Some people thought Aliens changed too much from the original Alien film. Then we thought that David Fincher’s dark prison planet in Alien3 was too far from the first two films.
Now, compared to Alien Resurrection, the original three are identical triplets.
• City of Lost Children, 1995, Caro & Jeunet, for the same reason.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet worked with Marc Caro to give us Delicatessen and City of Lost Children. Both are wonderful fantastic films full of imaginative sets and colorful characters. Set against economically depressed backdrops the characters must become somewhat twisted to survive. Somehow, Jeunet was picked to direct this fourth installment in the Alien series (Caro was design consultant on Alien Resurrection). Their talents and this franchise do not match.
First of all, the first three Alien movies seem much more tangible, more real than this one. In Alien, half of the characters were from below decks, working on a blue-collar space ship. In Aliens, the marines are brought to a deserted colonization site where we can imagine a few hundred people roughing it. In Fincher’s film, most of the characters are prisoners in a facility long since forgotten. But in Resurrection, the space ship is unfathomably, fantastically large. It is not a place where we imagine someone lives or works or survives. There is no sense of human scale to it. It is clearly a computer-generated backdrop with very little influence on the lives of its supposed inhabitants.
Second, Jeunet’s world is cartoonish. Where the first three films took themselves somewhat seriously, Jeunet’s Resurrection world is silly. The most egregious example, a scene that really keeps you from getting into the movie, is one in which a ricocheting bullet kills the shooter. Bugs Bunny couldn’t have set up Yosemite Sam any better. It’s a funny moment, but funny moments are not what has made the Alien series so enjoyable.
Third, the movie introduces more developments than it can handle. In addition to the regular conflicts that arise in any movie, Resurrection is asked to introduce key points that will reportedly launch two more future Alien movies. I won’t give them away specifically, but by the end the events of the movie are introduced and resolved so fast that it’s hard to feel any sense of tension.
Resurrection had its moments. I do like Jeunet and Caro. Even if they were the wrong choice for the Alien series, I was glad to see another of their films. Also, one of the films’ creatures was genuinely frightening. Instead of being a terrifying best, though, this creature was scary because of its vaguely human form. It was frightening the same way Frankenstein might be scary: it was human enough to deserve our sympathy but monstrous enough to be a threat to humanity. But I suppose I wouldn’t recommend the movie, especially to anyone who is fond of the Alien series. It’s just too far from what’s expected.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love Jeunet and Caro. I hope this movie is successful for their sakes. But it was the wrong script for their particular style of moviemaking. Hopefully they’ll earn enough money and recognition from this film that they can afford to go back to making their own independent (if expensive) films.