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'Alien Resurrection': Let sleeping giants lie

Alien November 20, 1997
Web posted at: 4:19 p.m. EST (2119 GMT)

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- This may be hard to imagine, but "Alien Resurrection," the latest installment in the continuing saga of Sigourney Weaver's extraterrestrially put-upon Lt. Ripley, makes the original "Alien" look positively quaint by comparison.

I clearly remember going to see that film on the night it came out in 1979. To this day it's one of my favorite movie-going experiences because my friends and I had no earthly idea what was coming, and, when it finally did come, it was un-earthly and really scared the holy hell out of us. That face-hugger that suddenly leaps up and attaches itself to John Hurt's kisser was a foul, dripping thing. People were shocked. They weren't applauding it, for God's sake.

Those days are over, of course. In "Alien Resurrection," most of the screen time is filled with churning blobs of vein-covered guts, heads getting bashed open, and people being sucked into massive piles of entrails. And lots of people in the theater when I watched it were hootin' and hollerin' like it was the second coming of Gypsy Rose Lee.

A lot has been made about how much money Weaver got to take part in this film (something like 190 gazillion dollars and part ownership of Guam), but she's not even the star anymore! It's the big, squealing guy in the gooey, multi-jawed monster suit. He's the one who bashes the skulls and sends brains flying everywhere! That's so cool! You can't help but wonder how this kind of thing and "Seinfeld" could be popular at the same time.

I really loved the first two "Alien" films, but the third one was a widely-acknowledged piece of space dung, so I'm not going out on a limb when I say that it was almost aggressively awful. Though you get far more Alien for your buck, "Alien Resurrection" is not a whole lot better, and may be the final notice that Monster-boy needs to be put out to stud. Wait a minute -- that's the plot!

You guessed it. Once again some government bad guys (led by Dan Hedaya, who sweats and has the hairiest shoulders I have ever seen) have decided that they need to keep the Aliens alive so that they can be cross-bred and ... eventually kill everyone on board the spacecraft, I guess. How can a society that nonchalantly travels across the galaxy be dumb enough to think that they need to nurture 12-foot-tall monsters that bleed acid and can jab their teeth through the side of a Winnebago? Personally, I'd break the lease if one of these things moved in next door, not mosey on over to convince it to have a baby.

Alien Resurrection
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For all I know, I've gotten the plot to this one wrong. So little happened for so long, and then so much gruesome-ness was jammed down my throat from there on out, I actually went numb. Winona Ryder (who I think is very cool, and, when I see her walking around my New York neighborhood, looks like a highly intelligent china doll) is on hand, and your guess is as good as mine as to exactly why. I know that Ryder is a fan of the first movie, and she wanted to appear with Sigourney Weaver for that reason, so I guess I'll forgive her. I do think, though, that she's too promising an actress to be running and swimming and jumping while being chased by a biologically-enhanced space Cuisinart. Dialogue like "AAAAIIIIEEEEAAAA," is not Sarah Bernhardt. As long as they're going for broke with the casting, I think the next one should star Katharine Hepburn.

Sigourney Weaver has got her monotone, cold Ripley-tone down to an art form, and she's pretty good. It takes a committed actress to actually seduce a space creature, but she does it in one scene and almost makes it believable. Almost. You see, Ripley, who killed herself in the last film (wise move) has now been re-created as a clone of herself! Isn't that convenient? She now understands how the Aliens think, how they reproduce, and, I suppose which ones like diet soda and which ones like regular. She just knows 'em, OK?

This is another big problem. Half the fun of the first two films was that the people who were battling those ornery critters really didn't have a clue as to how to proceed. It was a lot more nightmarish, especially since some of the characters displayed a believable personality that actually made you care whether or not they survived. Not here. Everybody is just walking around waiting to get masticated. Some of them have scars. Some of them are brave. Some of them are chicken. Eventually, though, nearly all of them become chicken dinners.

It's loud, it's bloody, it's redundant. Did I mention bloody? You also get to see an entire Alien sucked through a hole the size of a quarter, which is a pretty neat bar trick even though it took a couple million bucks to pull it off. In the next installment, a wino pokes an Alien egg into a Coke bottle and wins a free beer! Rated R. 97 minutes.

 
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