Alien Resurrection is a 1997 American science fiction horror film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, written by Joss Whedon, and starring Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder.
It is the fourth instalment of the Alien film series and the final instalment in the main series.
Set 200 years after the preceding instalment Alien 03 (1992), Ellen Ripley is cloned and an Alien Queen is surgically removed from her body. The United Systems Military hopes to breed Aliens to study and research on the spaceship USM Auriga, using human hosts kidnapped and delivered to them by a group of mercenaries. The Aliens escape their enclosures, while Ripley and the mercenaries attempt to escape and destroy the Auriga before it reaches its destination: Earth.
Additional roles are played by Ron Perlman, Dan Hedaya, J. E. Freeman, Brad Dourif, and Michael Wincott.
A sequel to Resurrection was planned as Joss Whedon had written an Earth-set script for Alien 05, though Sigourney Weaver was not interested in this setting, but has remained open to reprise her role as Ellen Ripley for a fifth instalment on the condition that she likes the story.
Although more sequels were planned to follow Resurrection, they were ultimately abandoned as the crossover series arrived with the 2004 film Alien vs. Predator, along with the prequel series including the 2012 film Prometheus directed by Ridley Scott, who stated that the film precedes the story of Alien, but is not directly connected to the original film’s franchise, and that Prometheus explores its own mythology and ideas.
In 2379, two hundred years after the events of Alien 03, military scientists on the space vessel USM Auriga create a clone of Ellen Ripley, designated Ripley 8, using DNA from blood samples taken before her death. The Xenomorph queen’s DNA has been mixed in with Ripley’s, so the clone grows up with an embryo inside it. The scientists extract the embryo, raise it, and collect its eggs while keeping Ripley 8 alive for further study. As a result of the Xenomorphs’ DNA inside her, the clone has enhanced strength and reflexes, somewhat acidic blood, and a psychic link with the Xenomorphs. Additionally, the Xenomorph’s genetic memory allows the clone to have some of Ripley’s memories.
A group of mercenaries consisting of Elgyn, Johner, Christie, Vriess, Hillard and Call, arrives at Auriga on their ship Betty. They deliver several kidnapped humans in stasis. The military scientists use the humans as hosts for the aliens, raising several adult Xenomorphs for study.
The Betty crew soon encounters Ripley 8. Annalee Call recognises her name and tries to kill her, suspecting that Ripley 8 may be used to create Xenomorphs, but the creatures have already been cloned. The Xenomorphs, having matured, escape confinement by killing off one of their own to use its acidic blood to burn through their enclosures, aware of their blood’s acidity from said genetic memory. They then capture Dr. Jonathan Gediman and kill a second scientist. They damage the Auriga and kill some of those people who failed to evacuate, including General Perez and Elgyn. Another crew member is captured and cocooned for eggmorphing. Military scientist Dr. Wren reveals that the ship’s default command in an emergency is to return to Earth. Realising that this will unleash the Xenomorphs on Earth, Ripley 8, the mercenaries, Wren, a Marine named Distephano, and surviving Xenomorph host Purvis, decide to head for the Betty and use it to destroy the Auriga. Along the way, Ripley 8 discovers a laboratory containing the grotesque results of the previous seven failed attempts to clone Ellen Ripley. The surviving one begs Ripley 8 to euthanise her; she complies and then incinerates the lab and its contents.
As the group makes their way through the damaged ship, they swim through a flooded kitchen. They are chased by two Xenomorphs. One is killed, while the other snatches Hillard. As they escape the kitchen, the Xenomorph returns and blinds Christie, who sacrifices himself to kill the Xenomorph so the others can escape. After Wren betrays the group, Call is revealed to be an auton, an improved version of a human created by synthetics. Using her ability to interface with the Auriga’s systems, Call sets it on a collision course with Earth, hoping to destroy the Xenomorphs in the crash. She cuts off Wren’s escape route and directs the Xenomorphs towards him. Ripley 8 is captured by a Xenomorph, while the others head for the Betty. Wren, who is already aboard, shoots Purvis, takes Call hostage and demands that she abort the collision. An injured Purvis attacks Wren and forces Wren’s head to his chest just as the Xenomorph embryo he is carrying bursts through his ribcage, causing it to go through Wren’s head too, killing them both. The survivors shoot and kill the juvenile Xenomorph.
Ripley is taken to the Alien nest, where she finds Gediman, still alive and partially cocooned. The Alien Queen, having developed a uterus as a result of her genetic contamination with Ripley 8, gives birth to a Xenomorph with overtly human traits. The hybrid Xenomorph recognises Ripley 8 as its mother, killing the Alien Queen and Gediman. Ripley 8 takes advantage of the distraction to escape and makes her way to the Betty.
