Send in the clones

Art director brings flair to the franchise

He has staged an underwater sequence that manages to be both terrifying and dreamily lyrical. Ripley and the mercenaries swim away from the pursuing aliens, and it's a true nightmare: The humans' movements are slowed by the water into a kind of sinuous ballet, while the aliens dart frictionless through the fluid. The entire passage has a frightful clarity. It's also a prime example of how an artist can take a conventional horror concept and really run with it. Jeunet is essentially a hired hand in Alien Resurrection--he's preserving the franchise--but in scenes such as these, he manages to join his own aesthetic obsessions with those of the popular audience.

Today's bottom-line Hollywood is no place to be an artist, but the realms of sci-fi and horror may still provide a playing ground for visionaries to try things out. Studio executives will license the experimentation because they understand audiences want bigger and better gizmos. The irony is that, if you're an artist in Hollywood right now, you stand a much better chance of making a daring and "personal" film if you make a megazillion sci-fi epic like Alien Resurrection than if you attempt a small-scale human drama.

Alien Resurrection.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Written by Joss Whedon. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Ron Perlman, Winona Ryder, and J.E. Freeman. Now playing.

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