Ripley has been cloned, along with the Queen that was inside her in Alien 3! Finally, the scientists have got hold of her, extracted the Queen, and with the help of human cargo from the crew of the smuggling ship The Betty, are breeding Aliens. What could possibly go wrong? I actually quite like the start of the film, the idea that the Company (see later) has finally got their hands on the prize and are trying to investigate this new species. Ignoring the ludicrous idea of cloning Ripley and the Queen, it is the unexpected crossover of human/alien traits (giving Ripley super-strength and acid-blood); that provides the interest in the film. Is she human? Is she Alien? Where do her loyalties lie? Under these ambiguities I thought that Sigourney does a good job of rediscovering herself.
But then The Betty turns up and the film goes to pot. Who cares about this crew? I don’t! Never mind them bringing the human cargo, they should have been the human cargo and been impregnated themselves! Written by Joss Whedon, the film could have been so much better. Indeed it should have been had Fox not told him to re-write his script to include Ripley! To hell with the fact that she’s dead. So in his attempt to shoe-horn Ripley in (and fair enough Ripley’s character is interesting in a different way) I think he forgot to write much about the other characters. Within 5 minutes of meeting the crew of the Sulaco in Aliens we already know their dynamic, who the jokers are and who the hard-asses are. Within 30 minutes of meeting the crew of the Betty, I still couldn’t tell you any of their names, and I’m struggling now even having watched the extras!
I also think the choice of director was wrong. Jean-Pierre Jeunet had made Delicatessen and City of Lost Children up to this point and was working on Amelie. An Alien film is nothing like any of these; so why? Danny Boyle was initially approached to take the helm, and I can’t help but think that he would have made a more appropriate Alien film. JPJ tries to introduce too much humour which I don’t think has any place in an Alien film. Ripley saying “Fuck” instead of “Fork”, General Perez poking in the back of his head to pull a bit of brain out (was the alien pausing for this comedy moment?), and the whole “Ripley, I thought you were dead!” “Yeah, I get that a lot!”. None of this should be in an Alien film.
There are plenty of other silly, inappropriate and just plain wrong moments in the film. Please indulge me three. The film is set 200 years after the events of Alien 3, and we are told fairly near the beginning that “The Company” Weyland Yutani no longer exist. Walmart bought them! Yes, Walmart! Another attempt at humour I think. This is just stupid, there is absolutely no place for anything contemporary in an Alien film; it lowers the tone, in fact it ruins any tone there was. It’s as bad as Todd from Home and Away offering Death Sticks to Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones!
Also near the beginning, the Captain of the Betty (Frank according to IMDB, I’m damned if I could remember his name) is talking with Perez and observes that whatever is going on cannot be very legal because the spaceship is operating in unregistered space. Unregistered space from which Earth can be reached in under 3 hours on 49% engine power? That seems unlikely. My final gripe is as Brad Dourif is explaining to Ripley her origin, he says that they cloned her from blood ffrom Fury 16. Fury 16?! It was Fury 161! Did the writers/director/cast even watch the previous film? Grrr.
So what did I like? Well, like I say, I did like the idea that the scientist have finally started to breed the aliens in an attempt to study them, I thought that was a good jump off point for the disaster that would inevitably ensue. I was also impressed by the underwater sequence, especially having watched the extras and seen how it was made. Ripley’s character is also a plus point for the film, not knowing how she would react to the other characters at any one point. For me though, these minor points can’t save the mess of this film. Shoddy story, inappropriate direction and forgettable characters. Ripley has a good character arc, as does Winona Ryder’s character Call; but the rest are just packing material, even the usually memorable Ron Perlman. Of course Brad Dourif is always watchable. I shall finish with a quote from producer David Giler when he first read the script: “This is going to ruin the franchise, this just doesn’t work at all”. We would have to wait 15 years before hearing another peep from this franchise.