The “Newborn Alien” reaches the Betty and attacks Call, killing Distephano when he tries to help her. Ripley 8 finds her way onto the ship and saves Call by distracting the hybrid. Using her acidic blood, Ripley 8 melts a hole in a window and pushes the hybrid towards it. The decompression violently sucks the creature through the hole and out into space, killing it as Ripley 8 tearfully watches on.
The countdown on the Auriga continues as the survivors escape in the Betty. The Auriga collides with Earth, causing a large explosion. As they look down at Earth, Call asks what Ripley 8 wants to do next. “I don’t know. I’m a stranger here myself”, she replies.
- Sigourney Weaver as Ripley 8:
- Reprising her role from the previous three Alien films. After having sacrificed herself to kill the Alien Queen gestating inside her in Alien 03, Ripley has been cloned using blood samples so that the military may extract the Queen embryo.
- As a result of the cloning process Ripley has been affected by the Alien Queen’s DNA.
- She has enhanced strength and reflexes, acidic blood, and can sense the presence of the Aliens.
- Weaver also portrayed the failed seventh clone.
- Nicole Fellows as Young Ripley
- Winona Ryder as Annalee Call:
- The newest crew member of the Betty. She recognizes Ripley and has knowledge of the Aliens.
- Call is revealed during the course of the film to be a synthetic and helps the surviving crew interface with the Auriga.
- Dominique Pinon as Dom Vriess:
- The Betty’s mechanic.
- A paraplegic, he uses a motorised wheelchair.
- Vriess shares a close friendship with Call and an antagonistic relationship with Johner.
- Ron Perlman as Ron Johner:
- A mercenary and member of the Betty’s crew.
- Johner makes bad jokes, has a short temper, and teases Vriess about his handicap.
- Gary Dourdan as Gary Christie:
- The first mate and second-in-command of the Betty.
- Michael Wincott as Frank Elgyn:
- Captain of the mercenary ship Betty. Elgyn brings the Betty to the Auriga in order to sell kidnapped humans in cryostasis to General Perez.
- He is romantically involved with Hillard.
- Kim Flowers as Sabra Hillard:
- The assistant pilot of the Betty who is romantically involved with Elgyn.
- Dan Hedaya as General Martin Perez.
- Perez is the commanding officer of the Auriga and supervises the experiments to clone Ripley and study the Aliens.
- J. E. Freeman as Dr. Mason Wren:
- Wren is one of several scientists aboard the Auriga involved in cloning Ripley and studying the Aliens.
- After the Aliens escape he joins the lead characters in their attempt to flee the ship.
- Brad Dourif as Dr. Jonathan Gediman:
- Another of the scientists involved in cloning Ripley and studying the Aliens.
- One alien attacks him after he tries to chase them.
- Raymond Cruz as Vincent Distephano.
- Distephano is a soldier stationed aboard the Auriga.
- When the Aliens break out, he joins the crew in their attempt to escape from the ship.
- Leland Orser as Larry Purvis.
- Purvis is one of several humans who have been kidnapped by the crew of the Betty while in cryosleep and delivered to the Auriga to serve as hosts for the Aliens.
- Despite having an Alien growing inside him, Purvis joins the surviving crew in an attempt to escape from the Auriga.
- Carolyn Campbell as Anesthesiologist.
- Marlene Bush as Dr. Carlyn Williamson (credited as “Scientist”):
- The third member of the science team responsible for cloning Ripley.
- She is often confused with Carolyn Campbell’s character, as the two look strikingly similar.
- David St. James as Dr. Dan Sprague (credited as “Surgeon”):
- Another member of the Auriga’s science team.
- Tom Woodruff Jr. as the lead Alien, Alien Queen, and the Newborn.
- Woodruff had previously played the Alien in Alien 03, and described the Alien in Resurrection as feeling “much more like a dog. Its got dog legs, a more pointed nose, and a more vicious mouth.”
- Weaver praised Woodruff’s work, saying that “working with him is like working with Lon Chaney, only Tom’s usually covered with K-Y Jelly.”
- Woodruff also played the lead Alien in the crossover films, Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.
- Joan La Barbara as The Newborn (voice).
- Archie Hahn as The Newborn (voice).
- Steven Gilborn as Father (voice).
- The artificial intelligence system of the USM Auriga.
Impressed with his work as a screenwriter, 20th Century Fox hired Joss Whedon to write the film’s script. Whedon’s initial screenplay had a third act on Earth, with a final battle for Earth itself. Whedon wrote five versions of the final act, none of which ended up in the film.
