Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jean-Pierre Jeunet|
|Produced by||Gordon Carroll
|Written by||Joss Whedon|
|Based on||Characters created
by Dan O'Bannon
J. E. Freeman
|Music by||John Frizzell|
|Editing by||Hervé Schneid|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
Alien: Resurrection is a 1997 American science fiction action horror film by 20th Century Fox, and the fourth installment in the Alien film series. The film was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, with a screenplay by Joss Whedon. Alien: Resurrection was the first film in the Alien series to be filmed outside England, at Fox studios in Los Angeles, California.
In the film, which is set 200 years after the preceding installment Alien 3 (1992), Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is cloned and an Alien queen is surgically removed from her body. The United Systems Military hopes to breed Aliens to study and research on the spaceship USM Auriga, using human hosts kidnapped and delivered to them by a group of mercenaries. The Aliens escape their enclosures, while Ripley and the 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".
Two hundred years after the events of Alien 3, military scientists on the outer space vessel USM Auriga create a clone of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) using DNA from blood samples taken before her death. They extract the embryo of an Alien queen that had been growing inside her at the time of her death, raise it, and collect its eggs for further use. (It is implied that Ripley's actions in the previous two movies effectively wiped out all the aliens.) The Ripley clone is kept alive for further study. As a result of her DNA being mixed with the Alien's during the cloning process, she develops enhanced strength and reflexes, acidic blood, and an empathic link with the Aliens.
A group of mercenaries, Elgyn (Michael Wincott), Johner (Ron Perlman), Christie (Gary Dourdan), Vriess (Dominique Pinon), Hillard (Kim Flowers), and Call (Winona Ryder), arrive in their ship, the Betty, delivering several kidnapped humans in stasis. The military scientists use the kidnapped humans as hosts for the Aliens, raising several adult Aliens for study. The Betty crew soon encounter Ripley. Call recognizes her name and tries to kill her, believing she may be used to create more Aliens. Call is too late; the Aliens have already matured and quickly escape confinement, damaging the Auriga and killing those crew members who do not manage to evacuate. Military scientist Dr. Wren (J. E. Freeman) reveals that the ship's default command in an emergency is to return to Earth. Realizing this will unleash the Aliens on Earth, Ripley, the mercenaries, Wren, a Marine named DiStefano (Raymond Cruz), and surviving Alien host Purvis (Leland Orser) decide to head for the Betty and use it to destroy the Auriga.
As the group make their way through the damaged ship, Elgyn, Hillard, and Christie are killed by Aliens. Call is revealed to be an android after Wren betrays the group. Using her ability to interface with the Auriga's systems, she sets it on a collision course with Earth, hoping to destroy the Aliens in the crash. Wren takes Call hostage, demanding that she abort the collision. Purvis attacks Wren and forces his head to his chest just as the Alien embryo he is carrying bursts through his ribcage, causing it to go through Wren's head and kill him.
Ripley discovers that the Alien queen has gained a human ability from her DNA as well: now possessing a womb, it can give birth to live offspring without the need for eggs and human hosts. The resulting newborn, bearing a mixture of human and Alien traits, recognizes Ripley as its mother and kills the Alien queen and Dr. Gediman (Brad Dourif).
Ripley and the surviving mercenaries make their way to the Betty. As they launch, the newborn hybrid attacks Call and kills DiStefano. Ripley kills it by using her own acidic blood to burn a hole through a viewpane, causing the creature to be sucked violently through the hole and into the vacuum of space. The survivors escape in the Betty as the Auriga collides with Earth.
- Sigourney Weaver as a clone of Ellen Ripley, reprising her role from the previous three Alien films. After having sacrificed herself to kill the Alien Queen gestating inside her in Alien 3, Ripley has been cloned using blood samples so that the military may extract the Queen embryo. As a result of the cloning process Ripley has been affected by the Alien queen's DNA. She has enhanced strength and reflexes, acidic blood, and can sense the presence of the Aliens.
- Winona Ryder as Annalee Call, the newest crew member of the Betty. She recognizes Ripley and has knowledge of the Aliens. Call is revealed during the course of the film to be a synthetic and helps the surviving crew interface with the Auriga.
- Michael Wincott as Frank Elgyn, captain of the mercenary ship Betty. Elgyn brings the Betty to the Auriga in order to sell kidnapped humans in cryostasis to General Perez. He is romantically involved with Hillard.
- Dan Hedaya as General Perez. Perez is the commanding officer of the Auriga and supervises the experiments to clone Ripley and study the Aliens.
- J. E. Freeman as Dr. Wren. Wren is one of several scientists aboard the Auriga involved in cloning Ripley and studying the Aliens. After the Aliens escape he joins the lead characters in their attempt to flee the ship.
- Brad Dourif as Dr. Gediman, another of the scientists involved in cloning Ripley and studying the Aliens.
- Carolyn Campbell as Dr. Williamson, the third member of the science team responsible for cloning Ripley.
- David St. James as Dr. Sprague, another member of the Auriga's science team.
