Film Corner: Alien Resurrection

Alien Resurrection

Alright, it's Alien 4 aka Resurrection aka Joss Whedon Has Issues time. Get yer popcorn. I'm going to state that I actually like this movie, but I can't stand Joss Whedon so it's going to be a complicated live tweet, lolsob.

We open with naked child-Ripley in a tube that then morphs into naked adult-Ripley in a tube. On an operating table, doctors extract the chestburster from her and decide to sew Ripley back up. Weirdly, there's a little umbilical cord they have to cut, which you'd think might be acidic, but apparently not. But, look, this movie is going to be about PREGNANCY and MOTHERHOOD and not about science, so we might as well resign ourselves to some inaccuracies now.

Ripley actually wakes during the procedure and grabs the hand of the doctor and twists it. This is our first introduction to a "Ripley" that isn't who we remember. I do like this Ripley and the way Weaver plays her; she's continuing her path into nihilism.

Alone in confinement, she notices a tattoo that says "8". They call her that, too: Number 8. While under examination, she attacks a doctor and tries to kill him. They have to shock her to save him. She regresses to "little girl" motions, twisting childishly in chairs and tilting her head at people. There's some gibberish as to why she has fragmented memories; we get an emotional reaction from her when she's shown a little girl who looks a little like Newt.

In the mess hall, Ripley warns the scientist that the alien is a queen. "She'll breed. You'll die. Everyone in the company will die." There's a joke that Weyland-Yutani was bought out by Wal-mart. I don't know if I like that angle; on the one hand, the later movies (*looks at Prometheus*) get a little silly about Weyland-Yutani being the source of all evil in the world. It makes sense to have a new antagonist that just... exists. Because mankind seeks to destroy itself. On the other hand, if Weyland-Yutani really is gone then that's a bit of an "end of an era" feeling.

Either way, we have a new theme that mankind meddles as a feature of the species rather than because of rampant capitalism. I preferred the capitalism angle. (Then again, there does come a natural point where audiences were questioning how Weyland-Yutani was justifying all this to the board of directors.) The scientist tells her that the creature will be useful once it has been tamed. "You can't teach it tricks," Ripley warns. "Why not?" he asks. "We're teaching *you*."

A proto-Firefly team (thank you @ScottMadin) approaches the facility. It's full of morally questionable characters, Winona Ryder, and a man who sexually harasses her on the job but it's supposed to be okay because he's disabled. (It's not okay.) The crew board the scientist vessel--which seems a strange fit for such an obvious outside-the-law sort of gang--and are searched for weapons. (We will later see that the wheelchair is used to smuggle in weapons, which is one of my least favorite tropes because it leads to ableds treating mobility devices with suspicion.)

It's not really well explained why a cargo of disposable people are "hard to come by", nor why the military would need to pay Firefly smugglers to bring them people, nor why they would need to pay exorbitant amounts, but apparently the future has fewer missing persons? It would work better, I think, if the scientists wanted a very specific type of person (O-negative blood or something) and couldn't just requisition 8 drifters for egg-implantation.

Anyway, the "cargo" wake up just in time to see the eggs opening and I'm left wondering why they were allowed to wake up at all. Maybe the facehuggers require a conscious host? Would explain why Ripley and Newt weren't implanted in their sleep, but would be a problem for A3.

Ron Perlman aka Proto Jayne tries to flirt with Ripley by playing basketball with her, but she turns violent and this crew of violent murderers seems to take exception to that, which seems a wee bit hypocritical. God, I would happily watch 2 hours of just Sigourney Weaver beating up men. This is the future liberals want, etc. Anyway, sorry, the scientists are very proud of the fact that Ripley can beat up a man with a basketball. She wipes away a nosebleed and it acid-burns the floor.

Here follows the sexiest movie scene ever and it involves a foot massage. Damn, I could go for a foot massage.

@seandehey. sorry if spammy i l o v e this movie. if you havent seen ron perlman's reaction to sigourney weaver nailing that trick shot, here it is.

Yes, this is beautiful.

While the Firefly crew enjoys their downtime, we see how the scientists keep the aliens in line: they have weaponized cryo freeze gas. Really, that's how you think this is going to work, scientists? This isn't just hubris; it's outright bad animal training! They don't have any treat-reinforcement for behavior they want to encourage, they just have punishment!

Winona gets drunk and stumbles around the ship only it's a RUSE because she wants in Ripley's room. Some stolen biometrics later and she's in Ripley's chamber with a knife. She's horrified to learn that the queen isn't inside Ripley anymore. "Ellen Ripley dies 200 years ago," Call tells her sadly. "You're not her." Ripley's face falls as she absorbs what she already knew.

