200 years after Ellen Ripley (Weaver) sacrificed her life, research scientists on board a military spaceship manage to clone her using recovered DNA fused with the alien queen that she was previously carrying inside her. Now endowed with extra physical abilities and a connection with the aliens, Ripley discovers that the scientists are breeding xenomorphs via humans in order to study them. After the aliens break out, Ripley and a team of mercenaries attempt to escape and destroy the ship before it reaches Earth…
Although David Fincher’s compromised Alien³ both disappointed fans and provided a conclusive ending to Ellen Ripley’s journey, it was enough of a ‘success’ (in terms of moolah) that studio bigwigs decided to carry on the franchise. Sadly though, despite a reasonably intriguing premise (Ripley has been cloned, scientists are breeding aliens through humans), the fourth instalment is the weakest instalment yet, replacing all the previous slow-build tension with a broader and more accessible adventure.
Primarily, the film’s main problem is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (in his only Hollywood foray) apparently wanted a dark horror, while screenwriter Joss Whedon penned a knowing, snarky-toned fanboy script (which he explained was handled wrongly) and the studio wanted a routine alien picture. Though easily the goriest episode in the series (see the ill-judged ‘sex scene’), the action and tone are punctured by jokes and wisecracks far too often, while Jeunet ruins the potential for mystery by frequently revealing his hand earlier than he should.
There are a few effective scenes (such as Ripley finding the aborted clones) and there’s a terrific underwater sequence which deserves to be in a much better movie, but it’s all light-years from Cameron’s still-superior Aliens. Transforming Ripley into an ambiguous, reptilian presence is interesting initially, but it leaves us without an anchor to consistently sympathise with. Worse still, Winona Ryder is miscast and unable to do anything with her character, while those who are a good fit (Ron Perlman, Michael Wincott) are wasted and the newborn alien crossbreed is a silly error in judgement.
Despite a reasonably intriguing premise, Alien Resurrection is the weakest instalment of the franchise as it doesn’t know what it wants to be.