- "Witness the resurrection."
- ―Alien Resurrection tagline
|Directed by||Jean-Pierre Jeunet|
|Produced by|| Bill Badalato|
|Written by|| Characters:|
|Starring|| Sigourney Weaver|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||November 26, 1997|
|Running time||109 min.|
Alien Resurrection is a 1997 science fiction film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and starring Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Michael Wincott and Brad Dourif. Written by Joss Whedon, the film deals with a clone of Ellen Ripley created on board the United Systems Military vessel USM Auriga, some 200 years after the events of the previous instalment Alien3, so that the Alien Queen that was gestating inside her at the time of her death can be surgically removed from her body. When the resultant Aliens escape their enclosures, Ripley and a group of mercenaries attempt to escape and destroy the Auriga before it reaches its destination — Earth.
Alien Resurrection was released on November 26, 1997 and received mixed reviews from film critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt "there is not a single shot in the movie to fill one with wonder", while Desson Thomson of The Washington Post said the film "satisfactorily recycles the great surprises that made the first movie so powerful".
In 2379, 200 years after the events of Alien3, military scientists on the deep space vessel Auriga successfully create a clone of Ellen Ripley, using DNA from blood samples taken before her death. They extract from her the embryo of an Alien Queen that had been growing inside her at the time of her death, and raise it to collect its eggs for further use. As an afterthought, the Ripley clone, marked by a number "8" lasered onto her arm, is kept alive for further study. As a result of her DNA being mixed with the Alien's during the cloning process, Ripley 8 develops enhanced strength and reflexes, acidic blood, and an empathic link with the Aliens, especially the Queen.
A group of mercenaries led by a man named Elgyn and his partner Hillard soon arrive in their ship, the Betty, delivering several kidnapped humans in stasis. The military scientists use them as hosts for the Aliens, raising several adult Aliens for study. The mercenaries encounter Ripley 8, and their youngest member, Call, recognizes her name. Call attempts to kill Ripley 8, fearing she will be used to create new Aliens, but Call is too late; the Aliens have already matured and quickly escape their confinement, damaging the ship and forcing most of the crew to abandon vessel, with many being killed in the process. Dr. Wren, one of the ship's scientists, reveals that the Auriga's default command in an emergency situation is to return to Earth. Realizing that this will unleash the Aliens on the planet, Ripley 8, the mercenaries, Wren, a marine named DiStephano and a surviving Alien host, Purvis, attempt to destroy the Auriga and escape on the Betty.
As the group makes their way through the damaged ship, Ripley 8 discovers the meaning of the number lasered on her arm when she stumbles across seven failed clones in the form of hideously malformed Alien/Ripley hybrids that are being stored on board, the seventh of which is still alive and begs to be killed. Ripley 8 complies, also destroying the other clones as well, before moving to execute Wren for his part in their creation, but ultimately she relents.
Eventually, Elgyn, Hillard and another mercenary crewmember, Christie, are killed by the Aliens. Call is shot by Wren when he betrays the group, but she quickly returns, revealing herself to be an android, one of the few to escape destruction following the passage of laws making them illegal. Using her abilities to interface with the damaged ship's systems, Call sets it on a collision course with Earth, hoping that the Aliens will be destroyed in the crash. As the remaining survivors near the Betty, Ripley 8 is captured by the Aliens. Taken to the the Queen's chamber, she learns that the Queen has gained a human ability from the mixing of their DNA as well: now possessing a womb, she can give birth to live offspring without the need for eggs and human hosts. The resulting offspring, which bears a mixture of human and Alien traits, recognizes Ripley 8 as its mother and brutally kills the Queen as Ripley escapes.
Wren arrives on board the Betty and makes one last attempt to betray the others and escape the ship, but he is killed when the Chestburster inside Purvis erupts through his head. The others decide Ripley is lost and prepare to leave, but Ripley 8 arrives just as they launch and successfully makes it aboard. However, the human/Alien hybrid also makes it onto the Betty, where it kills DiStephano and attacks Call. Ripley 8 confronts the creature, which is calmed by the appearance of its "mother", before killing it by using her own acidic blood to breach a window in the Betty's hull, causing the creature to be sucked violently through the small opening and into the vacuum of space. The Betty successfully enters Earth's atmosphere as the Auriga explodes over Africa, killing all of the remaining Aliens aboard.
