What it means to be human: Alien Resurrection

Whooopzeeee, it’s the 22nd of fab Feb and we still have some Alien ground to cover (Click here to get to the all things Alien master index)… Let’s just say that life kind of got in the way of blogging these last few days, but it does not mean, we could not resume…soooo:

Remember the days when Winona Ryder was a sought-after and well-paid actress? The fourth Alien instalment is a product of these days. I find it to be the weakest of the first four, but that should not distract from the fact that I still think it to be a very good movie.
Alien Resurrection was released to theaters in 1997, and in keeping with the tradition of having talented directors take the job, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (famous primarily for Amelie) directed this one. That leads to some pros and some cons, but unfortunately the things that make his other movies work are rather the ones that make this one sucky. Probably because the studio had a massive say in what to do with the flick, since they invested all the money into a resurrection of the franchise.

via wikipedia

Ok, first off, can we say cookie-cutter? Jeunet is famous for his quirky characters, they pop up everywhere in his movies, and usually they’re quite charming besides being just one-trick ponies. Problem is: it does not work for Alien Resurrection at all. It’s nice to try a different approach to the whole alien thing, but then again, just making characters quirky by making them obnoxious, overly sexual, macho, thin-skinned or just downright stupid …. well, it doesn’t exactly help making me care for them. And the one major problem with Alien Resurrection is that far too many characters live for far too long while I care far too little about them and their survival. The whole crew of the Betty, scuse me, but they’re mostly pricks who run into trouble cause they basically asked for it. And the evil guy is evil. And the women are feminine. And the guys are manly (read tough and sexist and prone to violence). Urgh, could’ve done without that. The major problem is that they are all too one-dimensional, none of them feel genuine, and while I care for Ripley cause she is after all Ellen Motherfucking Ripley, it is not because she is an overly interesting character in this movie. The whole one-liner crap that most of the characters get (including the abysmal “who do I have to fuck to get off of this ship” one) is really detrimental to make me care about them rather than wish they’d just die, so I don’t have to listen to that crap no longer.

If I say that I still enjoyed the movie there have to be redeeming qualities, right?
One minor plus is the insertion of the guy who is host to an alien that could just bust through his chest any effin minute. And they know it and he knows it and at some point we even get there, but the insertion of the character itself creates such an interesting dynamic (let alone a pretty hilarious and visually interesting solution to the villain-problem in this movie) that I wish they would have played more on that.
What it also means is the general reversal-trend noticeable in this movie. By Alien Resurrection the franchise-keepers were well aware of the whole feminist-hero discussion surrounding Ellen Ripley, at least that’s my guess. And as a “funny” twist, haha, they decided to counteract it throughout the movie and later let her be all feminist hero. Except that it goes wrong. The central operating system is no longer named “Mother” but “Father” cause after all 200 years passed since Alien³. The guys are tough, but get to act even tougher, and the Betty crew-woman who does not serve a purpose but mourn her man gets also to be the kinda sexualized object of desire. The only effective yet unintended counteracting of this parade of sexist stereotypes that don’t even get dissolved is the insertion of host-guy, cause that puts an interesting spin on the whole pregnancy-imagery associated with being a host to an alien. But…

via moviereporter.net

…but then there is Ripley being a real mother. Not only were producers and director aware of the feminist subtexts of the earlier movies, but they thought it was a good idea to make the whole pregnancy/host association more explicit. So Ripley in this one was host to a queen (again, remember) and they extracted it. It is not only kind of her child, cause it grew in her body, but actually the queen-child gives birth to another alien that is actually a real alien-human hybrid. Don’t even try to think about it, it doesn’t make sense, cause for most of the movie the alien queen just lays eggs like they usually do and then all of a sudden she is pregnant because she “inherited” human reproductive organs and gives birth to an alien that looks different (more on that in a second) and feels a closer connection to his chosen human mom Ripley.
The alien hybrid not only has human eyes (whereas aliens don’t have any eyes visible to us ever), but he also has a long pink tongue and he is MOTHERFUCKING *headdesk*inlgy ARE YOU BATSHIT CRAZY? white. Again: the alien-human hybrid is W.H.I.T.E.
That is so fucked up, I almost have no words. But I write a blog, so: the aliens are all killer machines who remind us of creepy insects or reptiles or whatnot and are black. But once the aliens mix with human DNA they get all the more human and to indicate that the producers thought it was an awesome idea to make it WHITE. ????. *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* Seriously, WTF? That’s not only wrong on so many levels, it is even just so incredibly wrong on the surface level that we have to wonder: Were they out of their fucking mind? How could anyone sit there and not think this is ultra-fucked-up? Urgh, I say to that and shudder.

via stampede-entertainment.com

The alien-human hybrid is just on of the many evolutions the aliens make in this movie. Suddenly they can swim and they can spit acid. Okay, but then again: how? Sometimes it’s a good thing if movies don’t try to explain stuff, but in this case, it really isn’t, cause it doesn’t make any effin sense. They had how long to go through evolutionary processes? 4 weeks? Five? Ermh, no.

