With all respect to fondue, I must say that if ever there was a case of someone failing to understand a film, his writeup is a classic.
Alien: Resurrection may or may not be a corporate sell out, it may or may not have been a Giger nightmare, and it may or may not have been a memorial to those two masterpieces (and one awkward appendage) that went before it.
Resurrection is not a film about aliens. It is not a film about the dark, about the unknown, the undefeatable monster or a large bore, fully automatic wet dream with a napalm torch taped to the barrel. It is not about isolation, or despair, it is not even about death.
It is about birth. It is about the creation of human life and about the boundaries of what we understand a human animal to be. It is also, more importantly about what we consider humanity to mean.
In fact this film is precisely in the spirit of the first in the series. Coming away from Alien, all those forgotten childhood thoughts about the dark, about separation from the safety of civilisation are churned up again. As an adult you have matured into society, have overcome your fear of the unknown because experience has taught you that in fact, the unknown isn't especially scary. A new city, a new job, might seem daunting at first, but it's always turned out to just be more of the same. Human, understandable, tame. Alien reminded us, hold on, there's a whole universe out there, we're just living in the safety of a little planet. Maybe there are monsters after all, alien enough to be frightening, yet similar enough to pose a meaningful threat. It reminded us that in growing up we hadn't actually overcome our fear at all, instead we had all simply come to the (flawed) belief that there was nothing to fear. You take a look at the cold black carapace of an alien, observing you without eyes, perfectly lethal to you, predatory, yet with a little spark of evil - deliberately drawing out your moment of terror, and intending to treat you to a death by torture - you tell me that you've grown up, and you outgrew that fear. Bull Fucking Shit.
Alien was NOT Jaws in space, and anyone who says so needs to (a) watch jaws and (b) watch alien.
Aliens was a different kind of film, a very good film, but totally different. It was cool, it was gory, but while you might have had nightmares (of hopelessness, desparation) it was not truly frightening in the way Alien was.
Alien: Resurrection is truly frightening. Instead of reminding the viewer of the great expansive infinity of darkness surrounding us, the camera is turned inward on the human animal, on the horror of biology and the terror of (apparently) having the visceral substrate of our conscious awareness perceptible to and under the control of that very mind, and manifest in a reality where that substrate is so very fragile and so difficult to protect or repair. But more than that, let us talk now about the aesthetic obscenity that is human spawning.
From a domestic point of view, the miracle of birth might well seem glorious and beautiful, love, sex, mummies, babies. How very delightful. But now forget that you find big eyes and floppy hairstyles sexy, forget that bad teeth ruin a smile and forget what full breasts mean to you. Objectively, the monstrous failed experiments 1-7 Ripley discovers in a lab on the ship are no more repulsive than a fully healthy, anatomically perfect person. That's a nice little thing to glibly pronounce, but actually it's really important, particularly if you want to think deeply about aesthetics or art or beauty. Never mind for a moment even the issue of whether or not the other ripley-aliens are 'malformed' or 'mutated', consider them just for their shape, their structure. They are fascinating artifacts. They are composed of thousands of different substances, with clearly defined boundaries and structure. There are repetetive patterns, and unique parts. Each one grew as a whole entity, and yet there are clearly defined seperate pieces, which in some cases can be removed or detached. Moreover, there is astonishing functional complexity. Tubes weave their way through the entirety, smooth plates provide low-friction articulation of bespoke hinges and joints. Sensors feed data into a vast computational network. All of it is wonderful and amazing.
It's also fucking gross. Because you are a human, and part of being a human is having an instinctive fascination with viscera, and thanks to the way we live, exposure to it fills us with bone-tingling heeby jeebies. When you think of a person you picture an abstracted ideal, a shell of form processed by a heavily reinforced set of perceptions about the meaning communicated by the configuration of that form. Yet somehow the mind manages to completely ignore the issue of what is contained within that shell. It's not the same as how we ignore the contents of trees and rocks and the ground, because whether instincive or learned, we know that as far as it matters to immediate perception, a tree is made of tree all the way through, and the contents of a rock are mostly more rock. But what if every rock contained a beetle? I very much doubt if when you saw or thought of a rock you wouldn't immediately picture the beetle inside it. Yet humans are not just made from skin. Nor are we a skin balloon filled with blood. We are utterly riddled with structure and complexity. We have pockets of goop here and collections of gack there. Yet because we never think about it, when we do actually see it we want to shout soup.
