200 years after Ripley's fatal swan dive, a group of military scientists have brought her back to life. By using cloning experiments on the DNA detrius left in the molten lead pit where she committed suicide, the researchers are attempting to recreate the Alien Queen. They succeed, but are left with Ripley as a biological byproduct. However, the genetic separation was not 100% perfect. Ripley is part Alien, just as the new aliens are more human.
Led by General Perez (Dan Hedaya), the researchers need host organisms in which to breed the aliens. He enlists the services of a ragtag group of mercenaries, led by Elgyn (Michael Wincott), to hijack a transport ship and deliver the human cargo to Perez's scientists.
When the inevitable happens, and the aliens escape their confinement, the mercenaries (also including the handicapped Vriess (Dominique Pinon), the gruff Johner (Ron Perlman), and the spunky Call (Winona Ryder)) join forces with Ripley to defeat the alien menace and attempt to escape with their lives.
It's easy to see why Sigourney Weaver was drawn back for this project. Whereas in the last Alien film, she was given no development opportunity at all (especially when compared to her meaty role in Aliens), in Alien Resurrection she is not the same person she remembers, and not even human having, in a sense, become one with her enemy.
However, Weaver is getting older (it's been nearly 20 years since her first encounter with the ultimate killing machine), and to inject a little youthfulness into the film, they added Winona Ryder, a gambit which doesn't quite work. Ryder is much more subdued than Weaver, and is much less of a presence onscreen. She just doesn't seem to fit in this sci-fi action thriller genre.
The director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, has maintained the quirky visual sense present in his earlier films, and which adapts nicely to the Alien series. The only times he fumbles, however, are in the supposedly humorous scenes. They never quite play out as funny as intended.
The action scenes, while good, are never quite as pulse-pounding as those in Aliens. And though the aliens have learned a few new tricks, they're never as horrifying as the original Alien. However, this fourth film deserves some innovation points for at least probing some thematic material never before explored: the psycho-sexual attraction of the aliens. Although there's no explicit Alien sex or anything, there's one character (Brad Dourif) who is in love with them, and Ripley herself is biologically intertwined.
Though the film never lives up to the first two in the series, it's about as good a sequel as you could expect for an aging franchise, and thoroughly erases the bitter memory of the third film.
[R - strong sci-fi violence and gore, some grotesque images and for language] (Fox)