Ripley warns that they're looking for Call. She leaves and is caught by guards; the Firefly crew is rounded up for execution. The Firefly crew quickly demonstrate that they're more capable and trained than the military. It really is funny how much this crew just IS Firefly but with different actors and a very few changes in role assignments. Whedon really loves the idea that experience makes a crew more deadly than training, and they go overboard here to the point where they can calculate bullet ricochet angles with deadly accuracy. I'd like this better if they didn't turn instantly useless when the horror starts.

The aliens take advantage of the distraction to kill one of their own (why were they housed together?) and the massive outpouring of acid instantly eats through the deck. They *knew* the aliens bleed acid, and they're IN SPACE. They don't have a way to neutralize the acid quickly in case of an accidental bleed out? Forget tactical suicide, what if one of them was sick? Injured? YOU'RE IN SPACE. If a single alien had a vomiting fit, they'd instantly breach the hull and everyone would die. These people are not qualified to run a bath.

The Firefly crew decide, wisely, to evacuate while all the soldiers die. Proto Malcolm Reynolds is picked off first, the aliens laying a clever trap for him by leaving a gun to tempt him. Ripley then uses the dead body as a trap to shoot the alien, which now does not seem to have any acid in him at all. This movie is not about scientific consistency! It is about FIREFLY and MOTHERHOOD. Ripley and Call can magically tell that the ship is moving even though that should be impossible. The ship is programmed to return to earth in case of emergency. What a great protocol!

Ripley and Jayne have a great conversation. "I heard you ran into these things before. What did you do?" / "I died."

Passing a suspicious room, Ripley investigates to find other versions of herself; some in terrible pain. A Ripley on a table begs for release. "Kill me." Crying, Ripley complies. This arc, at least, is revisited: that death can be a release. Though I remember liking Resurrection in the past, it must be said that it is paced very badly. After Suspicious Room #1 we come to Suspicious Room #2, where an infected survivor is located. He's confused and unaware; he was in cryo on his way to a job.

Honestly, god bless Weaver for her acting skills; she's really carrying this one on her shoulders.

Having done several rooms with talking, it's time to start picking people off as rapidly as possible. The crew has to swim through a flooded corridor because "the cooling tanks" have enough liquid to flood an entire ship level. Sure. I feel like here is where you could explore how *unlikely* it is that probably-space-born space-hoppers would even know how to swim, let alone be as good at it as they are here. The aliens swim excellently, though, so that's nice; I like when they're allowed to be elegant.

The aliens have booby-trapped the other end of the pool with membrane and eggs, which is an unexpectedly tactical deployment of the facehugger concept. Not sure how I feel about the trap; seems like if the facehugger gets you while you're swimming, you sink and die. Even if it keeps you alive by turning water into oxygen to pump down your throat, it dies and falls off and THEN you drown.

The wheelchair user had to abandon his chair before the pool--a plot point that I have never liked--and he is now dead weight to slow the guy carrying him. I really hate that so much. Anyway, the Evil Scientist shoots Call and she falls into the pool. Despite never having evidenced this ability before that I can remember, the aliens can spit acid. Christie unlatches himself from Vriess and falls to his death after being acided. This is the death I hate the most, I think. I liked Christie.

They're trapped but the door opens and a wounded Call is on the other side. She lives! Ripley gives her a Look. She's an android. "I should've known. No human being is that humane." It's a neat little full circle that Ripley has come, from fearing androids to considering them an improvement over humanity. Ripley instantly becomes protective and maternal because there was an existing theme of motherhood in these movies and we're going to run with it, dammit.

"I can't make critical mass. I can't blow it." / "Then crash it."  Ripley, both you AND the alien survived the last crash. This seems like a bad idea. Why not just turn it around? You're not caught in a gravity well or anything! You just need to override the GPS. (You can see why the fanbase has basically declared the entire movie off-canon.)

Ripley and Call talk about nihilism. Ripley asks why Call cares. "Because I'm programmed to," she says tearfully. It's a shame the movie isn't better, because the scene has a lot of potential for exploring why we keep trying when times are hard. Like, Ripley really is an amazing case study. She keeps going despite the fact that her life is a nightmare of horrors that never end. Why? What motivates her? She's cycled from wanting to protect people to raw survival instinct.

