Throughout Alien Resurrection, I found it very interesting to trace the emotions of Ripley. Since her character in this film is a clone of herself from 200 years ago, she seemed to be missing human emotions and the ability to feel compassion or sympathy for other humans. However, when it came to other beings beyond humans, Ripley did demonstrate such compassion. The bond formed between Ripley and Call was an interesting one. It seemed as if Ripley believed herself to be a mother type figure, one who needed to look after and defend Call. In my opinion, Ripley formed this relationship with Call because Call was not a human either. Their ability to relate to one another due to their non-humanness allowed them to feel closer to one another.
It was also interesting to see the reaction Ripley had to the aliens. In the movie, there were two scenes where Ripley cried. The first was when she encountered the creatures that had been the subjects of experimentation. When Ripley saw the suffering woman/alien she felt sorrow and sympathy for her. Ripley did the creature a favor by killing her, thus ending her suffering.
I found the moment when Ripley had to kill her alien baby to be a very powerful and sad scene. Although the alien was a malicious killing creature, it was evident that it knew who Ripley was and was legitimately sad when its own mother was killing it. Ripley was devastated as she watched her baby die in front of her own eyes.
Ripley’s inability to sympathize or show emotion at the pain and suffering of humans demonstrates her lack of those human qualities. Being able to express emotion and feel sorrow over the pain of the alien characters and Call depicts that after her resurrection, she identified more with these figures and saw more of herself in them than in actual human beings; thus demonstrating that Ripley feels herself to be an alien in a society of humans.
At the start of the winter quarter I was genuinely confused as to how a video game could teach and contextualize the themes of Freaks, Aliens and Monsters. After playing through however, not only did I gain an understanding that a video game could enforce a narrative, but it could actually function as a contemporary utility for practical education. The organization of Portal and Chell’s presence as the protagonist allows the gameplay to be organized around individual/specific choices- there are more than solution to most “rooms,” it just a matter of noticing or manufacturing one. GLaDOS is perhaps the best indication to narrative- it provides a dichotomy relationship (the player facing a potentially violent AI creature/counter to the game’s goals), and it directs the action until the moment of eventual escape. The usage of portals and the spatial puzzles denote specific problem solving skills relative to accessing new uncharted spaces- as a game of physics, the player learns how to perform solutions in a non linear and creative fashion. As simply one facet of the learning process, I think game play can be an effective force of active demonstration and explain difficult concepts- but finding the most effective form of education has been an issue grappled with for over a century. It may be a personal bias from a religious reader, but there’s something I find personally unsavory about learning from (what is essentially) a television program with which I have been given partial creative control. I’m not completely sold on the idea that modern technology, while fascinating and potentially revolutionary, can bridge the gap to reach all those traditional education has left behind. My main critique of this tool are the constraints and specific mental acuity required to play video games- though it provides an abstract setting to understand problem solving skills, it seems too detached from reality to really be functional.
The game Portal really reminded me of the game Bioshock. The reason for this was that they both have you going through “tests” while being instructed by a pre-recorded voice. At first you think that the voices are actually trying to help you, but the further you go into the game and the more you discover you come to realize that those voices are only trying to lead you to your doom. These two games are completely different because of their settings and the enemies, but they still seemed to be somewhat similar to me when I was going through Portal and Portal 2. In the second Portal game when you hear the playbacks of the man’s voice and are available to learn a little bit about his past and how events lead up to present with you completing all those trials and attempting to escape. In Portal you try to escape from Aperture Science on your own into the real world and only really face the small turrets and only have to take care of the companion cube. In Bioshock you try to escape from Rapture while trying to save little girls and fight off anything that tries to prevent you from escaping. Both Portal and Bioshock created similar feelings of suspense at certain points because you did not know what was going to happen next. But what really did it for me was what needs to be done in order to beat the game. You have to kill the voices that had been “guiding” you throughout the whole game because they were the only things standing in between you and freedom.
The Companion Cube has a special place in my heart. When I first played through Portal, I was struck by the stark loneliness of the setting. I am used to playing story driven role-playing games, such as the Mass Effect series or Skyrim, where there are often plenty of ‘good’ characters (companions!) that help offset the oppressiveness of certain environments and ‘bad’ characters. For me, the Companion Cube fulfills that role in Portal. Much to my chagrin it was forced to leave as quickly as it came, leaving me all alone once again.
When I first encountered the Companion Cube, I felt relief to finally have a buddy on my journey in Portal. Other people have indicated that they felt burdened by it. In my experience, I utilized it to block the deadly energy balls on my way through the narrow corridors. So it was in a sense my savior. Sure I had to lug it around, but there is something special even in being depended on (think Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom, or Freak the Mighty).
In my short time with the Companion Cube, I thought about the fascinating theme of personal attachment to inanimate objects, and even the personification of them, both in psychology and in pop culture. Objects serve as hosts for imaginary friends for children, and are imbued with personalities by even adults (I am guilty of getting pissed at things I stub my toe on). A great example of this phenomenon in pop culture is from the film Castaway, in which the main character develops an attachment for a volleyball he names Wilson.
The Companion Cube became my short-lived Wilson. When it came time to ‘euthanize’ it, I was shocked. I futilely attempted to find an alternate path, desperately hoped I could defy GLaDOS and attempt a daring escape with the Companion Cube at my side. I cursed the developers for not giving me that choice, but out of the more rational desire to finish the game, I eventually gave in to GLaDOS’s demands. As I dumped the poor bastard into the incineration chamber, I indulged myself with a cry of “WILSONNNNNN!”, much to the amusement of my little brother who was watching nearby.
