Reviewed by: Brett Willis
What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer
Are we alone in the universe? Answer
Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer
Questions and Answers about The Origin of Life
|Featuring||Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Lance Henriksen|
|Producer||Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill, Brandywine Productions, Sigourney Weaver, Ezra Swerdlow|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox|
Here’s a prime example of the pitfalls of sequels. This film was widely regarded as a disappointment (and I agree), although it was among 1992’s top grossers on the strength of people being compelled to see every installment of a popular series.
During the opening credits, we see that the defeated alien Queen left some eggs in the spaceship; that Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), while in hypersleep, is infected by a Face-hugger (and therefore is doomed); that during a computer-guided crash-landing, Cpl. Hicks and Newt are killed and what’s left of the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen) is further mutilated; and that the crash-landing is on a prison planet for double-Y chromosome murderers and rapists. Not much suspense left after that introduction.
The balance of the film has no major twists or new revelations about Ripley’s character or her predicament. Since the planet has no weapons, the small population of convicts and wardens is methodically picked off by a single alien which developed in a convict’s pet dog. (The alien in Ripley, which is a Queen, takes longer to gestate.) And although several of the cast turn in good performances, there isn’t enough screen time for us to get to know or care deeply about a bunch of shaved-headed, prison-garbed lookalikes.
The only interesting twist is that this prison planet, already officially closed down, has a custodial population of volunteers. They’ve become millennial-fundamentalist Christians while in prison; and they prefer the pure, Monastic life over one where they might be in the presence of women and children and be tempted to return to their old habits. This “isolationist” premise implies that Christianity is irrelevant to the real world. Some of the prisoners try to rape Ripley, and the leader (Charles S. Dutton) uses an iron pipe to deal with these “backsliders.” In fairness, there’s some positive spin on the prisoners’ characters: several of them sacrificially volunteer as human bait in order to trap and kill the alien. But I believe one reason for this strange subplot was to enhance the image of Ripley (who eventually becomes the de facto leader) as a Christ-figure. Far-fetched? Note these Imagery examples: While asking to be killed with an axe (in order to also kill the alien inside her), she assumes a position like that of someone about to be whipped. Later, she spreads her arms as though crucified and chooses to “descend into Hell” in order to save others. And of course she returns in the next sequel, “Alien Resurrection,” in “another form.”
One new touch: there are some alien’s-eye-view scenes.
The prisoners frequently use f*, s* and other assorted profanity. But since they’re fundamentalists, they don’t “swear;” that is, don’t say things like g*d* (this fine distinction is pointed out explicitly). There are about 30 killings including people being mangled by the alien, burned alive, and chopped up by a giant fan. There’s no nudity, but there’s implied sex between Ripley and the prison’s medical officer (Charles Dance), with Ripley doing the propositioning because “I’ve been out here a long time.” The Company is still up to its old tricks. And the Big Brother imagery continues: the prisoners have bar code tattoos on the back of their necks (at least they’re not in the forehead).
Although it’s too long as is, this film was heavily edited before release. Some of the allegedly-deleted scenes would have fleshed out the characters a little more and would have explained some plotholes such as prisoners disappearing without being shown as killed, and the dangling reference to the nuclear waste storage vault as a potential alien-trap. But on the whole, they’d have made little difference in a film that’s depressing from beginning to end. The death of Newt and the infecting of Ripley in the opening sequence undoes everything that was “accomplished” in the previous episode. Carrie Henn was too old to reprise the role of Newt; but why couldn’t they just have shot some fuzzy footage of Newt being safely delivered to an aunt and uncle on a space station somewhere? Oh, well, it’s only a movie—and not one I recommend, even for fans of this series.