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On the Road to Prometheus – Alien Resurrection (1997)

alien4 leg de3 - On the Road to Prometheus – Alien Resurrection (1997)

On the Road to Prometheus is a series of retrospectives on the Alien franchise, in anticipation for Prometheus, which arrives in theaters on June 8th.

With the debacle that was Alien 3 having changed the Alien canon so drastically, was there a salvageable story to be found? Could a fourth film be made at all, or was the series destined to forever be left in the rubbish bin?

20th Century Fox was still determined to make Alien a franchise, despite the lackluster reaction and performance of Alien 3, and just like they had done in that film, they insisted that Ripley must come back again for the ride. The series is, after all, just as much about her as about the aliens that the series was named after; her death at the end of the last film was just a minor setback. After some tinkering from the studio to get things off the ground, another totally unnecessary film was born.

Oh, but what a strangely thrilling film it was. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (The City of Lost Children, Amelie) was brought on-board to direct Alien Resurrection, with a script by mega-nerd Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers). Unlike the suffocating grip the studio had over the production of Alien 3, the higher ups must have realized that allowing creative teams to work their magic might actually be a good thing, encouraging Jeunet to infuse his unique visionary style and Whedon’s geeky compulsion to both remain faithful to the franchise as well as add his own scifi twists and turns. Jeunet told the studio he had no interest in making a normal scifi action flick, and their response was, “that’s exactly what we wanted to hear.”

It’s by no means a perfect film. The premise is silly: set 200 years after Alien 3, Ripley has been cloned by military scientists in order to extract the alien queen she had become impregnated with. Ripley finds herself part human, part alien; always the bad ass, now she has super powers and acid blood to boot, a natural progression, surely. The scientists, military personnel, and a group of mercenaries make up the cast of expendable bodies, as the ship hurdles towards earth and the potential for imminent destruction.

Alien Resurrection is incredibly dumb, set on autopilot, and despite a visual palette reminiscent of Fifth Element, doesn’t come close to matching the first two films in style. And yet, there’s something charming about its low aspirations. It’s a film that’s actually fun and has some genuine thrills, and doesn’t try to rise above that goal. Whereas the previous film tried to repeat the formula of the first film, Alien Resurrection wants to be the second film set on hyperspeed; action film stock characters, larger-than-life personalities, androids of questionable allegiance, and a screen full of aliens, big guns, and explosions. An alien gets sucked out of a hole in a space ship. What more could you want?

Score: 6.5 out of 10

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