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Film review: Alien Resurrection

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To be blunt, the "Alien" movie franchise should have died along with its lead character, Lt. Ellen Ripley, in 1992's "Alien3."

Instead, greed has struck again, as producers have drafted a hip director (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, of "Delicatessen" fame) and an even hipper writer (Joss Whedon, creator of TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") in hopes of reviving the film series.

But neither man has come up with anything particularly original and instead fall prey to dumb horror conventions with this splattery sequel, which actually gives "Starship Troopers" a run for its money in the gore department.

Also, once all the secondary characters are out of the way, the movie turns into a virtual retread of the original — which was a scary variation on the old "haunted house" theme.

Despite being killed off in the last film, Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley . . . sort of. Picking up the story two centuries after the end of "Alien3," a group of geneticists and army officials have struck an uneasy treaty regarding the predatory alien species.

As part of the top-secret project, the scientists are experimenting with alien and human DNA. A small band of interstellar pirates, led by Elgyn (Michael Wincott), have been supplying them with fresh meat for "implantation."

But one of the smugglers, Annalee Call (Winona Ryder), is bent on sabotaging the entire operation. While exploring the space station she discovers "Ripley" — a clone made from a blood sample of the deceased Ripley, who appears to be part alien.

In the meantime, the alien predators have escaped and are now running loose on the station, which is on a collision course with Earth. Any guesses as to who has to stop them?

Whedon, whose "Buffy" TV scripts and whose dialogue for "Toy Story" evidenced some keen wit, shows none of it here, save for a couple of funny one-liners.

His characterizations are similarly stilted. None of the heroes is sympathetic, which makes it hard to care whether they survive the inevitable attacks (Ron Perlman, as a chauvinistic space pirate, is particularly irritating).

Jeunet — who is without his collaborator, French comic book artist Marc Caro — seems intent on conveying a weird, creepy atmosphere, but fails to keep the action moving, and he photographs things at perspectives that make it hard to see what's going on.

And without a strong director, the actors are all over the place. Dan Hedaya plays things for camp as the station commander, while Weaver is even colder here than she is in "The Ice Storm."

"Alien Resurrection" is rated R for almost nonstop violence and sickening gore, as well as profanity, some vulgar sexual references and jokes, brief nudity and an odd brief sex scene (between Ripley and an alien).