I’m making a wild guess based on the nearly empty Friday-night-in-Manhattan showing of Alien Resurrection (starring Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder) that I attended, but this movie will tank at the box office. It is better than Alien3 — but then, there was no place to go but up after that one.
Alien Resurrection is your basic sci-fi monster movie with the usual cast of motley pirates and military getting chomped by the acid-bleeding creatures (now new and improved with acid-drooling action). The body count is huge, and vats of blood and entrails are spilled — all the gore is not scary in the least.
What I did find disturbing and intriguing was the new Ripley.
Now, it seems to me that the Alien movies have always been about men’s fear of the reproductive power of women. (Why men fear this is a mystery to me — they certainly don’t have to go through all the messy parts of it.) The metaphor of an alien creature growing inside a body and bursting its way out is just too close to home. And Alien Resurrection plays up this theme to the max.
To wit: Here are a bunch of doctors — all men except for one woman butched up with a severe crew cut — working on this industrial-ugly ship with nary a lace curtain or Precious Moments figurine in sight. The computer that runs this ship is called — tellingly — Father (notice the reference to Alien, in which the computer was called Mother). These doctors are co-opting the reproductive process, creating a clone of Ellen Ripley that is also part alien, and creating an alien queen part human.
It all goes horribly wrong, natch.
Sigourney Weaver is amazing to watch as she imbues Ripley with the qualities we’ve become familiar with in the aliens: tilting her head just so before she strikes, getting in thisclose to someone and sniffing to check him out. Her maternal concern for the nasties is both touching and frightening — especially in that last bit at the end (which I won’t reveal). And the unfortunate side effects of the hybridization project are much more terrifying than watching yet another stupid person wander down a corridor alone and get ripped in two.
But even if Alien Resurrection does flop, you can bet we’re in for Alien 5 — I’m guessing Summer 2000 — with an even higher body count and yet more blood. Hopefully there’ll be a little something thoughtful behind that one, too.