The leap of imagination from Alien to Alien: Resurrection can be defined on a simple scale: in the original, the ship's computer was called Mother for a reason; here, it's called Father - because they can. The fun, most definitely, has been had. Alien: Resurrection isn't totally beyond redemption, but - please. That's enough. Move along. Nothing new to see here.
Each of the series' directors has brought something different to the table: Ridley Scott's original layered on the claustrophobic chill and visceral, Freudian jabber; James Cameron pumped up the sequel with high-end, gung-ho technophilia and danger in numbers; David Fincher proclaimed, "I've got an editing suite and I'm going to use it!", and promptly turned part three into a queasy, feature-length pop promo.
This time, Delicatessen director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has cranked up the gore and, with the help of a script by Joss Whedon (Speed, Toy Story, Twister), flecked the action with tension-easing - if sometimes tiresome - comedy. There's also plenty of wrong-footing whimsy and precision wise-cracking. One of the characters actually says, "Fuck you, asshole!" as a prelude to an Alien execution...
The gang of gruff-and-ready interstellar pirate bad asses consist of leader Elgyn (Michael Wincott - honourable sleazeboy), Johner (Ron Perlman - the standard issue boorish, fashionably scathed, carelessly-shaved bustle of misogyny and testosterone), chief mechanic Vriess (Dominique Pinon - the Plasticene-faced man from Delicatessen who gets to be in the way a bit), and Christie (Gary Dourdan - a firebrand double-gunslinger cool enough to use bullet ricochet as an art-form). Otherwise, Jeunet succumbs to the old Star Trek Red Jumper Syndrome of strongly telegraphing unspeakable, inevitable doom for the two annoyingly anonymous team members.
Weaver is again typically wonderful as Ripley, who, with her new, extra-spicy genetic ingredient, is even more efficient and incorrigible. And then there's Annalee Call (Winona Ryder). Initially, there's a strong, uneasy quality of why-are-you-here? around Ol' Bambi Eyes, but she improves, competently fetching and carrying the plot twist, and pulling off a couple of affable one-liners.
The build-up to the inevitable Alien escape is suitably tantalising, but, once the toothy droolers get busy stalking and slashing, the stench of wasted opportunity becomes drowsily palpable. Instead of stand-offs, hit-and-runs, and satisfying psychological shadowplay, we're begged to care about a selection of excitable people flapping about gloomy corridors, wittering about how they must stop the Aliens before the ship reaches Earth. Just imagine the consequenceszzzz...
With his mind firmly on the creepy human/Alien hybrid aspect, Jeunet unleashes a couple of genuine jaw-droppers. There's an impossibly cruel scene of chest-bursting brutality, and a truly excellent underwater sequence which demonstrates the absolute terror of the perfectly adaptable, unswervingly hostile unknown.
Sadly, far too much of the rest of the film either runs lukewarm or simply does not work at all: frequently wonky effects; a hectic flamethrower bio-lab destruction scene which goes on forever (cloning is bad... it is men playing God... and it simply won't do... do you see?); and - yes - a highly anticipated new crossbreed of Alien, the Newborn, which will either have you shuddering at its terrible, anthropomorphic elegance, or, more likely set you rocking with laughter and spluttering up your popcorn.
So, after four Aliens, two Terminators, three Robocops, and two Predators, there's still no sign of the great leap forward for the science-fiction action thriller. Roll on Starship Troopers...
It'll divert your attention from the final demands for a couple of hours, but, as the series drifts further away from James Cameron's definitive masterpiece, there seems to be less and less point.