Where do they get the new DNA-input from? Ellen Ripley, of coursely. Because: Ellen Ripley is not really Ellen Ripley (she died, remember?) but a clone of Ellen Ripley. 200 years later and they cloned her, cause they wanted to get the alien queen she was host to. Don’t even ask how alien queen DNA was just randomly in the blood sample they picked up from the floor of somewhere, but while it is an intriguing concept it is also one that I have fundamental problems with because I do not believe in the predetermination of human beings by their genomes. “What, do not believe?” you probably ask. Granted, DNA has enormous influence on who we become, but most of who we are, I argue, is who we are because of our socialization. What I’m saying is that the little dried puddle of blood is – in my conception of the world – not very likely to remember every other thought that the original Ellen Ripley had and thus supply the new cloned Ripley with these memories.
Having said all that the whole clone story makes for the most powerful imagery of the movie, when this-movie-heroine-clone-Ripley with her “8” tattoo finds out that there were seven other clones preceding her, all of them rather horrible combinations of human and alien DNA. Six of them were not able to survive, but one did, and actual heroine Ripley has to kill terribly cloning-gone wrong Ripley who begs for her death. I’ll just go out there and say: all the suckitude in this Alien movie is made up by the powerful imagery and associations that this scene alone provides us with.

via onlygoodmovies.com

And this ultimately leads us to the question that is the underlying theme of the whole movie. What does it mean to be human? Turns out, the most “human” of all them humans presented are Ripley, who is really an “enhanced” version, in that part of the alien DNA became part of her own genetic make-up, and Call, who is really an android. That is heavy meta-discussion in terms of going back to the roots of the series and the issue of not being able to trust an android versus finding out that you actually can. This time we meet one that Ripley can trust, but who doesn’t trust herself, cause she feels deficient in not being human. Great thing is that she learns that being human is really just a deficient concept for talking about compassion and common sense actually, so yay, she ultimately qualifies. Though alien-hybrid pseudo baby (yes, white!!! *headdesk*) does not, so go figure. You still have to be pretty enough and kill the right ones to qualify for “human” even if you don’t have to actually be a human being. Mind-boggling. And inconsequent. Bwrah, unsatisfying.

via sbs.com.au

In the end, all existing aliens (at least those known to the human species) die, because the space station is crashing onto the face of our very planet earth. While that is kind of a cute idea, it is also a disturbing one in that we never learn about all the people who will have been killed by such an event, and we never learn, if all the Aliens really died and if there wasn’t some miraculous survival that will cause some serious trouble on earth.
Furthermore the story ends with Ripley, Call, Johner and Vriess surviving, and they’ll arrive on earth soon after the movie’s over. While that is a nice and hopeful ending it doesn’t really create much desire to follow their stories any further from this point, so maybe it is more of an ending to the saga than the third instalment actually was. Then again, with good writing and a clever twist there might be something to the story to make it worth being told, but I’d rather not take chances.
For us this means: Bye-bye, Ellen Ripley. Have fun on earth! Enjoy the finally alien-free time, you deserve it!

Yep, it’s a mixed bag. Still, considering you want Science-Fiction and action, this is still superior to a lot of other movies that are being produced within the genre, so: Go watch it. Even if it is just for the *headdesk*ing experience of seeing the alien-human hybrid and being able to bitch about it afterwards.

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5 thoughts on “What it means to be human: Alien Resurrection

  1. I hated Alien number three more. The fourth one was just lame. You’re right about Winona–she’s playing “older women-but-not-the-lead” roles (Star Trek and Black Swan). A little sad for her–only a little since there never was much bite there.

    1. Interesting that you like no. 3 less. I think at some point I did too, but over time I came to appreciate the third more and more. Sure it has its flaws but somehow it makes use of the potential it has (most of all the psychological ramifications of Ripley facing her destiny – which sounds way too baroque, ha). That’s where I think much of the lameness in Resurrection comes from: there is a highly interesting premise (resurrect her, clone her, genetic changes) but the execution retorts to old and tired blockbuster cliché formulas and it somehow never really takes off (though I still like it…)

      1. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on number three. Fincher changed the game a bit too much for me. And all those monks running around looking miserable wasn’t my idea of a good time. I like my sci fi psychology with a spoon full of sugar or box of popcorn. Plus Ripley became the “mother thing” (apologies to Heinlein”) in “Aliens” and I felt as confused as she through most of the skitterings of monks and the stalking by the hitchhiker alien that wouldn’t eat her because she was pregnant with Princess alien. At least she had a little fun with the doctor before the alien got him– and it was all down hill after that.

      2. having fun with the doctor really is good, what I like especially about it was the non-drama-attached policy. they had a good time and that was that.
        I don’t know how you feel, but Ripley killing herself in the end … that is one powerful image right there. the whole thing about accepting her destiny and being willing to fight the alien, even if it means dying, I thought that was kinda neat. And is of course the major reason for Ripley kickin ass so badly

  2. Yes–but the whole thing hinged on her giving the finger to the “Corporation” and while I appreciated this (mean greedy corporation) as a plot device in Numbers one and two it felt sour in number three. The thing about one and two for me was that it was personal not impersonal–you identified with her survival instinct and in two, protecting the young, we’re wired to want to do this– and so the distancing choice that the director made for number three interfered with the bond I had with Ripley. You seem appreciate it from an intellectual thematic point of view, however I felt the stakes and frame changed and my expectations for number three weren’t adjusted and it disappointed.

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