzzle from the cryopod scan Ripley did of herself in the third movie?
  • Instead of having her in too-small or nonexistent underthings, she starts this movie out just… naked. *eternal sigh*
  • I have a very hard time taking Dan Hadaya seriously after Joe vs. the Volcano.
  • So if I’m following this correctly, they brought her back solely to get at the alien inside her, and only kept Ripley around because she happened to survive the extraction procedure. But now that they know she may have kept her memories, they’re considering killing her off, because Ripley herself was only ever just a vessel to The Company. Right?
  • Oh HERE is where we find out that the alien inside her was a queen. I was told this after the third movie and wondered if I had missed it, but it was definitely played as a reveal in this scene.
  • The Company… wants… to tame… the xenomorphs. Uh, okay.
  • “I am Father,” says the computer, because apparently “Mother” in the first movie was… married?
  • Oh look, a motley crew of space explorers on a dilapidated ship. Joss must have already been bitten by the Firefly bug.
  • I’m just going to refer to the ship’s captain as Rochefort, since that’s who he was in The Three Musketeers (“Isn’t that a smelly kind of cheese?”), and I doubt I’ll ever learn his name in this.

Michael Wincott in Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

  • Ewwwwwwww so The Company is just buying/stealing people to infect with alien eggs now, gross.
  • This whole seductive-keep-away thing Ripley is doing with the basketball is… so not her. Obviously the alien DNA has given her faster reflexes and a heightened sense of aggression (and, oh hey, ACID BLOOD) but… I’m just not sure the seductive piece fits. It feels very shoehorned in, like Ridley Scott saw Sigourney Weaver play possessed in Ghostbusters and decided to just do the same thing here, whether or not it actually makes sense for the circumstances.
  • Gratuitous butt shot of this woman who’s so far only been shown playfully smirking while men make suggestive comments to/about her. I’m willing to bet money that that shot of her receiving a foot massage in a thong has absolutely no bearing on the larger plot, and is in here solely for leering purposes. Ugh.
  • Why does this guy look like he wants to make out with the xenomorph queen? Wait, now he’s kissing the glass. He actually does want to make out with her. Ew.
  • Why is Winona wearing boxing gloves to drink her coffee? That’s not a thing a normal person does, Winona. She must be a robot. (I’m kind of kidding, but then again, someone is always a robot in these movies, so it might as well be her.)
  • Ripley, I feel like you could’ve made your point without needlessly stabbing yourself in the hand.
  • Winona, who are you, some sort of rebel secret agent?
  • HAHAHA that intentional ricochet shot was just too much.

Gary Dourdan in Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

  • Oh man, the xenomorphs metaphorically drawing straws to determine which one of them gets torn apart so the others can escape is BONKERS. They’re definitely acting differently here than in the previous movies, and I’m wondering if the cloning process didn’t only give Ripley a few xenomorph qualities, but also gave them some of Ripley’s? They’re definitely upping their problem-solving game here, which would make sense if they inherited some of Ripley’s intelligence and awareness, as Ripley has always been a champion problem-solver.
  • Wants-To-Kiss-A-Xenomorph just stuck his face in the acid hole and got snatched by aliens, which seems appropriate.
  • The alien PUSHED THE LIQUID NITROGEN BUTTON, which seems like a very human (*coughRipleycough*) thing to do.
  • Ripley’s just tearing apart her metal cell with her bare hands, as one does.
  • Oh no, this guy is shooting an alien directly above him through a grate, dude, they have ACID BLOOD, if you blow it up, it’s going to rain acid blood ON YOUR FACE.
  • Nothing like watching a guy reach around the back of his head, pull out his own cerebellum, and look at it.
  • Why are all the spaceships of the future like 85% metal grates?
  • There goes Rochefort. The xenomorphs in this movie are way more haunted-house-nightmare-monster than in previous movies. But again, these were synthesized via Ripley clone, as opposed to the way they naturally reproduce, so assuming my theory about them inheriting some more human qualities is correct, I buy it.

Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

  • I find this desire to kill the military doctor they’re holding hostage extremely shortsighted considering how many xenomorphs are on this ship. Yeah, see, Dreadlocks gets it. They need every capable human they can get.
  • Ripley offering sexual favors in exchange for transport off the ship is SO. UNNECESSARY. Out of character for her, out of character for the entire franchise. Come ON, Joss.
  • EW EW EW THE MUSEUM OF FAILED RIPLEY CLONES. So THIS is what the opening credits sequence was. THIS IS SO GROSS.
  • Ripley you HAVE A KNIFE. AND A GUN. AND ACID BLOOD. AND SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH. Why did you light that poor mangled clone on FIRE to put her out of her misery????
  • Although I don’t blame her at all for destroying this hall of monstrosities.

Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

  • “Must be a chick thing.” I could really do without the constant sexist dismissiveness from Ron Perlman’s character, but if he’s going to keep making these sorts of remarks, I hope that at the very least, it gets addressed at some point. (Spoiler: it doesn’t.)
  • Man, poor Dr. Dubenko from ER, waking up from cryosleep with an alien inside him. Worst nap ever.
  • Why is Ripley gulping water like a fish, that is not how you swim.
  • This poor woman, she did not want to take this swim in the first place and now she’s xenomorph food.

Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

  • Dreadlocks and his ricocheting bullets, AGAIN. It’s like some sort of superpower. I think I’m just going to call him Ricochet from now on.
  • WHAT
  • Military Doctor Guy just shot Winona for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON.
  • The CGI is much better in this movie than in the last one.
  • Oh nooooooo Ricochet, acid blood to the face, oh nooooooo
  • Ron Perlman, this is a ridiculously theatrical way of shooting the alien.
  • SHE’S A ROBOT, I KNEW IT. (I didn’t, I was just guessing, but it was a good guess.)
  • Ripley, did you really have to reach INSIDE the gaping hole in her chest to verify that she’s a robot?
  • I like that the evolution of the androids in this franchise is basically the opposite of the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica. As they gained sentience, instead of getting more ruthless, they became more humane.
  • I still have absolutely no idea what this military doctor’s endgame is. I’m not sure he knows. His chances of getting off this ship alive seemed much higher as part of the group, and he could’ve figured out how to get away from them after they’d neutralized the xenomorph threat. This whole layer of conflict just feels very manufactured.
  • Ripley just got pulled down onto a pulsating bed of… Devil’s Snare? (j/k, I know it’s the queen, although not at ALL how the queen looked in Aliens.)
  • They’re… cuddling. Uh.
  • This is so weird.
  • Oh. The doctor is on the ship. Again, this whole thing just feels so unnecessary, considering they were already going to take him with them on the ship before he betrayed them, as evidenced by the other soldier who’s still on their side.

Ron Perlman and Raymond Cruz in Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

  • Here’s betting the alien is going to burst out of Dubenko’s chest while they’re all squabbling.
  • Yup, here we go.
  • Dubenko seemed to have way more time between when the alien eruption began and when it ended than the guy did in the first movie. Also I’m pretty sure they never actually told him in graphic detail what happens when a xenomorph erupts out of your body, but he sure did know exactly where to position the doctor’s face so that the baby xenomorph went RIGHT THROUGH IT.
  • Oh, Wants-To-Make-Out-With-An-Alien is still alive-ish. What… does he mean by “she’s giving birth to you”… is Ripley going to have to fight a dark version of herself like in Superman IV?
  • Okay, no, not that, but somehow the queen is birthing fully grown aliens that are… human/alien hybrids too? Its face looks like a human skull. And… it killed the queen. And is licking Ripley’s face.

Sigourney Weaver in Alien: Resurrection (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

  • I’m so confused.
  • “You’re beautiful butterfly.” Something is very wrong with this guy. Even more so now that he just had the top of his head bitten off.
  • Guys. Every time a door isn’t closed all the way in this franchise it is NEVER a mechanical failure and is ALWAYS an alien.
  • Ew it just squished that poor soldier’s head like a ripe peach.
  • These movies are definitely getting grosser as they go on.
  • Ripley’s staring at the window. She’s totally going to send the skull alien out into space. Because this is the main way Ripley kills aliens. (This was one of the few good things about Alien³ — no option to kill the aliens using the vacuum of space, so they had to get creative.)
  • Oh. And it’s going to get sucked out that window in the most disgusting way imaginable, apparently.
  • That is some really strong space glass.
  • Is anyone concerned about the GIGANTIC explosion that occurred when the main ship crashed into Earth? I know the goal was to destroy all the xenomorphs by destroying the ship, but didn’t they also just blow a massive hole in the Earth’s surface? Or did it burn up in the atmosphere?
  • It is… very implausible to me that this ship they’re all on did not get torn apart when it entered Earth’s atmosphere, or that Winona and Ripley managed to weather reentry unscathed in a room with an OPEN WINDOW, but okay.
  • And now it’s OVER, and I still have so many questions. But the only movies left are prequels. Make more sequels, someone. And by “someone,” I mean a woman this time, please and thank you.

Closing thoughts:

That was definitely better than Alien³, but not much better. I wasn’t thrilled with what they did with Ripley (the Joss hand in her characterization felt very noticeable), but I liked that we finally got another female character who wasn’t infuriatingly useless, and I liked the hints of how the androids have evolved as a… species?

