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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Horror > Comedy > Alien Resurrection (1997/Fox DTS DVD-Video set)

Alien Resurrection (DTS DVD edition from the ALIEN QUADRILOGY)

 

Disc One:   Picture: B     Sound: A-     Extras: C+     Film: B

Disc Two:   Picture: B-    Sound: B-     Content: B-

 

 

With the continued life of the Alien franchise and the advent of full digital animated effects for live action films, 20th Century Fox decided to make their most expensive film in the series yet, even though Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley was dead!  It was time for an Alien Resurrection by 1997.

 

Of course, digital sound had just missed being on the last film theatrically, so why not do another film with the biggest budget yet and get Weaver back?  Either way, it was a more problematic situation, trying to continue and the result shows this.  Jean-Pierre Jeunet made a reputation for himself by co-directing the overrated Delicatessen (1991) and City of Lost Children (1995) with Mark Caro.  Some enjoyed these “art house” hits, but they are remembered more for their look than anything else.

 

Weaver was convinced to come back and the more familiar character actors Ron Perlman, Dan Hedeya, J.E. Freeman, and Brad Dourif joined her with choice French actors, some more lesser-known performers, and Winona Ryder.  Ryder, pre-scandal, was an odd choice.  Throughout her career, she played the lace-bound, very sensitive virgin-type, or that hip, hot, get-down wise-gal.  As an artificial person, she is simply lost and that hurts the film, but Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon’s script is not in the series element.  Add the incompatibility between Whedon & Jeunet, and you get two counter-offbeat sensibilities that make the film miss too often and never, never gel.  If anything, they make each other worse!

 

After taking a downturn that seems hard to recover from, franchises usually go for comedy and even self-referential humor to come back, as well as find a new audience.  Guy Hamilton’s 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever and Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home (1987) are the classic cases where this worked, and though they were hits, they still go over the heads of later viewers and are often disliked by fans for all the wrong reasons.  This film will never have that problem, because it is not that good, nor is it that fun.  Memories of the Species franchise surface, but they did the comedy part better.

 

There are good moments, but anything that gets going is eventually undermined by a bad joke or bad attempt to be hip.  Then, we have two types of hip, which makes the film even more fleeting.  The climax with a new and unconvincing “humanoid alien” is the nadir of the series so far, made worse by a Goldfinger-like climax!  It is amateur-hour moments like this that make you realize the producers of the first three were the least involved ever.  The better moments have to do with the characters, including a great moment the new Ripley sees her failed duplicates and realizes how she returned.  The newer, uglier corporate entity that makes Weyland-Yutani look like a general store has dug into the molten steel the real Ripley dived to her death in, found her DNA and cloned her back to life.  In any case, her DNA would be mixed with that of her favorite killing machine, and the new idiots think they have the better means, money, power, brains, wisdom, and technology to achieve the “dream” of conditioning it into a military animal to be controlled.  Of course, they’ll learn!

 

If Weaver did not insist on a certain level of creative control and was not one of our best living actresses, this would have been especially a bomb.  Instead, she keeps the film together all on her own back when all around fails her.  There is no chemistry between her and Ryder, while she is in conflict with just about everyone else’s character.  Tension between her and Perlman’s character are never realized like they would have been in the more mature trilogy that preceded this film.  Is it not also contradictory to have this dark world, and then try to lighten it up?  Jeunet was barely able to work this better on his own films, but he is out of his depth here.

 

Speaking of depth, the underwater sequence is one of the better ones in the film, but the effects are a mixed bag, adding to the mixed feeling of everything here.  The digital was poured on here as visual effects in Alien 3 fell a bit short, but they already look pretty dated.  The model work has fared far better, and as far as the legacy of this franchise is concerned, that’s more like it!  Another world is created, but to see how good it really is, this would need a “phantom edit” and shortening the film would not be a bad idea.  To show Jeunet’s pretensions, his director’s cut is longer and more pointless, including a dumb opening that is nowhere as interesting as the Saul Bass/Seconds-inspired credits on the theatrical cut.  With the DVD, you can scan through the infantile parts.  Try this after a first viewing and watch the film improve.

 

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot in Super 35mm and issued in film prints processed in Deluxe Labs’ CCE (Color Contrast Enhancement) silver retention, which Cinematographer Darius Khondji, A.F.C., more famously on Alien franchise alumni David Fincher’s hit film Seven.  The previous DVD looked as poor in this respect as the LaserDisc, while the slight changes in image makes for a slightly improved in the way the companion Aliens was just enough.  It is still not what it should be, and a D-VHS version would be very interesting.  Khondji re-teams with Jeunet with his usual signature darkness and it works, if altered by the silver.  The silver actually offsets what would usually be a weakness in Super 35, as compared to the actual full Panavision scope of the first and third films.  Khondji’s work with Technicolor’s similar ENR process, when finalizing prints for his work on Alan Parker’s Evita (1996), helped make this film look better as well.  Early daily work for Alien Resurrection was done by Technicolor as well.

 

The film sound is available in 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital mixes, and though the DTS is a bit better, both are snippy and problematic in the sense of flow the mix should have.  This DTS is not as full as it was on the 12” basic DTS LaserDisc release of the film, especially since it has less kilobits-per-second.  This is the case in both the original theatrical version and an extended cut.  Furthermore, the sound has dated a bit, and its design not as impressive as earlier films.  The brand new commentary by Director Jean Pierre Jeunet, Herve Schneid, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Pitof, Sylvain Despretz, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon and Leland Orser has no audio troubles, though.  The optional introduction by Jeunet should have been subtitled, having some clarity trouble his interview footage elsewhere does not have.  That leaves John Frizzell’s music score, which is not bad, but not up to the prior scores by any means.

 

 

Extras include both the original theatrical version and an extended cut with alternate opening and ending sequences.

The extras on Disc Two include the first draft of the screenplay by Joss Whedon and 11 new featurettes:

 

1)     From The Ashes -­ Reviving the story

2)     French Twist - ­ Direction and design

3)     Under The Skin - Casting and characters

4)     Death From Below -  Underwater photography

5)     In The Zone -  Basketball scene

6)     Unnatural Mutation - Creature design

7)     Genetic Mutation – Creature design

8)     Genetic Composition - A listen to the music

9)     Virtual Alien - Computer generated imagery

10)  A Matter Of Scale - Miniature photography and

11)  Critical Junction - A reaction to the film
… Multi-angle rehearsal footage
… A Mike Carro photo gallery, a conceptual art gallery, VFX gallery, a promotional photo archive and continuity Polaroids
… Storyboard archives and an Easter Egg

 

Of course, this is the least interesting bonus disc and has the least amount of extras.  The last odd item is how the TV ads are all for pay-per-view, but none for the theatrical release period or any home video releases.  It gives the whole affair of selling and releasing this film a rushed feeling, which feels forced and fake.  We can only hope no future installments will make the same series of errors.

 

This set of Alien Resurrection is available as a double DVD set or as part of the nine DVD Alien Quadrilogy that includes all four films and a bonus DVD.  The reviews for those segments are available at the links that follow their names below:

 

 

Alien

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=670

 

Aliens

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=671

 

Alien 3

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=672

 

Alien Quadrilogy Bonus Disc

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=674

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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