I would argue that Alien Resurrection is a mutation rather than a betrayal. That although Alien Resurrection doesn’t follow the same linear, canonical, path of the previous three, it is only guilty of going off at a tangent – and that only by of virtue of necessity.
This film is a mutation about mutation – and I wonder whether it isn’t in its narrative about mutation that the feelings of betrayal may emanate. The theme of mutation is born out of necessity: the death of Ripley on Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161. She is cloned from remains, but this has resulted in the contamination of Ripley’s DNA with the alien, she has become a hybrid. And it is this cross-cloning which certainly begins our unease, we have lost our human touchstone. The hero is no longer dependable – could this be what provokes the notions of betrayal? Unlike the saintly Ellen Ripley created through the previous trinity (an incarnation of human purity, even when defiled by the alien, in Alien3, she sacrifices herself) this incarnation is unrecognisable, we can no longer trust her, her motives are selfish, she is only part human, and is most definitely part alien.
But Ripley has only been mutated, surely that can’t equal a betrayal. Alien Resurrection is only guilty of changing the hero we had grown accustomed to, by the end of the film Ripley exepmlifies human characteristics; the compassion for the even more mutated previous clones, the maternal bond with Call (recurring theme from Aliens). And far from being a betrayal I think it is a worthy mutation – one which Magneto would argue, by virtue of being a mutant it is the next level of the evolution of the Alien canon.
The image of Lieutenant Ripley disappearing into the flames, clutching her dreadful offspring to her as she plummets, at the end of Alien 3 was pretty decisive. ”No sequel!” the film seemed to be declaring: ”no more!”
Yet, five years later in 1997, a new breed of alien emerged in Alien Resurrection, from the director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and the team behind Delicatessen and City of Lost Children. This seemed promising, for those of us who like Jeneut’s films, as well as for fans of the first three films who possibly saw Ripley’s fiery demise for the signal that it was: no more films to follow.
I loved Delicatessen: the wonderfully craggy features of Dominique Pinon and their expressive repertoire are a joy to watch, as they are in Amelie, another of Jenuet’s films from 2001. And, in parts, I like Alien Resurrection; it has the sepia-look and the feel of Jenuet’s other work. But does his style work when translated into the hallowed tradition of the Alien franchise ? The premise that the incarnation of Ripley in Resurrection is the result of an extensive breeding programme, whose ultimate aim is the re-creation of the monster from Ripley’s DNA, feels slightly stretched to begin with as a means of moving from the previous film into the latter.
Sigourney Weaver is, as always, highly watchable: Winona Ryder is perhaps not so compelling; and the notorious scenes of the hybrid alien swimming in the flooded depths of the ship as it chases the crew, where it’s very obvious that it’s an actor in a rubber suit, only let the side down further still.
What do you think: should Ripley have been resurrected at all, or left to lie in peace ?
Posted by Daniel Harding, Deputy Director of Music at the University of Kent. Click hereto view his Music Matters blog.