That cute little baby is actually a ball of gristle. And that gristle is fucking moving man. It's wriggling. Can you think of anything more vile? I'm typing this by precisely controlling the jerking about of little white sticks wrapped in a spongey sheet of many-layered, transparent, stretchy stuff. This is happening because the stretchy lumps of rubbery stuff attached to bigger sticks are being made to jerk by themselves by zapping them with energy transmitted along very thin and stringy white stringy things which all come together in a big bundle of stretchy ropey stuff which travels inside a pipe made of short tubular segments of round hard stuff connected together with rubbery stuff and finally goes inside a box of that hard, light material which is filled with a sweaty, spongey, gray blob, riddled with tiny tubes and all gnarled and wobbly with crevices and cracks going deep within it and which is apparently the substantial mass of the computational vessel that calculates who I am and that dear reader, is totally, aesthetically obscene.
And yet that is what I am - what everyone is. What all life on earth is. Organic machinery. Humanity on the other hand is not interested in this objective, manifest reality. Everything naturally human is abstracted away from this meaty truth. Virtually the entire range of human intellectual endeavour is completely indifferent to it. From mathematics and poetry to soap operas and gossip, our dislike of wasps, our morning wood and our eye contact. Our fear of the dark, distrust of foreigners, boredom and kung fu films. About the only time we consider corporeality is when someone is smited in a horror film, or when the CSIs are conducting an autopsy, and then it's normally just a quick 'eww gross, take it away' reaction. We rarely take time to really consider it. The Flesh.
Think about childbirth. A self assembling machine growing inside another machine, then being expelled, all gloriously gooey and icky and organic. And the creatures involved are pre-programmed to ignore the biology of it all and manifest strong positive emotions in the minds they play host to. Unless of course, something goes wrong, and the offspring is malformed in some way, in which case the sense of ick is switched right the fuck back on and everyone is all grossed out. Little makes people get fidgety like a mutated baby. It's probably an instinctive natural reaction, wherein natural selection has taught us to reject imperfect offspring since expending resources on it would be wasteful given the low liklihood of the infant to survive and propagate the genes.
Now isn't that monstrous? Regardless of the soundness of the newborn's mind, personality or soul, our first reaction to an offspring that doesn't meet the required standard is to chuck it in the skip. Where's our precious humanity now? Where's the beautiful moment of conception, the child born of love, the wonder of family? Luckily we now know better, and modern medicine can now keep a pulsating ball of meat alive for relatively little cost (several hundred thousand pounds/dollars a year usually does the trick nicely) whether or not the meatball has the sentient level of a housecat, so hooray for that.
And that leads me nicely on to what AR says about science. Any twit can interpret this to be some kind of allegorical tale about how Just Because Science Can Doesn't Mean Science Should. Well, duuh. I think there have been about 4 films ever made that don't carry this message. No, Resurrection is not trying to say "beware your curious ways, for that way the devil lies", no, it's saying like it or not, science is going to take us to some weird places where awkward questions start to be asked, and we're going to have to start thinking about some things in a more progressive manner.
For instance, how are we going to handle artificial intelligence? Whether you think it is possible or not, serious work is being done, significant resources are being spent attempting to make AI a reality. Whether or not a man-made artifact will ever be truly 'aware', there's plenty of evidence to suggest that software will soon be able to imitate a real person. But whether or not you find the idea of artificial life or intelligence abhorrent, consider the scene in AR where Call (Winona Ryder) and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) go to patch the former in to the ship's computer, 'Father'. Call laments her artificial insides, reacting with a mixture of the horror we might feel to our own entrails and viscera and depression at the realisation that (her) life is so effortlessly conjured up with the appropriate equipment and snuffed out if that equipment breaks. Ripley is peculiarly maternal to this little robot, helping tidy up her wound and offering a little perverse moral support. Contrasted with the testosterone fueled bullshit of the other characters this is the most human scene in the film. Call is in the throes of existential angst, Ripley presents pragmatism. Together they exhibit a fundamental human characteristic: the ability to ponder the nature of reality yet still get up in the morning and go to work and keep focussed on the 'real world'.