The studio initially imagined that the film would centre around a clone of the character Newt from Aliens, as the Ellen Ripley character had died at the end of Alien 03. Whedon composed a thirty-page treatment surrounding this idea before being informed that the studio, though impressed with his script, now intended to base the story on a clone of Ripley, whom they saw as the anchor of the series. Whedon had to rewrite the script in a way that would bring back the Ripley character, a task he found difficult. The idea of cloning was suggested by producers David Giler and Walter Hill, who opposed the production of Alien Resurrection, as they thought it would ruin the franchise.
Sigourney Weaver, who had played Ripley throughout the series, wanted to liberate the character in Alien 03 as she did not want Ripley to become “a figure of fun” who would continuously “wake up with monsters running around”. The possibility of an Alien vs. Predator film was another reason for the character’s death, as she thought the concept “sounded awful”. However, Weaver was impressed with Whedon’s script. She thought that the error during Ripley’s cloning process would allow her to further explore the character, since Ripley becoming part-human and part-Alien would create uncertainty about where her loyalties lay. This was an interesting concept to Weaver, who thought the film brought back the spirit of Alien and Aliens. Weaver received a co-producer credit and was reportedly paid $11 million.
Direction and Design
Trainspotting director Danny Boyle was the producers’ first choice to direct the film. Boyle and his producer met with effects supervisors to discuss the film, but he was not interested in pursuing the project and went on to make A Life Less Ordinary instead. Peter Jackson was also approached, but declined as he could not get excited about an Alien film. In 1995, after the release of The Usual Suspects, 20th Century Fox approached Bryan Singer to direct. Jean-Pierre Jeunet was asked to direct, as the film’s producers believed he had a unique visual style. Jeunet had just completed the script to Amélie and was surprised he was offered the job for Alien Resurrection, as he thought the franchise had finished with Alien 03 and believed that making a sequel was a bad idea. Jeunet, however, accepted the project with a budget of $70 million. He required an interpreter as he did not speak much English when filming began.
Jeunet hired French special effects supervisor Pitof and cinematographer Darius Khondji, both of whom he had worked with on The City of Lost Children. Nigel Phelps was chosen for production designer, having made a name for himself designing Gotham City in Batman and Mega-City One in Judge Dredd. Jeunet and his crew watched the latest science fiction and Alien films as reference material, and obtained production reports from the Alien films to study the camera setups. Jeunet was given creative control, contributing several elements to the script including five different endings, although the expensive ones were dismissed. He also opted to make the film a dark comedy and was encouraged to include more violence. In June 1996, Jeunet’s frequent co-director, conceptual artist Marc Caro had drawn rough sketches of characters’ costumes, which were shown to veteran costume designer Bob Ringwood. Ringwood made several modifications for the final design.
Special effects company Amalgamated Dynamics Incorporated (ADI) was hired for the film, having previously worked on Alien 03. ADI founders Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis also had experience working with Stan Winston on Aliens. ADI based their designs and modifications of the Alien creatures on the film’s script, which included the creatures having pointed tails for swimming, making their head domes and chins more pointed, and establishing them to appear more vicious using techniques of camera angles and shot duration. After receiving the director’s approval, ADI began to create small sculptures, sketches, paintings, and life-size models. Referring to the use of animatronics in the film, Twentieth Century Fox executive Tom Rothman stated, “Most movies would be tempted to do the Newborn digitally … [but] it looks so much more real when you [use] animatronics”.
Jeunet asked ADI to lean towards making the human/Alien hybrid creature more human than Alien. An early concept was to replicate Sigourney Weaver’s features, although the crew felt this design would be too similar to the design of the creature Sil from the 1995 film Species. Eyes and a nose were added to the hybrid to allow it to have more expressions and communicate more emotion than the xenomorphs, so that it would have more depth as a character rather than being “just a killing machine”. Jeunet was adamant about the hybrid having genitalia which resembled a mix of male and female sexes. 20th Century Fox was uncomfortable with this, however, and Jeunet eventually changed his mind, feeling that “even for a Frenchman, it’s too much”. The genitalia were removed during post-production using digital effects techniques. The animatronic hybrid required nine puppeteers and was the most complex animatronic in the film.
Alien Resurrection was filmed at Fox studios in Los Angeles, California, from October 1996 to February 1997. Jeunet had difficulty securing studio space, as the filming of Hollywood blockbusters such as Titanic, Starship Troopers, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park were taking place at the same time. Alien Resurrection was the first instalment in the Alien series to be filmed outside England, a decision made by Weaver, who believed that the previous films’ travel schedules exhausted the crew.