(Is it a species if it’s a mechanical life form? And if not, what do I call them as a collective entity? Model? Version? Ugh, nothing sounds right.)

Anyway. While Resurrection was mostly entertaining, it’s definitely beginning to feel like the franchise is spinning its wheels and is having trouble coming up with new ideas, which is, honestly, kind of baffling to me. Thus far, the ALIEN series has only explored the tiniest corner of both The Company and the androids, and both are subjects really rife with possibility. And yet, four movies in, The Company continues to remain shadowy background villains, while the bulk of the narrative tension comes from jump scares and moment-to-moment situational difficulties. Resurrection put more focus on The Company than in previous movies, but we still don’t really know anything about them beyond them being some sort of massive corporation that is only concerned with the bottom line, and cares nothing for the lives of its employees.

While I think that works for one or two movies, by the time we get to four, I need more than just “evil corporate overlords” to keep me invested. This is sci-fi, and as such, it’s missing a prime opportunity to explore a deeper, human question through its extraordinary circumstances. You’ve got androids, a female protagonist, and giant faceless corporations, yet you’re not using your premise to say anything about the dehumanization of the working class, or gender parity in male-dominated fields, or the moral cost of capitalist advancement, or… anything, really. I’m not suggesting that the ALIEN franchise should stop being primarily monster movies in space; just that it could so easily be more than that.

Since we’re clearly not going to get that in the future timeline, at least not anytime soon, I’m hoping that that’s where Ridley Scott takes the prequels. The first two movies were scary, thrilling, and revolutionary for their time, but to spin an original concept into a decades-spanning franchise, there needs to be more reason to keep this story going than just recycling the same gimmicks over and over. It doesn’t feel fresh or innovative anymore; it just feels tired.

Anyway, up next is Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, so I guess we’ll see if he agrees with me.

5 thoughts on “Lauren (finally) watches: ALIEN: RESURRECTION

  1. Ok Lauren, I’ve mostly missed out on your movie reviews despite seeing them on twitter always, maybe thinking it was all superheros about which I dgaf. But I’m into this. We’re the same age and probably grew up with very similar media diets, but I was also completely in the dark about any and all Aliens until recently. Now you’ve got me thinking I should catch up on these as well. Mostly you got me creeping around hoping to find that you’d reviewed Ex Machina. Just found that you gave it 5 stars on that other site, but didn’t review…I’ve always thought that movie had a much bigger feminist message / meta critique that I’ve never managed to find a woman-authored take on to either validate or confirm that I was just duped by fembots. In conclusion, are there any women film critics/writers you specifically follow?

    • Hey Clay! I loved Ex Machina, but wasn’t really writing about movies back then. Maybe I should go back sometime and revisit it so I can write about it (I’m curious how I’d view it today anyway, as my mindset shifted in the past few years.) As far as female critics, I love Alissa Wilkinson, now at Vox, formerly of Christianity Today, although I can’t find any pieces by her specifically on Ex Machina. However, I did find a few women-authored takes on that film, and specifically how it engages with gender, from various other sites:

      How Ex Machina Fails to be Radical
      Ex Machina: A (White) Feminist Parable for Our Time

      Anyway, glad to know someone out there is enjoying the ALIEN commentary! I’ve been considering whether I should keep this thing going with other older classics I’ve never seen before, because there’s a surprising number of them.

      • This is fantastic, thanks!
        Micheline took away exactly what I assumed the director was intending. And Wilson had the reaction I was afraid many women in the audience might have shared.
        Two of the other writers also reference Spike Jonze’s “Her.” I’ve always thought the only explanation was that movie and Ex Machina are both the result of the same homework assignment in some bizarro filmmaking class where both directors were enrolled. These essays are implying that “Her” had less interesting to say about gender, next I’m searching if they had any longer pieces on that film.

        • Ok so I finally saw Annihilation since you reminded me (or maybe I never knew) it’s the Ex Machina guy. I think that if it didn’t give me more reason to keep thinking about Ex Machina, I wouldn’t have liked it at all. Ex Machina I’ve been obsessing over since my last post, rewatched, read more, and now it’s officially on my short list of favorites.
          Annihilation didn’t leave me with as many ideas to obsess over. Although your review on that other site helped me see how it can also be read as meta commentary on women in film (and art, and science). Or maybe it was just an allegory for infidelity? Or for terminal illness? Or just too many things?
          Anyway, this has been my contribution to your discussion of Alien Resurrection. Peace.

          • Annihilation is deeeeeeply weird, and I don’t blame anyone for not loving it, but I definitely felt like it gave me plenty to chew on afterward. I’m really curious about Garland’s new series. I have no idea what to expect quality-wise, but at the very least, I feel like it will provide some serious food for thought.

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