Alien Day: Alien Resurrection at (almost) 20

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Apr 26, 2017

Happy Alien Day, all you faithful xenomorph followers! Before we dive-bomb into the many merits of Alien: Resurrection on the occasion of its 20th anniversary year, let's pause to consider the shocking fact that 20th Century Fox neglected its billion-dollar sci-fi horror franchise for nearly 15 years after its release. Hmm ...

This horror-charged, Euro-flavored Alien installment was the last time we ventured into the Alien sandbox until Ridley Scott's Prometheus landed in 2012. Yes, there were many aborted attempts to rekindle the sci-fi series, but nothing ever caught fire. In this current Hollywood climate where shared universes, power prequels and uninspired sequels sprout like cheatgrass every day, it seems a crime that Alien was ignored so long.

After the critical and commercial debacle that was first-time director David Fincher's Alien 3 in 1992 (Come on, they killed Ripley!), 20th Century Fox decided to go back to the basics for its next Alien mission -- in this case, a military-run space laboratory where foolish scientists are conducting nefarious cloning experiments using Ellen Ripley's DNA from Fiorina "Fury" 161 and melding it with xenomorph genes. What could possibly go wrong?!

Set 200 years after the death of Ellen Ripley and starring Sigourney Weaver, Ron Perlman, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, J.E. Freeman and Winona Ryder, it was produced for $75 million and released on November 26, 1997, during the traditional feasting season of Thanksgiving. Audiences were not impressed, and it went on to collect a mere $47 million during its U.S. run and a total of $161 million worldwide.

Fox took an different directorial tack this time by hiring avant-garde Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose bizarre The City of Lost Children (1995) had gained the filmmaker many admirers. The Alien 4 screenplay was actually written by geek wonderboy Joss Whedon of recent Avengers fame, and the streamlined story, sharp quotable dialogue, ferocious practical effects and creature design by Amalgamated Dynamics all combined to produce a genuinely entertaining and scary sequel. Plus, it contains one of the most disturbing monsters ever to slobber on a silver screen. I rank Alien: Resurrection right behind the original Alien in the series (ducking a flying, freshly-yanked xenomorph tongue) and feel it deserves far more respect.

On the 20th birthday of Alien: Resurrection, let's climb aboard the USM Auriga and spend some time with Ripley 8, Elgyn and his sullen band of space mercenaries selling donor bodies to the lemon-loving General Perez.

Hey, mi casa es su casa! Here are seven reasons why Alien 4 rocks ...

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Nothin' But Net

Ripley 8 displays some wicked basketball-handling skills in this scene demonstrating the hybrid clone's physical prowess and enhanced reflexes due to the scientists tinkering with her DNA using xenomorph cocktail. Ron Perlman's Jonner gets the worst end of her "ball" bounce and yes, Sigourney Weaver is ripped to the max and actually made this half-court, behind-the-back swish.

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Baby Goes Out The Window

The horrific newborn creature in Alien: Resurrection gave me serious nightmares for weeks. If you don't feel some shred of sympathy as it realizes its fate after Ripley flicks some of her acidic blood at a port window, creating a skin-slurping vacuum that will drag the abomination out into outer space, then your heart is a frigid block of glacial ice.

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Really? They Swim?

The sheer logistics of this scene alone are mind-boggling as the pirates try to escape the rampaging xenomorphs by swimming through the submerged mess hall. Admit it ... you were enthralled the first time you saw Jonner haul back and fire a grenade shell at one of the aquatic creatures and seeing it explode underwater. It's still just as cool 20 years later! Ripley's facial expressions in this sequence are fascinating as we see the primal facets of her experimental composition slowly surface.

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Breakout In Cell Block Three

I so love this scene, with Amalgamated Design's beautiful-but-brutish xenomorph warriors using some clever tactics to escape their containment chamber after being teased by the always-watchable Brad Dourif as Dr. Gediman. These hybrid evolutions slaughter one of their own to release a flood of metal-melting acid that gives them their freedom and leads to Gediman's apparent demise.

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Itsy Bitsy Spider

Ron Perlman's Jonner kicks ass in this movie with his trademark machismo and intimidating snarl. Here he performs a killer backwards ladder hang to pump lead into a climbing alien, then gets startled by a tiny spider in an eye-level web and blasts it. I remember this was a huge laugh in the theaters when Resurrection premiered and it still cracks me up.

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Mommy Dearest

Here's a fantastic example of the superb level of practical effects in Resurrection and I'll fight anyone (preferably someone smaller and weaker) who thinks otherwise. Seeing the newborn hybrid with steaming breath whimper and whisper before tearing his Alien Queen mother to pieces is a shocking piece of cinema even 20 years later. Added bonus is a cocooned Brad Dourif witnessing the slaughter with devastated sadness.

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Home Sweet Home

This is an alternate ending deleted scene from the Special Edition showing Ripley and Call landing on Earth and contemplating the future, with our planet a devastated garbage heap after a cataclysmic plague. The camera pulls back to reveal that they are on a hilltop above Paris, with the Eiffel Tower a tilting wreck in the distance. At least Ripley finally got back to her home after a long and winding road out in the cosmos.