The underwater scene was the first to be shot, and for its filming Stage 16 at Fox Studios was reconstructed into a 36-by-45-metre tank, 4.5 metres deep, containing 548,000 gallons of water. The decision was made to convert the stage rather than film the scene elsewhere, since moving the film crew to the nearest adequate facility in San Diego would have been too costly for a single scene, and by converting Stage 16 20th Century Fox would be able to use the tank for future films. Because of the aquatic filming, the ability to swim was a prerequisite for cast and crew when signing onto the film. The cast trained in swimming pools in Los Angeles with professional divers to learn how to use the equipment. An additional two-and-a-half weeks of training took place at the studio with stunt coordinator Ernie Orsatti and underwater cinematographer Peter Romano. Weaver, however, was unable to participate in most of the training due to commitments on Broadway. Winona Ryder faced a challenge with the scene, as she had nearly drowned at age 12 and had not been in the water since. She suggested using a body double, but knew that it would be too obvious to audiences due to the difference in hair length. She filmed the scene, but suffered from anxiety on the first day of filming.
Director Jeunet wanted to display Ripley’s new powers, including a scene in which Ripley throws a basketball through a hoop while facing the opposite direction. Weaver trained for ten days and averaged one out of six baskets, although the distance required for filming was farther than she had practised. Jeunet was concerned about the time being spent on the shot and wanted to either use a machine to throw the ball or to insert it later using computer-generated imagery (CGI). Weaver, however, was determined to make the shot authentic, and insisted on doing it herself. The shot required many dozens of takes, during which none of the balls went in. The crew were going to give up, but gave Weaver one last shot, and in this take, she got the ball in perfectly (the idea that she did it in one take is a myth). The ball was out of frame for a moment during the shot, and Pitof offered to edit it so that the ball was on-screen for the entire scene, but Weaver refused. Ron Perlman broke character when she made the basket, and turned to the camera to say “Oh my god!” There was enough of a pause between Weaver’s basket and Perlman’s statement for the film’s editors to cut the scene accordingly during post-production.
Visual Effects and Miniatures
The film’s script was laid out similar to a comic book, with pictures on the left and dialog and descriptions on the right. Jeunet planned every shot, which made it easier for visual effects artists to do their work. Blue Sky Studios was hired to create the first CGI Aliens to appear on film. Impressed with the company’s work on Joe’s Apartment creating CGI cockroaches, Jeunet and Pitof opted to hire the company to create 30 to 40 shots of CGI Aliens. The decision was made to use CGI Aliens rather than puppets or suited actors whenever the creatures’ legs were in frame, as Jeunet felt that a man in a suit is easy to distinguish when the full body is seen.
All of the spaceships in the film were miniatures, as visual effects supervisors believed CGI was not effective enough to create realistic spaceships. The USM Auriga was originally designed by artist Nigel Phelps and resembled a medical instrument. This design proved to be too vertical for the film’s opening shot, in which the camera pans out to show the ship, and did not appear satisfactory in the film’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Three days before the design had to be finalized, Jeunet rejected it. Phelps, production illustrator Jim Martin, and concept artist Sylvain Despretz were tasked to redesign the ship. Jeunet felt Martin’s design was too much like a space station, while he accepted Despretz’s design due to its streamlined and horizontal appearance.
Composer John Frizzell was encouraged by a friend to audition to compose Alien Resurrection’s film score. Frizzell sent in four cassettes and received a call from 20th Century Fox about the fourth, which contained music from The Empty Mirror. Impressed with his work, Fox representative Robert Kraft had a short meeting with Frizzell and hired him. Frizzell spent seven months writing and recording the score, which Jeunet requested to be very different and unique from the previous films in the series. This included themes of romance and eroticism, incorporating sound effects such as a gong and rub rod. The cue “They Swim” took one month to complete as Jeunet was not pleased with Frizzell’s original version, although the final result was a mix between the first and third versions he had composed. “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man”, Popeye’s theme song, written by Sammy Lerner, is whistled by Dom Vriess and is credited in the credits.
A pre-screening of Alien Resurrection was held in Camarillo, California, and the film was released in North America on 26 November 1997. Debuting at number two at the box office behind Flubber, Alien Resurrection grossed $25 million in its first five days – $16 million over the weekend, for an average of $6,821 per 2,415 theatres. The film grossed $47.8 million in North America, the least successful of the Alien series on that continent. It was well received internationally, however, with a gross of $113.6 million, bringing its total gross to $161.4 million. It was the 43rd-highest-grossing film in North America in 1997.
