Rating: The Ugly – 65.1 Genre: Action, Science Fiction Duration: 109 mins Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman
200 years after she threw herself and the alien growing within her into a molten pit, military scientists genetically re-engineer Ripley and her parasite back to life in order to harvest the alien embryo. Fortunately for the surviving crew of the inevitably doomed ship, the mingling of the two species’ DNA left her with a few special abilities. First things first. Alien: Resurrection backtracks on the finality of Alien 3. It introduces an overtly comic-bookish plot and a host of caricatured personalities into a series of movies that were always defined by tight plots and layered characters. The genre defining set-pieces of Alien and Aliens and the admirable attempts of Alien 3 are replaced by contrived, blockbuster, slow-motion explodathons. The most interesting aspect to the story, writer Joss Whedon’s notion of Ripley’s ‘rebirth’, is completely misinterpreted by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The incisive dialogue of the first three instalments replete with its organic wit and charm is replaced by a one-liner infested script which plays to the sound bite. The lavish production design jars completely with the more elegantly simple aesthetic of the first three. Similarly, the sleek and dark naturalism of H.R. Giger’s creature design is ultimately replaced with a quasi-surrealist Cronenberg-esque body horror. And lastly, and perhaps most unforgivably, the steely fear and breathless tension that so defined Scott’s, Cameron’s, and Fincher’s movies is relinquished in favour of gore, gore, and more gore resulting in yet more outlandish events that feel so ‘alien’ to the series.
With all this in mind, if one is going to enjoy Alien: Resurrection, one must take it entirely on its own merits and treat it as a standalone feature. For those who can do that, there’s a fairly enjoyable action/sci-fi/horror romp lurking beneath the ashes of the great series. Sigourney Weaver is back in her darkest Ripley incarnation and she eats up the opportunity to play with the well worn role. The movie comes alive when she’s on the screen and she is the most important factor in its partial redemption. There are also a host of fantastic character actors (e.g., Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman, Dan Hedaya, J.E. Freeman) playing the various secondary roles and caricatured as they are, the quality of the actors inhabiting them makes them fun to watch. The creatures look better than that which most sci-fi horror movies offer up and can even be enjoyed from the perspective of the franchise. As mentioned above, inappropriate as it may be to the Alien series, the production design and creature effects are still first rate and when combined with the motley gang of badasses led by the gnarly Ripley, the whole thing becomes quite entertaining.
Rating: The Good – 77.1 Genre: Science Fiction Duration: 137 mins Director: David Lynch Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Francesca Annis
David Lynch’s much maligned adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal novel has been criticised by lovers of the book (which, let’s face it, were always going to be difficult to please), those desperately hung up on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s doomed adaptation (which, let’s face it, was mouth-watering in its potential), and those who seem to have a mind about as open as the vault door at Fort Knox. However, no matter what your bias or leaning, there’s no denying that Lynch brought a level of abstraction to this version that was startling and in its own way defining. The epic story is one of political intrigue 8,000 years in the future between powerful houses fighting over a planet which holds the key to the most valuable natural resource in the known universe. Kyle MacLachlan plays the prince of one of these houses who must realise his destiny on this strange planet and he is surrounded by a host of quirky characters played by equally quirky performers. This film is probably unlike anything you will have ever seen and the sheer breadth of its unfamiliarity will leave you disorientated and at times deeply uncomfortable. And of course, for a film set so far in the future that’s exactly the point! The one major criticism that is not levelled often enough against sci-fi films is their failure to give the viewer the impression that what they’re looking at is alien. Dune is a raging triumph of alienation and disorientation. Once you acclimatise to it, however, the film becomes a rather fascinating experience and while cheesy in places (often due to MacLachlan’s bright eyed naivety being dialed a tad high) for the most part it plays out as extremely sophisticated science fiction. Not for the feint willed, but if you’re a student of sci-fi in particular and film in general, Lynch’s Dune is a must see.
Rating: The Good – 78.5 Genre: Crime, Drama Duration: 128 mins Director: Alan Parker Stars: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand
Alan Parker outdoes himself with this powerful and perfectly sculpted thriller about an FBI investigation into the disappearance of three civil rights activists in 1960′s Mississippi. The pacing, editing, writing, and acting are the central forces of this film experience and the steady but tempered build-up of emotion and drama is the result. Willem Dafoe is sensational as the straight-laced and driven (but multi-layered) FBI man charged with leading the investigation. It’s a testament to this perennially underrated actor’s ability that he not only holds his own with the legendary Gene Hackman but goes on to form one of the more subtly powerful onscreen partnerships with the great man. Hackman himself is sublime as the equally complex former southern sheriff who moved to the FBI because “the grits started leaving a bad taste in my mouth”. His character walks the line between professionalism and breathtaking ferocity as deftly as he understands the white southern mentality of that time. The nastier characters are played with similar relish by some more underrated big-hitters such as Michael Rooker and the always fantastic Brad Dourif. Parker doesn’t just content himself with making a top-notch thriller. Instead, he attempts and succeeds wonderfully in conveying a layered understanding and explanation of racism, its roots and its catalysts. Look deeper into each of Mississippi Burning’s scenes and you will be rewarded with this subtle commentary.