Alien Resurrection is a science fiction film released in 1997 by 20th Century Fox; the fourth and final installment in the Alien franchise. Directed by French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the film is based on a screenplay by Joss Whedon. With a budget of $70 million.
In the film, which is set 200 years after the preceding installment Alien 3, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is cloned and an alien queen is surgically removed from her body. The United Systems Military hopes to breed Alien 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".
200 years after Ripley's death on Fiorina "Fury" 161, military scientists on the deep space vessel Auriga successfully create a clone of Ripley, using DNA from blood samples taken before her death. They extract from her the embryo of a Xenomorph Queen that had been growing inside her at the time of her death, and raise it to collect its eggs for further use. As an afterthought, the Ripley clone, marked by a number "8" lasered onto her arm, is kept alive for further study. As a result of her DNA being mixed with the Xenomorph's during the cloning process, Ripley 8 is gifted with enhanced strength and reflexes, Xenomorph acid blood, "inherited memories" from the real Ripley's past and an empathic link with the Xenomorphs, especially with the Queen.
A group of mercenaries known as Elgyn, Johner, Christie, Vriess, Hillard and their youngest member, Call soon arrive in their ship, the Betty, delivering several kidnapped humans in stasis. The military scientists use them as hosts for the Xenomorphs, raising several adult Xenomorphs for study. The mercenaries encounter Ripley 8, and Call recognizes her name. She attempts to kill Ripley 8, fearing she will be used to create new Xenomorphs, but Call is too late. The Xenomorphs have already matured and quickly escape their confinement, damaging the ship and forcing most of the crew to abandon vessel, with many being killed in the process including General Perez and Elgyn and one of the ship's scientists Dr. Gediman is captured. Another scientist Dr. Wren reveals that the Auriga's default command in an emergency situation is to return to Earth. Realizing that this will unleash the Xenomorphs on the planet, Ripley 8, the mercenaries, Wren, a marine named Distephano and a survivor, Purvis, attempt to destroy the Auriga and escape on the Betty.
As the group makes their way through the damaged ship, Ripley 8 discovers the meaning of the number lasered on her arm when she stumbles across seven failed clones in the form of hideously malformed Xenomorph/Ripley hybrids that are being stored on board, the seventh which is still alive and begs to be killed. Ripley 8 complies, also destroying the other clones as well, before moving to execute Wren for his part in their creation, but ultimately she relents. The group swim through a flooded kitchen, but are chased by two Xenomorphs. One is killed, while the other Xenomorph snatches Hillard. As they escape the kitchen, the Xenomorph returns and blinds Christie, but he sacrifices himself to kill the creature so the others can escape. Call is shot by Wren when he betrays the group, but she quickly returns, revealing herself to be an auton, a version of a human created by androids, one of the few to escape destruction following the passage of laws making them illegal. Using her abilities to interface with the damaged ship's systems, Call sets it on a collision course with Earth, hoping that the Xenomorphs will be destroyed in the crash. She cuts off Wren's escape route and directs the Xenomorphs towards him.
As the remaining survivors near the Betty, Ripley 8 is captured by the Xenomorphs. As she is taken to the Queen's chamber where she finds Gediman alive and partially cocooned, she learns that the Queen has gained a human ability from the mixing of their DNA as well. Now possessing a womb as she gives birth to a live creature, she can give birth to live offspring without the need for eggs and human hosts. After emerging from the Queen's womb and immediately killing her, the "Newborn", mixed with human and Xenomorph DNA, turns its attention on Ripley 8, but instead recognizes her as its mother rather than killing her. However, Ripley 8 is forced to escape when the monster gets distracted by Gediman and brutally kills him.
Wren arrives on board the Betty and attempts to betray the others again and escape the ship, but he is killed when Purvis puts his head on his chest, whereupon a Chestburster erupts and goes through Wren's head, killing both him and Purvis before the survivors kill the juvenile Xenomorph. The others decide Ripley 8 is lost and prepare to leave, but she arrives just as they launch and successfully makes it on board.
