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This evening I subjected myself to Alien Resurrection (1997) … not because I had any crashing desire to see another Alien movie, but because it was directed ny Jean-Pierre Jeunet, one of the few remaining active directors whose work I admire enough to actively seek out. It was his only Hollywood movie, and I believe the experience was bad enough to sour him on ever doing it again. Can’t blame him for taking the offer; gotta admire him for cutting the cord and going back to doing what he does best: his own thing.
Jeunet struggles manfully to make something out of the material; but it’s an effort that’s doomed from the start, hobbled as it is by a script excreted from The High No-Talent Supreme, Joss Whedon. Whedon, James Cameron, J.J. Abrams — these three clowns taken together are among the worst things ever to happen to Hollywood, discounting only the corporate numbskulls who keep on hiring them. If I’m ever unlucky enough to meet Whedon, I want to ask him what it feels like to fuck The Avengers.
When he’s not busily engaged in finding ever more extreme ways to gross out an audience (the one thing that the Alien movies seem to thrive on), he’s dutifully hitting the mark of every standard Hollywood Plot Point, every cliched theme or line of dialogue that he can possibly lay his typing fingers on. Alien Resurrection is one of those movies that the audience could have written just as well, by rote: all 114 minutes are telegraphed and predicated (and predictable) from the movie’s opening seconds. This is probably its great failing as a horror movie: it’s hard to be scared by a movie when we already know what’s coming, down to the split second.
Still, Jeunet’s visual trademarks somehow manage to shine through: and the opening sequence is pure Jeunet, leading one to expect a far more inventive picture than what follows. And it does have Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder, thank goodness for that. I’d watch those two in practically anything, and Jeunet knows how to photograph them: you can’t turn your eyes away when they are onscreen, much as the content of the picture makes looking away almost mandatory.
It’s worth watching — once — because of Weaver and Ryder and Jeunet; but you can almost feel the man’s frustration running through the movie’s frames like the slimy alien goop that saturates it throughout. No man who is capable of works like Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, Amelie, A Very Long Engagement, or his other films, is going to be happy applying his talents to lifeless crap like this. The business of making sequels to other people's work in Hollywood must be akin to working inside a gigantic Kill Jar. Perhaps this is why he opens the movie with an insect about to be smushed.
Really, I wanted to watch this tonight because I’ve finally managed to snag a copy of Juenet’s most recent picture, The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivot. This has barely been seen in America thanks to its distributor, Harvey Weinstein: basically, an ego on legs. In Jeunet’s own words: “Gaumont sold the film to Harvey Weinstein, and he fucked me... because I refused to re-edit the film. He kept the film for two years and he released the film without advertising, nothing, it was a disaster.”
So at last, sometime this weekend, I’ll get a crack the man’s latest work. It’s had mixed reviews, but this is not surprising: if you don’t “get” Jeunet, then you may feel lost wandering the landscape of his cluttered mind and razor-sharp eye. For me, the only thing that doesn’t bode well for the viewing is that I’m looking forward to it so much.
We’ll see. I’ll let you know.