Ah, the beloved Alien series. Over the last 30 something years, it has terrified us, excited us, made us laugh and made us cry (both with sadness and disappointment). As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of the series. In fact, 3 out of the 4 films made it on my list. Yep, you can probably guess which one I’m leaving out. To be honest, Alien 3 could have been something great; as a film on its own, it’s okay (see the Assembly Cut, it’s much better than the theatrical release) but I think it was a real blow to the series. Then this film came along and did a lot of good for the series.
The film is set 200 years after the end of Alien 3 (not to spoil the ending or anything but Ripley dies because she has an Alien Queen inside her) where a group of scientists have been trying to clone Ripley with the Queen’s embryo inside her in hopes of resurrecting the species. Their 8th attempt is indeed successful and the Queen is removed to start producing eggs. But the new Ripley clone shows some new abilities too – heightened senses, reflexes and her blood is slightly acidic as well. Meanwhile a tow ship brings a cargo of people aboard the vessel for the Aliens to breed from. If you can’t guess where the story goes next, you may be too dumb to live.
Believe it or not this film was written by Joss “Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly” Whedon. The last one is interesting, as he drew many ideas for that from his original script for this. He has spoken against the film, saying the filmmakers did everything wrong and the script was the only thing right. He originally wrote it as a camp parody but the director took it in a serious direction. You can get a hint of Whedon-ish dialogue with many of the wise cracks a few of the characters make. I actually see people on message boards complaining that the film is a black comedy. I’ve watched both versions of the film and it is most certainly not a comedy. It’s pretty much in the same genre as Aliens and it’s more about the survivors trying to escape from the ship as opposed to simply the characters vs the aliens.
Sigourney Weaver brings something new to the table playing the half human-half alien Ripley clone; it’s definitely interesting to watch her play Ripley, as she’s not the same Ripley from the last three films. She’s been written as someone who’s loyalty you really don’t know about. It’s hinted she might be loyal to the aliens (after all she is technically one of them now) but she also tries to get off the ship with the others. This one features a new ensemble cast that definitely does have hints of the Serenity crew in it. There’s even a man with a girl’s name – in this case it’s a badass dude with dreadlocks called Christie, who has guns attached to his arms. None other than Ron “Hellboy” Perlman has a prominent role as Johner who is basically Jayne Cobb only a bit more disturbed. Perlman is pretty entertaining here so if you’re a fan, definitely check this out. Our second action girl (this being written by Whedon you know there’s going to be more than one) is Winona Ryder who plays a “little girl playing pirates” as one of the other characters describes her. She fits in pretty well although her character curses a bit too much and it doesn’t sound natural coming from her. In other stars we might recognise it’s Brad “Chucky” Dourif playing a scientist and is involved in a hilarious scene where he mimics the aliens’ mouth movements. I’m not sure if that’s meant to be funny but that’s how it turned out anyway. Another dark horse in the cast is Raymond Cruz who plays a bit of a weapons nerd. I’m currently working on re-editing the ending so that his character survives.
This film has a nice little eerie feel to it that only the first film in the series also had. Even though it’s an action film, there is still that sense of dread that you got in the first film. Maybe it’s just a coincidence but both films were directed by Europeans. My favourite scene is definitely when the survivors have to cross the kitchen to get to the freight elevator. Only problem is, the kitchen is now completely flooded. The underwater scenes are brilliantly shot and pretty exciting to watch. Not to spoil how things turn out but it appears that the aliens can swim as well. Another excellent scene comes when Ripley discovers the seven failed attempts at cloning her in a lab – the gruesome creatures have to be seen to be believed. Indeed it’s that scene that convinced Sigourney Weaver to come back for this film. Then there are a couple of truly spectacular death scenes – the first comes from a general who gets the back of his head bitten off by an alien and ends up looking at chewed up pieces of his own flesh. The second is the final death of the newborn alien who gets sucked through a hole in one of the ship’s windows. There’s not much else to say about the action scenes except they’re all well done and suitable for the film. Then there’s another badass moment for Ron Perlman where he shoots aliens while hanging upside down from a ladder.
I don’t really have any outright complaints about the film except maybe all the lesbian subtext between Ripley and Call. It is Joss Whedon so that’s to be expected but it’s a little jarring for the Ripley we all know and love to start acting a little too touchy feely with the unfeminine person Winona Ryder is playing in this. But for the record, Weaver has said that she considers the relationship between Ripley and Call to be a mother-daughter one which just opens up a whole other level of weirdness. Then there’s the scene with the newborn alien being...well...born and it’s ruined slightly by Brad Dourif chewing the scenery, delivering the line “you are a beautiful butterfly” in a dramatic voice. And yeah I’m pissed that poor DiStephano got killed off.
Regarding the theatrical release and the extended edition, director Jean Pierre Jeunet has stated that the “director’s cut” is the original theatrical version and that the extended cut is just a little something extra for some fans. Having seen both of them, I prefer the theatrical release since it has a better ending and most of the scenes in the extended cut aren’t really necessary. Though there are a couple of nice scenes that could have made it to the theatrical cut; when the new Ripley clone is being shown pictures of things that she has to name, one of the scientists holds up a picture of a little girl who looks quite similar to Newt from Aliens and Ripley is noticeably affected. Then there’s a nice extended conversation between Ripley and Call in the chapel. And if you want DiStephano to get more lines, there’s a fun nerdy conversation between him and Christie about their weapons in the flooded kitchen.
So, I’m officially clocking ten days on my challenge and moving into the 80s with my next film. That’s a two-fer actually what with the next film being #89 and actually being made in the 1980s. I only just realised that, seriously. Until tomorrow, my friends, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.