To coincide with the release of the film, a book titled Making of Alien Resurrection was released on 28 November 1997, in addition to a novelization of the film released on 01 December 1997. Dark Horse Comics also published a two-issue comic book adaptation. A video game for the PlayStation was released in 2000.
Alien Resurrection was first released onto home video in the VHS, LaserDisc and DVD formats on 02 June 1998. The film received its first Blu-ray release as part of the Alien Anthology box set released in 2010 including all four films and their alternative versions. The film was re-released on Blu-ray on 10 May 2011, in a stand-alone feature.
In 2003, Jeunet included an alternate version of the film on the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set with different opening and closing credits, which were originally cut due to budget restrictions. The deleted scenes included references to the character Newt from Aliens, Vriess making a joke to Call, Ripley’s clone waking up in the middle of her operation, an extended conversation in the mess hall that reveals the eventual fate of Ripley’s former employers, Weyland–Yutani, an extended dialogue between Call and Ripley’s clone in the chapel and scenes of the Betty landing on Earth and the planet’s landscape during the final dialogue between Ripley and Call, as they view the ruins of Paris. The special edition restores 13 minutes and 5 seconds’ worth of footage (including the new opening and ending), and is 7 minutes longer than the theatrical version. Jeunet has stated that the special edition is not a director’s cut as his preferred version is the theatrical cut. Alien Quadrilogy contains a documentary called One Step Beyond: The Making of Alien Resurrection, featuring over two hours of footage relating to pre-production, production, post-production, screen tests, concept art, and audio commentary by the cast and crew. Alien Resurrection – Collector’s Edition, which also includes One Step Beyond: The Making of Alien Resurrection, was released on 06 January 2004.
Joss Whedon had written an Earth-set script for Alien 5, but Sigourney Weaver was not interested in this setting and sought to return the story to the planetoid from the first film. Weaver has remained open to a role in a fifth instalment on the condition that she likes the story. Before 20th Century Fox greenlit Alien vs. Predator, James Cameron had been collaborating on the plot for a fifth Alien film with another writer. Learning of Fox’s plans for a crossover, he ceased work on his concept. Before he saw the film, Cameron had stated that it would “kill the validity of the franchise”, and that “it was Frankenstein Meets Werewolf” – like “Universal just taking their assets and starting to play them off against each other”. Although he later admitted to liking Alien vs. Predator, Cameron ruled out any future involvement with the series.
In a 2002 interview, Ridley Scott stated that a new Alien project “would be a lot of fun”, but that “the most important thing was to get the story right”. Scott’s concept for the plot was “to go back to where the alien creatures were first found and explain how they were created”. In late 2008, Weaver hinted in an interview with MTV that she and Scott were working on an Alien spinoff film, which would focus on the chronicles of Ellen Ripley rather than on the Aliens, but the continuation of Ripley’s story has not materialised. Instead, Prometheus was released in 08 June 2012. A sequel to Prometheus, titled Alien: Covenant, was released in 19 May 2017.
At the 2014 Hero Complex Film Festival, Sigourney Weaver hinted that she’d be interested in returning to the role of Ripley, saying: “Had we done a fifth one, I don’t doubt that her humanity would have prevailed. I do feel like there is more story to tell. I feel a longing from fans for the story to be finished. I could imagine a situation where we finish telling the story.” She was quoted: “I don’t think Alien belongs on Earth popping out of a haystack, which is where I was afraid it was going to go. I feel it should take place in the far reaches of the universe where no one in their right mind would go. There are very few filmmakers that I can think of that I would want to entrust this to.”
In 2017, 20th Century Fox was rumoured to be reassessing the state of the franchise after the moderate reception to Covenant, although they have not released an official statement to that effect. According to Collider.com, there will be only one additional prequel film before a soft-reboot is made to the Alien universe consisting of a new series of Alien films with brand-new, original characters as well as a new setting. At the 2019 CinemaCon, following The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox, it was officially confirmed that future Alien films are currently in development.
- On a budget of $70 million the film grossed $161.4 million at the box office.
The Alien vs. Predator franchise combines the continuities of the Alien franchise with the Predator franchise and consists of two films as well as various series of comics, books, and video games.
You can find a full index and overview of the Alien Series here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
- Producer(s): Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill, and Bill Badalato.
- Writer(s): Joss Whedon.
- Music: John Frizzell.
- Cinematography: Darius Khondji.
- Editor(s): Herve Schneid.
- Production: 20th Century Fox and Brandywine Productions.
- Distributor(s): 20th Century Fox.
- Release Date: 26 November 1997.
- Running Time: 109 minutes.
- Rating: 18.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.