In that scene you have a robot made in the image of a cute girl being cajoled into action by motherly behaviour from an alien hybrid, talking to a computer called Father and having in some way linked with it, talking through it making black jokes about redirecting the various nasties to the evil scientist guy - all these non-humans engaged in human endeavours! I say non-human, but perhaps a better term might be transhuman, or even posthuman. In essence what I'm saying is that humanity is a set of memes independant of, and far more important than the actual flesh and blood reality of the human animal. And the greatest humanitarian goal is that of spreading our message as far as possible, that our memories linger after our death, that latter generations might benefit from our memetic residue. And here it is in this scene, and in fact throughout the film.
The fact is, this film exhibits change in the world of Humankind. Ash proved himself to be sub-human, a turncoat, a machine unable to exceed its pre-programmed bounds. Bishop rose in esteem to prove himself a worthy equal to humans - brave, self sacrificing, empathic to the fate of his fellows. Call is presented as a purer, truer embodiment of humanitarian values than those 'proper' humans around her. We learn that she willingly planted herself aboard the ship to try to destroy the aliens, and save humanity. She has no love for her artificial substructure, and hates the loss of her 'fellow human' status when the truth of her construction is uncovered. Yet while Ash failed his anthropomorphic facade, and Bishop simply managed, by remaining constant, to regain his worth in the eyes of Ripley, Call overcomes her denial and disgust to further the party's goals. Granted she isn't circumventing her programming but she is overcoming an internal boundary, and if one draws the parallel, how many humans easily overcome their own whims and fancies, let alone their psychological 'programming'?
The humans seem sick of Earth ("Earth - what a shithole" - Johner/Ron Perlman), the scientists have no respect for their fellow humans (ie the hijacked colonists), and even the aliens are starting to look a bit like last year's toy - Ripley clearly outclasses them in intelligence, cunning, style, viciousness - and all this from simply being more human than them. She is even favoured by the queen over the drones it seems, for she summons Ripley to witness the birth of the new alien, the next evolutionary step, which of course we quickly see is pretty far from being an improvement (despite the cooing of the lunatic narrator of that scene). Sure, the creature's certainly grim and ghastly, but more because of the fact that it seems like some sickly mutation than any kind of perfect monster. It is only powerful by virtue of its size, and at its defeat (in all its visceral glory) it is all too clear how fragile and weak this creature was. Indeed, if Ripley is a human augmented with the best traits of the aliens, this thing is surely the polar opposite; an alien weakened by human form. Moreover, it lacks the important memetic heritage that kept the aliens so successful, gaining instead a perverted form of the human newborn's devotion to its mother - and a juvenile selfishness which is only an evolutionary bonus if reciprocated by the appropriate maternal love. Alas for it, while Ripley clearly feels some attachment to the creature, it's not enough.
The film closes with the two non-human female protagonists being flown safely to Earth, which neither of them have seen before. Just moments before, the giant ship has crashed into the surface of the planet, doubtless causing untold carnage and destruction, but we are presented this image without sympathy for the inhabitants of this old Earth. These are the humans that first sent the Nostromo to collect samples of the aliens, with a view to improving their weapon science, and then continued on this mission over the course of the timeline. Resurrection seems to say Fuck them, they've had their time. Things are changing. As the two pilots, human in form, but surely subhuman as members of humankind, ferry in their posthuman charges, the latter remarking on the beauty of their new home, the last shot is of a gloriouscloudscape, and for the first time in the series, the end is devoid of any fatalism or resignation and instead full of optimism for a future which we will never see, because while humanity will live on in it in some form, it need not involve us.