- Ellen Ripley .... Sigourney Weaver
- Annalee Call .... Winona Ryder
- Vriess .... Dominique Pinon
- Johner .... Ron Perlman
- Christie .... Gary Dourdan
- Frank Elgyn .... Michael Wincott
- Sabra Hillard .... Kim Flowers
- Gen. Martin Perez .... Dan Hedaya
- Dr. Mason Wren .... J.E. Freeman
- Dr. Jonathan Gediman .... Brad Dourif
- Vincent Distephano .... Raymond Cruz
- Larry Purvis .... Leland Orser
- Carlyn Williamson (Anesthesiologist) .... Carolyn Campbell
- Scientist .... Marlene Bush
- Surgeon .... David St. James
- Soldier with glove .... Rodney Mitchell
- Soldier shot through helmet .... Robert Faltisco
- Frozen soldier .... David Rowe
- Voice of "Father" .... Steven Gilborn (voice)
Impressed with his work as a screenwriter, 20th Century Fox hired Joss Whedon to write the film's script. Whedon's initial screenplay had a third act on Earth, with a final battle for Earth itself. Whedon wrote five versions of the final act, none of which ended up in the film.
The studio initially imagined that the film would center around a clone of the character Newt from Aliens, as the Ellen Ripley character had died at the end of Alien3. Whedon composed a thirty-page treatment surrounding this idea before being informed that the studio, though impressed with his script, now intended to base the story on a clone of Ripley who they saw as the anchor of the series. Whedon had to rewrite the script in a way that would bring back the Ripley character, a task he found difficult. The idea of cloning was suggested by producers David Giler and Walter Hill, who opposed the production of Alien Resurrection as they thought it would ruin the franchise.
Sigourney Weaver, who had played Ripley throughout the series, wanted to liberate the character in Alien3 as she did not want Ripley to become "a figure of fun" who would continuously "wake up with monsters running around". The possibility of an Alien vs. Predator film was another reason for the character's death, as she thought the concept "sounded awful". However, Weaver was impressed with Whedon's script. She thought that the error during Ripley 8's cloning process would allow her to further explore the character, since Ripley becoming part human and part alien would create uncertainty about where her loyalties lay. This was an interesting concept to Weaver, who thought the film brought back the spirit of Alien and Aliens. Weaver received a co-producer's credit and was reportedly paid $11 million.
Direction and designEdit
Trainspotting director Danny Boyle was intended to direct the film. Boyle and his producer met with effects supervisors to discuss the film, although he was not interested in pursuing the project. Peter Jackson was also approached, but declined as he could not get excited about an Alien film. In 1995, after the release of The Usual Suspects, 20th Century Fox approached Bryan Singer to direct. Jean-Pierre Jeunet was ultimately asked to direct, as the film's producers believed he had a unique visual style. Jeunet had just completed the script to Amélie and was surprised he was offered the job for Alien Resurrection, as he thought the franchise had finished with Alien3 and believed that making a sequel was a bad idea. Jeunet, however, accepted the project with a budget of $70 million. He required a translator as he did not speak much English when filming began.
Jeunet hired French special effects supervisor Pitof and cinematographer Darius Khondji, both of whom he had worked with on The City of Lost Children. Jeunet and his crew watched the latest science fiction and the preceding Alien films as reference material, and obtained production reports from the Alien films to study the camera setups. Jeunet was given creative control, contributing several elements to the script including five different endings, although the more expensive ones were dismissed. He also opted to make the film a dark comedy and was encouraged to include more violence. In June 1996, conceptual artist Marc Caro had drawn rough sketches of characters' costumes, which were shown to veteran costume designer Bob Ringwood. Ringwood made several modifications for the final design.
Special effects company Amalgamated Dynamics Incorporated (ADI) was hired for the film, having previously worked on Alien3. ADI founders Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis also had experience working with Stan Winston on Aliens. ADI based their designs and modifications of the Alien creatures on the film's script, which included the creatures having pointed tails for swimming, making their head domes and chins more pointed, and establishing them to appear more vicious using techniques of camera angles and shot duration. After receiving the director's approval, ADI began to create small sculptures, sketches, paintings, and life-size models.
