Alien: Resurrection had a lot going for it—released five years after Alien 3, which received mixed reviews and garnered a fair amount of criticism for the decision to kill off several major characters, the fourth installment was an opportunity to give the franchise a fresh start. With Sigourney Weaver uninterested in resuming her role as Ellen Ripley, Fox brought in an up-and-coming screenwriter named Joss Whedon to craft a story around a cloned version of Newt, the traumatized young colonist introduced in Aliens. By all accounts, Whedon’s initial treatment was fantastic, but of course, we’ll never know how it would’ve turned out. When we originally started planning these rewatches, I wanted to revisit Alien: Resurrection—I had a vague memory of the film being weird and messy, but maybe I hadn’t given it enough credit at the time. Even if it was a failure, given all the talented people involved, it would have to be an interesting failure, right? Sometimes an ambitious fiasco can be more interesting than a conventionally successful blockbuster—theoretically, at least.
Then again, with some movies, all you can do is roll out the crime scene tape and try to figure out what went wrong—and in this case, I’d argue that all the talent involved might be the movie’s biggest problem, since nobody seems to be on the same page: conversations and relationships seem stilted and bizarre, there seem to be big, weighty themes floating about waiting to bonk us on the head, but they never connect or come into focus.