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FireflyFirefly - "Serenity" Movie - Livejournal.com/users/chaodai Review
Monday 3 October 2005, by Webmaster
was it “alien: resurrection 2” or “alien: resurrections”?
you know, i like to think i’m a pretty media savvy guy - but i had no idea that a sequel to “alien: resurrection" has not only been produced - but that it’s actually good!
i’ll basically go see anything with spaceships and rayguns anyway, so my presence in the theater was all but a given - but to get the amazing surprise that the writer of “alien: resurrection” somehow - against all odds - got to right the wrongs wreaked upon him by the studio and director of “alien: resurrection” and write - and even direct - a sequel himself - that’s really something!
WARNING - SPOILERS FOR THIS WEEKEND’S SOLE MAJOR SCI-FI RELEASE FOLLOW!
what’s most surprising is that the writer/director was pretty much able to pull this trick without all that much of a retcon to the established canon. considering how wretched “alien: resurrection” turned out, you’d think he’d have to overhaul the whole thing. i mean, yes, he had to make some changes to the characters, and some substantial recasting - but mostly, it’s for the better.
if you remember the story of “alien: resurrection,” the crew of the hardscrabble pirate/mercenary ship “the betty” (a ship so patched up that it even has significant trouble doing atmospheric landings on planet, which makes for a few awesome and tense sequences) escaped from the usm auriga - a ship run the by the nefarious “united systems” a kind of dictatorship that now runs the galaxy in the aftermath of a system-wide war.
the sequel picks up right afterward - with most of the characters unscathed, the rogueish pirate captain and former military man elgin, his dark-haired and gorgeous love interest, hillard, the plucky tomboyish female mechanic annalee call, the ship’s smart-mouthed pilot vriess, johnner, the rough, tumble and politically incorrect “muscle” and christie (the ship’s other former military crewmember, whose loyalty and strength of character is exemplary - and who is the only black person in the betty)... although, in a major retcon, christie is now a woman and married to vriess, but it works, hey, sometimes they gotta change things around in sequels.
anyway, the crew of the betty now has the genetically-enhanced ripley among them - and she is none too welcome. apprently, the united systems has sent an assassin after her, wanting to possess the superior abilities bred into her by their experiments. not to mention that she is kind of weird and psychotic - and gifted with fighting abilities beyond the wildest dreams of the original ellen ripley.
this all leads to a race across the galaxy, with the crew of the betty just one step ahead of the united systems as they speed toward a planet with an amazing secret: it is the place where the united systems have been doing even larger-scale genetic experiments that ultimately begat a race of human-alien hybrids even more psychotic than ripley... a real wild bunch of space beasts with ships and an unquenchable thirst for human blood.
and it’s pretty cool, because what you find out is that, because of their experiments, the united systems military dictatorship is basically responsible not only for ripley being all messed up, but also for a major infestation of these human/alien hybrid savages... following the pattern of all the other alien movies in which everything would have been fine if the company had just left the aliens well enough alone!
i have to hand it to the writer/director, he did a really good job of reinventing the whole alien concept in a new and fresh way - and by grounding the film on character, primarily on the consequences of the experimentation done on ripley and on elgyn - going through a character arc of discovering his own sense of ethics after years of piracy - the aliens are sort of tangential to the movie, and yet they serve as the main threat in a very satisfying and frightening way.
ripley is a little bit of a problem, however. i don’t mind that the director recast elgyn with a more han solo-like actor. michael wincott, who played the character in the original probably would have come across as too disreputable to be redeemable. the recasting of christie as a woman, or making vriess a little younger (and not wheelchair bound) all work reasonably well - as does making hillard a more feminine presence with a more complicated romantic backstory with elgyn...
... but recasting ripley as a much younger woman (an almost christina ricci-like younger woman) struck me as an odd choice.
i get it that the director is trying to contrast the new genetically-engineered clone ripley’s more youthful appearance with her ability to kick ass - but i kinda think you need a woman of sigourney weaver’s stature to make the threat credible. the film’s climax - when she finally lets her human/xenomorph nature loose and goes monkey-shit on the marauding aliens, murdering them all with a couple of bladed weapons and her own alien crossbreed qualities - would have really benefitted from the physicality of a more mature actor (but hey, when they let me make my own “alien” sequel, i guess i’ll call the shots).
as much as i liked the casting of the united systems operative with an astoundingly talented actor i last saw in “dirty pretty things,” i would have much preferred for this part to have been played by a latter generation iteration of the bishop android - alas, maybe lance henriksen is getting a little too long in the tooth to play this role.
physically, the movie moves the “trenchcoats and bullets” aesthetic of the crew of the betty as seen in “alien: resurrection” further forward - as well as the genral drift toward an asian-dominated linguistic system seen in “alien: resurrection” and “alien 3” (you also get to see a lot of people in civvies - hawaiian shirts and the like). there’s also a lot of great little touches that remind you of the alien legacy - you actually get to see the “shake and bake” colonies after they have been fully terraformed (the large terraforming machines are delightfully reminiscent of the weyland-yutani fusion egines seen in “aliens”), and the concept of earth as an overpopulated husk of a planet, as established in "alien: resurrection" is very much still in play here.
the betty got a little bit of a redesign, but still has its essential anime/insectoid aspect. inside it’s still a tin can that’s constantly falling apart much to the exasperation of the crew - not much retconning here.
i could nitpick the minuscule ways in which the writer/director changed the particulars he set up in his script for “alien: resurrection” - and the fact that, while a generally satisfying sequel, the film doesn’t really leave me wanting to go see any more of the adventures of the crew of the betty. it feels like all of a piece and comes to a satisfying conclusion - i’d rather dwell on the positive.
it is a true accomplishment for a writer/director (as well as a loyal, devoted fanbase) to stick to the guns and really find a way to make right an egregious wrong perpetrated by an unthinking, unfeeling studio. it is an incredible - extraordinary way to find closure on truly wonderful projects that met their doom way too early and were full of unfulfilled potential.
i hope others can follow this writer/director’s example. for his tenacity in keeping the franchise alive alone, not to mention making such a fine sequel, he deserves all the credit in the world. i for one am very curious about what he will come up with next!