Jeunet asked ADI to lean towards making the human/Alien hybrid creature, dubbed the "Newborn", more human than Alien. An early concept was to replicate Sigourney Weaver's features, although the crew felt this design would be similar to the design of the creature Sil from the 1995 film Species. Eyes and a nose were added to the Newborn to allow it to have more expressions and communicate more emotion than the Aliens, so that it would have more depth as a character rather than being "just a killing machine". Jeunet was adamant about the hybrid having genitalia which resembled a mix of both male and female sexes. 20th Century Fox was uncomfortable with this, however, and even Jeunet eventually felt that "even for a Frenchman, it's too much". The genitalia were removed during post-production using digital effects techniques. The animatronic hybrid required nine puppeteers and was the most complex animatronic in the film.
Alien Resurrection was filmed at Fox studios in Los Angeles, California, from October 1996 to February 1997. Jeunet had difficulty securing studio space, as the filming of Hollywood blockbusters such as Titanic, Starship Troopers, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park were taking place at the same time. Alien Resurrection was the first instalment in the Alien series to be filmed outside of England, a decision made by Weaver, who believed that the previous films' travel schedules exhausted the crew.
The underwater scenes were the first to be shot, and for their filming Stage 16 at Fox Studios was reconstructed into a 36 by 45 meter tank, 4.5 meters deep, containing 548,000 gallons of water. The decision was made to convert the stage rather than film the scene elsewhere, since moving the film crew to the nearest adequate facility in San Diego would have been too costly for a single scene, and by converting Stage 16 20th Century Fox would be able to use the tank for future films. Because of the aquatic filming, the ability to swim was a prerequisite for cast and crew when signing onto the film. The cast trained in swimming pools in Los Angeles with professional divers to learn how to use the equipment. An additional two and a half weeks of training took place at the studio with stunt coordinator Ernie Orsatti and underwater cinematographer Peter Romano. Weaver, however, was unable to participate in most of the training due to commitments on Broadway. Winona Ryder faced a challenge with the scene, as she had nearly drowned at age 12 and had not been in the water since. She suggested using a body double, but knew that it would be too obvious to audiences due to the difference in hair length. She filmed the scene, but suffered from anxiety on the first day of filming.
Director Jeunet wanted to display Ripley 8's new powers, including a scene in which Ripley throws a basketball through a hoop while facing the opposite direction. Weaver trained for ten days and averaged one out of six baskets, although the distance required for filming was farther than she had practised. Jeunet was concerned about the time being spent on the shot and wanted to either use a machine to throw the ball or to insert it later using CGI. Weaver, however, was determined to make the shot authentic, and got the ball in perfectly on the sixth take. The ball was out of frame for a moment during the shot, and Pitof offered to edit it so that the ball was on-screen for the entire scene, but Weaver refused. Ron Perlman broke character when she made the basket, and turned to the camera to say "Oh my God!" Fortunately there was enough of a pause between Weaver's basket and Perlman's exclamation for the film's editors to cut the scene accordingly during post-production.
Visual effects and miniaturesEdit
The film's script was laid out similar to a comic book, with pictures on the left and dialog and descriptions on the right. Jeunet planned every shot, which made it easier for visual effects artists to do their work. Blue Sky Studios was hired to create the first CGI Aliens to appear on film. Impressed with the company's work on Joe's Apartment creating CGI cockroaches, Jeunet and Pitof opted to hire the company to create 30 to 40 shots of CGI Aliens. The decision was made to use CGI Aliens rather than puppets or suited actors whenever the creatures' legs were in frame, as Jeunet felt that a man in a suit is easy to distinguish when the full body is seen.
All of the spaceships in the film were miniatures, as visual effects supervisors believed CGI was not effective enough to create realistic spaceships. The USM Auriga was originally designed by artist Nigel Phelps and resembled a medical instrument. This design proved to be too vertical for the film's opening shot, in which the camera pans out to show the ship, and did not appear satisfactory in the film's 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Three days before the design had to be finalized, Jeunet rejected it. Phelps, production illustrator Jim Martin, and concept artist Sylvain Despretz were tasked to redesign the ship. Jeunet felt Martin's design was too much like a space station, while he accepted Despretz's design due to its streamlined and horizontal appearance.