Then MOTHERHOOD kicks in and Ripley feels sorrow for the nearby queen, who is in pain. Why? I honestly do not know except that Whedon has fucked up ideas about what MOTHERHOOD does to women? I mean, I guess you could handwave that this experience has made Ripley lose any real distinction between "human girl" in need of protection and "alien queen" in need of protection, but if that's the case then she's kinda lost the one defining thing that made her Ripley. Her whole thing isn't just "protect weak things", it's been "protect them FROM the aliens". But something something MOTHERHOOD and womanly hormones. That's SCIENCE.

Evil Scientist and Infected Victim take each other out in a rapid thinning of the cast.

Back at the alien nest, a scientist explains that just as the alien biology changed Ripley, so too did Ripley change the queen: she's got a human womb now and instead of eggs she's giving vaginal birth. MOTHERHOOD. (I blame Joss Whedon for this.) Hybrid Alien is born and kills the queen because she doesn't smell like mommy. That's gratitude for you, isn't it, ladies. Amiright? Motherhood, etc. Ripley does smell like mommy, but she has apparently gotten over whatever made her feel sympathy for the aliens and she makes a strategic decision to get the fuck out of Dodge.

The Firefly crew seems very confused about flying their own ship, and I understand that they're down several crew members but I feel like you'd train everyone in basic procedures like "how to take off". Despite dying 200 years ago, Ripley decides to fly the machine. "This piece of shit is even older than I am." It's silly but it's the kind of silly that I actually like, so I'll allow this silliness. (Science Fiction Writers Have No Sense of Scale, though, seriously. 200 years ago we were riding around in buggies.)

The Hybrid is on the ship (no, it makes no sense) and he closes the hatch so they can take off (that makes no sense either) and now he's chasing Call (which makes the least amount of sense) but just go with it, okay, because the ABORTION METAPHOR is coming. Apparently flying is no longer really important because Ripley runs off to go find Call, only to find that the Hybrid is on-board and trying to fondle Call to death. "Put it down!" Ripley orders, and the Hybrid does so. (Jayne takes the wheel back in the cockpit.) You see, he instinctively obeys her because MOTHERHOOD. Science.

Ripley flicks a drop of her own blood on a nearby window so that the acid will make a hole, and the Hybrid goes ripping out through the hole in an abortion metaphor that angered at least one conservative Christian blog I read one day while I was bored. I'm not even joking. Ripley feels sorrow as the Hybrid dies because MOTHERHOOD means that aborting the alien baby who would definitely kill you makes you a hormonal weepy mess. I want to know why the buckets of acidic blood he's hemorrhaging aren't widening that hole.

Anyway, that was Alien Resurrection. Is it a good movie to eat popcorn to? Yes, sure. Is it the weakest of the original Alien Quadrology? Yes, my god. My ranking of films so far:
- Aliens
- Alien
- Alien 3
- Alien Resurrection

If I have a beef with Resurrection, and I do, it's that the themes of motherhood were grossly mishandled. Ripley 1-3 loves and protects the weak because of her humanity, not because estrogen made her weepy. It reminds me a little of a similar mis-step they made with that awful Metroid reboot, actually. The only thing that really saves Resurrection from the dustbin is that there are some genuinely good quips--mostly given to Weaver and Perlman, as goddess intended--and the Firefly crew trope is inherently interesting because pirates are cool.

Several of you have asked if I'll keep going. The answer is yes, but not tonight.  I will probably do Prometheus and Covenant next, but I also want to get in the first Predator v. Aliens (which was unexpectedly good for reasons I want to gush about) and maaaybe Predators.

I will add that in the Alien series books, Earth gets completely fucked up by aliens and I can see Resurrection wanting to tie in with that? Because I honestly can't think of any other good reason to CRASH the damn ship rather than just turn it around. Or fire on it. Like, you cannot convince me that a Firefly ship wouldn't have SOME kind of ship to ship weapon. Even if it's just the Guardian of the Galaxy solution of "open the bay door and fire with a regular gun".

Realistically, though, the ship should've been toast as soon as 1-5 gallons of alien blood were spilled in the initial alien escape. That should've eaten through the hull no matter how far away it was. But this was not about SCIENCE, it was about WOMB MAGIC.

I woke up this morning thinking how it's not the alien which causes Ripley to break down crying, it's the Company's betrayal and honestly that's a relatable mood. She gave her whole life to the Company and all she asked was that Weyland-Yutani be half as loyal to her as she was to them. But in the end, they were all "crew expendable". And it hurts her so much more than merely knowing monsters exist.


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