Rated R - Running time: 1:50 - Released 11/26/97

When I heard that Sigourney Weaver was returning yet again in a new Alien movie, I thought, "that can't be! She insisted that Alien 3 be the last one — that's why her character was killed in it!" Then I found out she co-produced this one. That explains it: now she's got the bread, not just the fans, on her side.

In director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's foray into the Alien saga, Weaver's character, Ripley, is cloned from blood samples found on the planet of her demise. (Boy, even if cloning is unethical and impractical in real life, it sure has given the movie industry a new avenue of storylines!) A new version of Ripley is grown for the sole purpose of being a surrogate mother for a new alien queen. This is done by a team of unscrupulous scientists who breed and feed the animals with the intention of "studying" them. After the baby queen is removed from Ripley's body, she is tossed into a sort of cell, and no one really knows what to do with her. The thing is, in the cloning process, her DNA was mixed with that of the dreaded beastie, and so her new persona is a mixture of the two. I'll give the genetecists out there a few minutes to settle down and get a hanky.

The queen starts laying eggs, and next thing you know, boom — you've got a family. The scientists take great measures to protect the creatures, but there are others (notably Annalee Call, played by Winona Ryder), who want just as much to see them vaporized. As usual, the little buggers get loose, and a bloodbath follows. Soon, almost everyone still alive agrees that the aliens have to go. But there's a little problem: although Ripley was previously devoted to the destruction of the ferocious, drooling varmints, now she kind of digs them. However, she's the only one who knows their tricks, so the other people in the movie have to form a kind of uneasy alliance with her.

This series has undergone an interesting metamorphosis. Alien (1979) was a science fiction movie, pure and simple. Director Ridley Scott gave us a quiet, realistic, and riveting presentation of a group of astronauts faced with a problem. There were no commandos, no political overtones, no smart-aleck wisecracks. There were only eight people in the film, and the acting and directing were excellent. The now famous stories of the special effects-on-a-shoestring, using such things as rubber hose and raspberry jam, have elevated Alien into the sci-fi hall of fame.

When it was wildly successful, the producers had the budget to go big, and big they went. The sequel, Aliens, while still an excellent film, was a completely different style, moving unreservedly from sci-fi to action/adventure. From then on, all the movies have been huge-budget, action-packed, and decidedly flat in their characterizations. Ripley has changed from a scientist/astronaut into a kind of comic-book superheroine, and that change is really complete in this movie, since part of her alien gene makeup gives her superhuman strength and acidic blood. Hubba, hubba.

Weaver has done a good job of altering Ripley's characterization ever so slightly, into a kind of Frankenstein's monster version of her former self, but she's still much shallower than in the original, and Ryder and the others are even flatter. As with most action/adventure fare, the film is exciting and enjoyable, but mainly because of excellent special effects rather than any semblance of reality with which we can identify. ***½

Copyright 1997 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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