- Raymond Cruz as DiStefano. DiStefano is a soldier in the United Systems Military, stationed aboard the Auriga. When the Aliens break out, he joins the crew in their attempt to escape from the ship.
- Kim Flowers as Sabra Hillard, the assistant pilot of the Betty who is romantically involved with Elgyn.
- Gary Dourdan as Christie, the first mate and second in command of the Betty.
- Ron Perlman as Johner, a mercenary and member of the Betty's crew. Johner plays bad jokes and has a short bad temper, and teases Vriess about his handicap.
- Dominique Pinon as Vriess, the Betty's mechanic. A paraplegic, he uses a motorized wheelchair. Vriess shares a close friendship with Call and an antagonistic relationship with Johner.
- Leland Orser as Purvis. Purvis is one of several humans who have been kidnapped by the crew of the Betty while in cryosleep and delivered to the Auriga to serve as hosts for the Aliens. Despite having an Alien growing inside him, Purvis joins the surviving crew in an attempt to escape from the Auriga.
- Tom Woodruff, Jr. as the lead Alien. Woodruff had previously played the Alien in Alien 3, and described the Alien in Resurrection as feeling "much more like a dog. It's got dog legs, a more pointed nose, and a more vicious mouth." Weaver praised Woodruff's work, saying that "working with him is like working with Lon Chaney, only Tom's usually covered with K-Y Jelly." Woodruff also played the lead Alien in the sequels Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.
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 Alien 3. 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, whom 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 Alien 3 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'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 design
Trainspotting director Danny Boyle was the producers' first choice to direct the film. Boyle and his producer met with effects supervisors to discuss the film, but 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 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 Alien 3 and believed that making a sequel was a bad idea. Jeunet, however, accepted the project with a budget of $70 million. He required an interpreter 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 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 expensive ones were dismissed. He also opted to make the film a dark comedy and was encouraged to include more violence. In June 1996, Jeunet's frequent co-director, 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 Alien 3. 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 more human than Alien. An early concept was to replicate Sigourney Weaver's features, although the crew felt this design would be too similar to the design of the creature Sil from the 1995 film Species. Eyes and a nose were added to the hybrid 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 Jeunet eventually changed his mind, feeling 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 installment 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 scene was the first to be shot, and for its 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'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 practiced. 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 computer-generated imagery (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!" There was enough of a pause between Weaver's basket and Perlman's statement for the film's editors to cut the scene accordingly during post-production.
Visual effects and miniatures
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.
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, though it was generally regarded as a slight improvement over Alien 3. The film scored 63% on Metacritic based on 21 reviews, and 52% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 69 reviews.
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."
On the other hand, 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."
Alien: Resurrection was first released onto home video in the VHS and DVD formats on June 1, 1998. In 2003, Jeunet included an alternate version of the film on the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set with different opening and closing credits, which were originally cut due to budget restrictions. The deleted scenes included references to the character Newt from Aliens, Vriess making a joke to Call, Ripley's clone waking up in the middle of her operation, an extended dialogue between Call and Ripley's clone in the chapel and scenes of the Betty landing on Earth and the planet's landscape during the final dialogue between Ripley and Call, as they view the ruins of Paris.
Alien: Resurrection: Collector's Edition 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.
To coincide with the release of the film, a book titled Making of Alien: Resurrection was released on November 28, 1997 in addition to a novelization of the film released on December 1, 1997. Dark Horse Comics also published a two-issue comic book adaptation.
- One Step Beyond: The Making of Alien Resurrection, Alien Quadrilogy – Disc 8, 2003, 20th Century Fox
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- Howe, Desson (1997-11-28). "Alien Resurrection: She Lives". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
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- Scott Myers (January 3, 2009). "Interview: Joss Whedon" (blog entry). Go Into The Story. Archived from the original on 24 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-06. "But rather than go into all of the reasons why Alien: Resurrection is disappointing to me, I will tell you that, yes, I wrote five endings. The first one was in the forest with the flying threshing machine. The second one was in a futuristic junkyard. The third one was in a maternity ward. And the fourth one was in the desert."
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- Alien Resurrection – Audio Commentary
- Unnatural Mutation – Creature Design. Alien Resurrection, Quadrilogy edition: Fox Home Entertainment. 2003.
- Death From Below – Fox Studios Los Angeles 1996. Alien Resurrection, Quadrilogy edition: Fox Home Entertainment. 2003.
- In the Zone – The Basketball Scene. Alien Resurrection, Quadrilogy edition: Fox Home Entertainment. 2003.
- Virtual Aliens – Computer Generated Imagery. Alien Resurrection, Quadrilogy edition: Fox Home Entertainment. 2003.
- A Matter of Scale – Miniature Photography. Alien Resurrection, Quadrilogy edition: Fox Home Entertainment. 2003.
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- Jim Vance (w), Eduardo Risso (a). Alien Resurrection 1–2 (October – November 1997), Dark Horse Comics
- Alien: Resurrection at the Internet Movie Database
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- Alien: Resurrection at Box Office Mojo
- Alien: Resurrection at Rotten Tomatoes