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IN SHORT: Ripley should've stayed dead.
Alien was a terrific SF thriller/horror flick, putting an inhuman monster in the confines of a spaceship. Aliens was one of the few sequels to top its predecessor, doing so by shifting into action mode. Cranky has no idea what Alien 3 was supposed to be, though you couldn't miss the religious symbolism as Ripley consigned herself, and the baby Alien, to the fiery pit.
It isn't Cranky's practice to make comparisons to Source Material but, in this case, if I hadn't you'd have no idea what to rent to answer your inevitable questions. Alien Resurrection is not the place to jump into the saga.
If you don't know the events of the previous three flicks, you won't understand why the guy in the next seat is going bananas when different types of alien creatures (face huggers, chest bursters, etc.) pop out of nooks and gratings in the military spaceship U.S.S. Aurica. If you don't, you won't get the jokes, most of which are very amusing, for moreso than any horror or action tale before it, Alien Resurrection is a comedy.
The comedy all comes from the mouth of the clone of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), whose offhand comments about the situations she encounters 200 years after she died are truly funny. Ripley herself has changed in small, biological ways, and those changes have a great impact on the story that plays out. But Cranky isn't going to tell you how (and don't be yelling at Cranky for spilling that Ripley is a clone. It's been all over the Internet and entertainment mags for months!)
You'll have a wonderful time watching Alien Resurrection, if the gore doesn't make you nauseous (like the unfortunate woman in front of me who still liked the thing), because it's beautiful. From the title sequence on in, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet tops his last film, The City of Lost Children, which was just as beautiful but harder to follow. There is no question that Jeunet's visual talent is not a fluke. There is no question that those same visuals will keep your eyes riveted to the screen, even when what story there is threatens to put your lights out.
The script, by Toy Story scribe Joss Whedon, is so full of testosterone laden dialog that the attitudes and expletives are just plain boring. The story, involving a military effort to revive Ripley and tame the Alien inside her (rent Alien 3 for that story) must've looked good on paper. The visuals look great on celluloid. The story that Whedon created is solid enough, but Alien Resurrection isn't scary or Wham! Bang! Pow! filled with action. It is tedious and tired and a tease. By the time you get to the novel twist in the tale, you won't care.
Forget the military scientists (led by comic actor Dan Hedaya) who have replaced the evil Big Corporation; just like Alien there is a tiny band of stalwart ET bashers, chief of which are a foul mouthed smuggler named Johner (Ron Perlman) and the tougher than she looks Call (Winona Ryder). Add to the pack a steadfast leader, a guy in a wheelchair and another pair of weapons toting expendables.
Of course, Cranky could be lying about who is and who isn't expendable. If you are new to the tale, bring a friend to brief you. You'll need help. If you're old to the tale, the new material looks spectacular. That's about it.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Alien Resurrection, he would have paid...
Alien as an art film. Who woulda thunk it.
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