Alien: Resurrection continues the story of Ellen Ripley, a flight commander whom we first met when she solely escaped after an Alien surreptitiously snuck aboard a commercial ship. 200 years after Ripley’s death, she is resurrected- her body now half human and half alien.
I found it extremely interesting that in every Alien film, there is a birthing scene in which Ripley is somewhat reborn as a woman. In the first film, we first see Ripley awakening from her sleeping pod. In Aliens, Ripley again emerges from the pod in order to transition into a mother figure. The third film illustrates Ripley’s rebirth from her protective sleeping pod after it crashes near the prison. And finally, in Alien: Resurrection after the cute baby Alien is surgically removed, Ripley is shown crawling her way out of a cloth-like bag which acts as a representation of the womb.
With every rebirth, I find that Ripley becomes more and more feminine. Alien: Resurrection acts as a prime example in which the birthing scene exemplifies Ripley as more feminine looking. After somewhat seductively clawing her way out of the “womb,” I noticed that Ripley’s hair is longer- longer than it has been in any of the other films. Ripley’s nails are also manicured and painted with a metallic color. Her manner of dress is also feminized. During the first 20 minutes of the film we see Ripley naked (the iconic tank top and bikini bottoms are gone), in a wedding dress? (when she’s ripping the cloth womb there is a moment when she looks like she’s in a wedding dress) and while she’s learning to become human, Ripley looks like she’s clothed in a white school girl dress. Badass bald Ripley is gone.
For those of you who enjoyed Portal, I strongly recommend going on to play Portal 2. The sequel is way more intricate, longer, and dives deep into the world of Portal and Aperture Science. I’m going to try not to spoil anything so here goes. I wrote my paper on the anxieties of rape in Alien and effect of gender roles in Aliens. After writing it, I resumed playing Portal 2. Portal 2 introduces a male persona through the droid, “Wheatley.” He helps you try to escape the testing center and overthrowing GLaDOS. So when this moment comes, he helps you disarm GLaDOS of her gas and her turrets, and you (Chell), help him rape GLaDOS. I had to put my remote down and go outside because it bothered me, as I’m sure it would bother you. So take a look at this video and we’ll resume testing from there.
The set up of the scene is important. The idea is that both Wheatley and GLaDOS are about to go through the same process yet the way the scene carries out paints a different picture. We hear Wheatley scream and then he vanishes into a hole, GLaDOS on the other hand gets apprehended by multiple mechanical arms all the while screaming “Get your hands off me! No! Stop! No!” and being forced into submission. This scene wouldn’t constitute as procedural rhetoric because the player isn’t forced to watch it, like a cut scene, but i would doubt that anyone turns away at this action. Upon emerging from his successful rape, Wheatley begins to comment about how he is in control and how massive he is. He goes on to call you (Chell) tiny and insignificant which only adds on the the dominance that he is exerting over the female characters. We must then question the possibilities of role reversals in which Wheatley was raped by GLaDOS and whether or not this would have the same effect on the player. we get a sort of preview of this in 2001: A Space Odyssey in which Dave shuts HAL down.
Here we have a similar situation in which we’re attempting to defeat an android with gendered characteristics (mainly voice). However, we don’t get an as violent overtaking. HAL’s reaction is extremely lax whereas GLaDOS reacts in pain and anguish (remember they’re androids). Were HAL a female, the scene would change accordingly with HAL’s deactivation seeming more violent and forceful. The lighting of both scenes is the same with the red light district rouge yet GLaDOS being overtaken is more sexually suggestive. Why then is it that the viewer doesn’t get the same feel of being assaulted with HAL as we do with GLaDOS? They share no physical human traits (keeping “she’s still alive” out of mind). Yet because of the gendered roles, we feel disturbed more by GlaDOS being raped than by HAL (or at least we should).
I went into this movie expecting the worst. With a 52% rating on movie review aggregator Rottentomatoes (compared to the original’s 97%), the fourth film is certainly the ugly stepchild of the Alien sequence. Perhaps because my expectations were so low, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. I was certainly entertained throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed the little details and the funny moments; I came away from the movie without that feeling of disgust that often comes after completing a particularly awful movie.
So what redeems the film? I’d say the best part of Resurrection was seeing Sigourney Weaver as Ripley 2.0. I read somewhere that after the third alien movie, Weaver told producers that she did not want to play Ripley in another Alien film. There’s something to be said, then, that she decided to come back for this offering. She was a badass in the previous movies, but damn is she awesome in this. I loved the fact that the New Ripley was given a rad alien manicure, super strength, and acid blood. The first few scenes of Ripley learning how to be human again were great, with her childlike voice juxtaposed with her obvious physical strength. Basically, a cooler, stranger Ripley. Awesome.
The worst: Winona Ryder, followed closely by the unfortunate-looking alien hybrid. I’ll admit that all of the space pirates were a little ridiculous, but every time Ryder was on screen, I was cringing. Her character was underdeveloped and her acting was stiff and unrealistic. Not good, Call. And the hybrid was just awful. It looked grotesque, but not nearly as frightening as the regular aliens. In the end, I just felt bad for it. Perhaps that was the point?
Anyway, Alien Resurrection gets a thumbs up from me. Entertaining to watch on a rainy Thursday night cuddled up with a blanket.