Composer John Frizzell was encouraged by a friend to audition to compose Alien Resurrection's film score. Frizzell sent in four cassettes and received a call from 20th Century Fox about the fourth, which contained music from The Empty Mirror. Impressed with his work, Fox representative Robert Kraft had a short meeting with Frizzell and hired him. Frizzell spent seven months writing and recording the score, which Jeunet requested to be very different and unique from the previous films in the series. This included themes of romance and eroticism, incorporating sound effects such as a gong and rub rod. The cue "They Swim" took one month to complete as Jeunet was not pleased with Frizzell's original version, although the final result was a mix between the first and third versions he had composed.
The film originally opened with a surreal dream sequence. A woman and a small girl stand in a wheat field, and the little girl says, "My mommy always said there were no monsters, no real ones, but there are." She looks up at the woman, but she is now more than fifty yards away. The child slaps at a bug on the back of her neck. Pulling it off, she sees that it is huge. The sound of insects fills the air. The strange bugs swarm the little girl. There's a rising sea of blood. The child opens her mouth to scream, but the black insects race down her throat. Ripley 8's dream ends.
While this was never filmed, the insect idea possibly inspired the bug seen at the very beginning on the film's Special Edition.
A lengthy sequence was cut after Call interfaces with the ship's computer in the chapel where the survivors enter a part of the Auriga filled with a huge botanical garden. They find a small four-wheel-drive vehicle and set off through the dense foliage, only to be attacked by numerous Xenomorphs hiding in the undergrowth. As they reach the other side, St. Just (a character combined with Christie in the final film) is wounded and elects to stay behind and hold the Aliens off while the others escape. As he shoots the creatures, their blood eats through the Auriga's hull and depressurizes the entire chamber, pulling everything inside out into space. The survivors escape into another sealed section just in time.
While it would seem this scene was cut early in development (St. Just does not exist at all in the final shooting script, while both Christie and Hillard are killed earlier during the underwater ambush in the final film), behind-the-scenes photographs of Xenomorphs amidst dense foliage suggest some variation of it may have been partly shot.
Another scene changed early in the production was that of the Newborn's birth. When Ripley 8 wakes in the Queen's chamber, she finds herself hanging from the ceiling next to Gediman, who tells her the Xenomorphs have been draining him of his blood; blood drips from wounds on his feet. The Queen gives birth to the Newborn, which in this early draft was spider-like and used its inner jaw to drain victims of their blood. It kills a soldier hanging from the ceiling and then Gediman, draining their blood, but before it can kill Ripley she escapes.
Killing the NewbornEdit
Another major change was made to the end of the film — originally the Newborn survived the return to Earth by clinging to the outside of the Betty. After the Betty crashes in snow-covered mountains, Ripley 8 stalks the creature in the snow before fighting it near a cliff edge, at which point Call rams it repeatedly with a harvester vehicle. After a lengthy fight, the Newborn is thrown into the harvester, which Call activates, shredding the creature before its acidic blood causes the harvester to explode. At least part of this ending appears to have been filmed as early screen tests mention the harvester.
Release and ReceptionEdit
A pre-screening of Alien Resurrection was held in Camarillo, California, and the film was released in North America on November 26, 1997. Debuting at number two at the box office behind Flubber, Alien Resurrection grossed $25 million in its first five days–$16 million over the weekend, for an average of $6,821 per 2,415 theaters. The film grossed $47.7 million in North America, the least successful of the Alien series on that continent. It was well received internationally, however, with a gross of $113.5 million, bringing its total gross to $161.2 million. It was the 43rd highest grossing film in North America in 1997.
Alien Resurrection received mixed reviews from film critics. The film scored 63% on Metacritic based on 21 reviews, and 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, higher than Alien3, Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, although less than its predecessors Alien and Aliens. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a negative review, stating "There is not a single shot in the movie to fill one with wonder." Jeffery Overstreet of Looking Closer commented "It's time they quit killing the aliens, and just killed the Alien series altogether. ... How the mighty have fallen." Joe Baltake of the Sacramento Bee stated that "This 'Alien' should never have been resurrected", while Tom Meek of Film Threat wrote "Weaver and Jeunet's efforts are shortchanged by the ineptness of Joss Whedon's script, that seems to find a way to make action sequences unexciting."
