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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 7/31/99



Alien Resurrection
The Alien Legacy Collection - 1997 (1999) - 20th Century Fox

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

THX-certifiedEnhanced for 16x9 TVs

Alien Resurrection
The Alien Legacy 20th Anniversary Edition
Film Rating: D+
Boy... I hate to say it, but the Alien franchise has really hit the skids. Alien Resurrection steals elements from all of the previous films in the series, and comes off stale and mostly lifeless (with a few exceptions). Given the chance to start fresh, 200 years after Alien 3, this film should have been a lot better.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A-/B-
Fairly good anamorphic widescreen picture, but somewhat lacking in detail (it's a bit soft), excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, and a light smattering of extras.

Overall Rating: C+
It's not a horrible movie, and if you lower your expectations somewhat, you'll probably enjoy it. I did find some interesting new ideas at play here, but the film wasn't at all scary. If you pick up the Alien Legacy box set, you'll be glad to have this film, but I don't know if I would buy it on its own.

Specs and Features

108 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch in chapter 15, at 58:12), Amaray keep case packaging, 4-minute featurette, 4 theatrical trailers (1 for each film in the series), THX certified, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound effects, scene access (27 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and English & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & Spanish, Close Captioned

Review

"Witness the resurrection..."

I wish wholeheartedly that Alien Resurrection had lived up to its name, and actually breathed some new life into this franchise. Sadly, however, I saw this coming. About a year prior to the film's release, I was given a copy of the script to read, and I was really disappointed. It was almost as if the screenwriter (Josh Whedon) thought to himself said, "Hmmm... what did people like about each of the other films?Alien had characters trapped on a spaceship, Aliens upped the ante with rowdy Marines and lots of aliens, and Alien 3 introduced some new biology to the creature. I wonder if I can write all that into my script...?" The result was a tired retread, which broke little new ground, and failed completely to be scary.

Here's the plot in a nutshell. Some 200 years after the events in Alien 3, we learn that United Systems Military scientists (the infamous "Company" from the earlier films no longer exists) have taken samples of DNA from Fiorina 161, and have cloned Ellen Ripley, in an effort to also clone the alien queen she carried inside her. After several unsuccessful attempts, these scientists (aboard the military space ship Auriga) manage to do exactly that, and remove the alien embryo from its host, to breed it. Meanwhile, a motley band of smugglers arrives at the Auriga with a very special cargo. The head of the experiment, General Perez (played by Dan Hedaya - no I'm not kidding) has hired the smugglers to hijack a spacecraft, and steal its crew, which is frozen in stasis, to be used as hosts for the alien.

Still with me? So on board the good ship Auriga now, we've got aliens breeding like crazy (under controlled conditions, of course), a motley band of gun-toting smugglers, lots of military types, and one Ellen Ripley clone, who isn't quite human. You see, when they cloned her, somehow her DNA got mixed up with the alien's DNA, so she's got acid for blood, super-strength, and she can sense the aliens from a distance. And the aliens got some of Ripley's DNA too, so they're getting smarter - smart enough, naturally, to get loose, and start killing everyone in sight. Sound familiar? What happens next, is that all hell breaks loose, the military types abandon ship, and the smugglers (along with Ripley) have to fight their way through the alien-infested Auriga, to get back to their own ship and escape. But there's a hitch - the Auriga gets damaged, and is headed back to Earth on automatic pilot (where it will land, teaming with aliens itching to wreak havoc on humanity).

As directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Alien Resurrection has far too many plot holes and overly-large logic leaps. Suffice it to say that several story elements are hard to believe. Remember how the crew in Alien couldn't kill the creature for fear that its acid blood would eat through the ship's hull. Well that doesn't seem to be a problem anymore here (despite the fact that they're on a ship again), although the acid-for-blood thing does come up when it looks good on-screen. And I'm to believe that the scientists clone Ripley... to also clone the alien inside her? Huh? It doesn't work like that - if they found Ripley's DNA, that's all they should be able to clone... Ripley. If they wanted the alien, why not just find some alien DNA. I mean, heck... if they were able to find Ripley's that shouldn't be a problem, right? And am I the only one who wonders how many millions were killed on Earth, by that explosion at the end? I won't say the cause, for fear of giving away the end, but come on!

At least you can say that Alien Resurrection boasts an interesting cast. Along with Sigourney Weaver, along for the ride this time are the aforementioned Dan Hedaya, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Michael Wincott, Raymond Cruz, and Brad Dourif. I actually found the whole subplot revolving around Ryder's character (Call) fairly interesting, and I would have liked to see it explored more fully. Dourif is terrific as always (film fans may remember him from Dune and an episode of The X-Files), but he's largely wasted here. His part goes by much too quickly. And Dan Hedaya as a military General? I kept expecting him to crack jokes - he's just too goofy.

And is it just me, or do the creature effects really kinda suck in this flick? Actually, the special effects in general are lame, but the aliens here look especially... well, bad. What's with all that slime anyway? It's practically pouring off the darned bugs. And I'm sorry, that newborn alien at the end of the film just looks stupid. I'll give the effects guys some credit - the CG aliens are not bad at all. I kinda liked the whole aliens-under-water bit. But why do the production designers keep feeling the need to evolve the aliens more with each film? H.R. Giger created the scariest alien ever to grace the screen for the original film, and I dig the Queen from Aliens. But that's enough - if you can't make a scary movie with that creature, what's the world coming to? We don't need acid spitting, we don't need dog-aliens, or intelligent people-aliens... it's just too much.

As for the quality of the disc, Alien Resurrection delivers. The anamorphic widescreen picture is generally very good, with excellent contrast. The blacks are solid, and the color is right on target, if a bit muted. That's just how this film was shot - lots of dark earth and metallic shades (Flash Gordon this ain't). The only real problem I have with the video quality, is that it comes off a bit soft-looking, and somewhat lacking in crisp detail. At first I thought it might be just my Sony 7700 player, but it looked that way on the Pioneer 414 too. I suspect this to be a print issue. It's not bad, but this isn't reference quality. As for the audio, well... that IS near reference quality. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is excellent, with great dynamic range, and deep bass. The sound stage is wide and deep - it's a very acoustic mix, with the rear channels helping to place you in a three-dimensional soundfield. There are lots of cavernous chambers and long corridors, and you'll hear the sound echoing all around (not to mention that creepy alien hiss...). Dialogue and music presentation is also excellent.

The extras leave something to be desired - all you get are the theatrical trailers for each of the movies in the series, and a featurette. The featurette would actually be cool... if it were longer than 4 minutes. When you read that text on the back of the case that says, "Interviews With Cast And Crew," be aware that each person gets about 5 seconds to speak their mind. Disappointing. Ah well, at least the menus are kinda cool.

Bottom line

As hard as this is to admit, I think there's only two things that can save the Alien franchise at this point: Ridley Scott and/or Alien vs. Predator. Come on - you know either would be extremely cool. Scott could return the series to its roots, and Alien vs. Predator would be just too damn cool - have you played the video game that's out right now? Freaky. There's no one who would love to see a good scary Alien movie more than me, but sadly, there hasn't been one since Cameron's turn at the helm. Good heart-in-your-throat thrills are what these movies are all about. I hope somebody at Fox and Brandywine figures that out soon, or Alien 5 may be Alien: The End.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


Alien Resurrection


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