However, the Newborn appears, revealing it had followed Ripley 8 after killing Gediman and made it onto the Betty, where it kills Distephano and attacks Call, attempting to destroy her. Ripley 8 saves Call by confronting the Newborn and comforts it by the appearance of its "mother". As Ripley 8 calms the Newborn, she uses her acid blood to burn a small hole in a nearby viewing window after cutting her hand on its fanged mouth. Ripley 8 pushes the Newborn towards the hole where decompression violently sucks the creature through it and out into space, killing it as Ripley 8 tearfully watches. The Betty successfully enters Earth's atmosphere as the Auriga explodes, killing all the remaining Xenomorphs on board. As they look down on Earth, Call asks what Ripley 8 wants to do next and she responds "I'm a stranger here myself".
- Ripley 8 .... Sigourney Weaver
- Call .... Winona Ryder
- Johner .... Ron Perlman
- Vriess .... Dominique Pinon
- Christie .... Gary Dourdan
- Elgyn .... Michael Wincott
- Hillard .... Kim Flowers
- Distephano .... Raymond Cruz
- Mason Wren .... J.E. Freeman
- Gediman .... Brad Dourif
- Perez .... Dan Hedaya
- Purvis .... Leland Orser
- Genetic Xenomorphs ....
- Newborn ....
- Williamson .... Marlene Bush
- Sprague .... David St. James
- USM Researcher .... Carolyn Campbell
- USM Surgeon .... Regan Ducasse
- Young Ripley .... Nicole Fellows
- USM Soldiers ....
- Rodney Mitchell
- Robert Faltisco
- David Rowe
- Garrett House
- Rod Damer
- Mark Mandsfield
- Daniel Raymont
- Chip Nuzzo
- Brad Martin
- Eddie Yansick
- Facehugger victims
- Robert Bastens
- Rico Bueno
- Alex Lorre
- Ronald Ramessar
- FA-TH-UR .... Steven Gilborn
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 who 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 designEdit
Trainspotting director Danny Boyle was intended to direct the film. Boyle and his producer met with effects supervisors to discuss the film, although 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 a translator 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, 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 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 "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 even Jeunet eventually felt 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 miniaturesEdit
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.
- Main article: Alien Resurrection soundtrack
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. The film scored 63% on Metacritic based on 21 reviews, and 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, higher than Alien 3, Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, although less than its predecessors Alien and Aliens. 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."
Not all reviews were negative, however. 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 released on VHS on June 1, 1998, with the novelization and the book titled Making of Alien Resurrection released on December 1. Dark Horse Comics also published a two-issue comic book adaptation. 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.
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.
- Alien Resurrection was the first film in the Alien series to be filmed outside of England, at Fox studios in Los Angeles, California.
- Sigourney Weaver made the behind-the-back half-court basketball shot successfully after two weeks of basketball practice, tutored by a basketball coach. Her conversion rate during that two weeks was about one shot in from every six. When the day came to shoot the scene, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet wanted to have the ball dropped in from above, rather than wait for Weaver to sink the shot herself, which “would probably take about 200 takes”. Weaver insisted that she could get the shot in herself, which she was finally allowed to do. She sunk the shot on the very first take, even though she was six feet further past the three-point line. Ron Perlman was completely stunned (and thoroughly impressed), and turned directly at the camera and broke character, saying, “Oh my God!” The editors looked at the shot and decided that there was “enough room to get the scissors in”. Weaver was excited about making the shot, but Jeunet was concerned that audiences would believe the shot to be faked due to the ball leaving the frame. Upon Weaver’s insistence, he kept the shot as it was. Weaver described the miracle shot as “one of the best moments in her life”, after her wedding day and the birth of her daughter, of course.
- Many fans have considered this film to be the worst of all four Alien films. Ironically, this is the highest grossing Alien film to date.