Not all reviews were negative, however. Mary Brennan of Film thought that the movie was "A lot of fun to watch, and easy to surrender to in the moment." Houston Chronicle editor Louis B. Parks said "The film is a marvel, a well-photographed feast of visual imagery", while Richard Schickel of Time wrote that it was "Less frightening, but as much fun as ever." Washington Post contributor Desson Thomson felt it "satisfactorily recycles the great surprises that made the first movie so powerful. And most significantly, it makes a big hoot of the whole business."
Screenwriter Joss Whedon was unhappy with the final product. When asked in 2005 how the film differed from the script he had written, Whedon responded:
- "It wasn't a question of doing everything differently, although they changed the ending; it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines...mostly...but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong that they could possibly do. There's actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking, because everything that they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from the script, and people assume that, if I hated it, then they’d changed the script...but it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable."
Home video releasesEdit
Alien Resurrection was released on VHS on June 1, 1998, with the novelization and the book titled Making of Alien Resurrection released on December 1. Dark Horse Comics also published a two-issue comic book adaptation.
The Alien Resurrection: Collector's Edition DVD was released on January 6, 2004, containing the two discs contained in the Quadrilogy set. The second disc, called One Step Beyond: The Making of Alien Resurrection, features over two hours of footage relating to pre-production, production, post-production, screen tests, concept art, and audio commentary by the cast and crew.
In 2003, Jeunet included an alternate version of the film on the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set. The most significant changes are the new opening and closing sequences, involving a lengthy flyby of the USM Auriga and the Betty landing on Earth near a post-apocalyptic Paris, respectively. Both were originally dropped from the movie before their special effects were completed, although part of the Auriga flyby remains in the theatrical cut; the effects were finished for the Special Edition DVD release. Other reinstated scenes included Ripley's clone waking up in the middle of the operation to remove the Queen embryo, references to Newt from Aliens and Fiorina 161 from Alien3, extended dialogue between Vriess, Call and Johner during their introduction and an extended dialogue between Call and Ripley's clone in the chapel, as well as other small snippets of dialogue throughout.
Unlike the other three alternate versions of the films in the franchise, the Special Edition of Alien Resurrection did not add or alter any significant plot points, and as such is the least substantial of the four alternate cuts.
- Alien Resurrection was the first film in the Alien series to be filmed outside of England, at Fox studios in Los Angeles, California.
- Sigourney Weaver made the behind-the-back half-court basketball shot successfully after two weeks of basketball practice, tutored by a basketball coach. Her conversion rate during that two weeks was about one shot in from every six. When the day came to shoot the scene, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet wanted to have the ball dropped in from above, rather than wait for Weaver to sink the shot herself, which “would probably take about 200 takes”. Weaver insisted that the she could get the shot in herself, which she was finally allowed to do. She sunk the shot on the very first take, even though she was six feet further past the three-point line. Ron Perlman was completely stunned (and thoroughly impressed), and turned directly at the camera and broke character, saying, “Oh my God!” The editors looked at the shot and decided that there was “enough room to get the scissors in”. Weaver was excited about making the shot, but Jeunet was concerned that audiences would believe the shot to be faked due to the ball leaving the frame. Upon Weaver’s insistence, he kept the shot as it was. Weaver described the miracle shot as “one of the best moments in her life”, after her wedding day and the birth of her daughter, of course.
- Many fans consider this film to be the worst of all the four Alien films. Ironically, it is the highest grossing Alien film to date.
- The movie includes several call-backs to the earlier films in the series:
- When Call tells Christie that they cannot trust Ripley 8, he replies, "I don't trust anyone." Ripley shared a similar exchange with Dallas in Alien. Ironically, in that film, Ripley was voicing her concerns about a character who was ultimately revealed to be a robot; in Alien Resurrection, a character who was ultimately revealed to be a robot was voicing her concerns about Ripley.
- The scene in which Ripley 8 encounters Ripley's 1-7 and Ripley 7 pleads for death echoes a scene from the Director's Cut of Alien, wherein Ripley finds a still-living Dallas cocooned in the Nostromo's hold and he begs her to kill him. A similar scene takes place in Aliens, where a still-living colonist cocooned in the Xenomorph hive begs the Marines to kill her. In each of these scenes, a flamethrower is used to grant the victim's request.
- Alien Resurrection (novel) — The novelization of the film by Ann Crispin.
- Alien Resurrection (comic) — A comic book adaptation of the film.
- Alien Resurrection (video game) — The video game based on the film.