WARNING: FULL SPOILERS
My previous nostalgic reviews were about movies and shows that I loved when I was younger. I thought it would be a nice change to tackle a film that I absolutely hated…Alien 3.
If you have read my article about Aliens, you know about my love for that film and its characters. All the surviving characters from Aliens were literally tossed aside in Alien 3. Hicks (Michael Biehn), Bishop (Lance Henrikson) and, most tragically, Newt (Carrie Henn) were killed off. Like many Aliens fanboys of the time, I cursed Alien 3 as an abomination to the franchise. That some newbie named David Fincher essentially spit in the fans’ faces with a mean, morose and ineffective Alien film.
So how do I feel now?
When I watch Alien 3 now, I see a lot of intriguing ideas in a slight mess of a film. Visually, the film has its moments and Sigourney Weaver gives a deeply tragic and often powerful performance. But the film still has uninteresting characters and a troubling tone. I have passed my fanboying stage, but I still see this film as one of the lesser in the Alien franchise.
The film follows Ripley as she crashes on the prison facility Fury 161 shortly after the events of Aliens. The only survivor, Ripley must deal with the deaths of her friends and surrogate daughter Newt as a new alien begins to haunt the dark halls of the prison planet.
Alien 3 is a return to the gothic horror style of the first film, Alien. There are no weapons, just men (And a very strong woman) versus a monster lurking in the dark. The prison planet of Fury 161 carries on the “haunted house” aesthetic of the Nostromo from Alien, while the “Dog Alien” (So-called because it is birthed from a dog) is a really nice twist to the traditional alien design. This alien could run right at its victims with blinding speed as we watch through its eyes in some interesting P.O.V. shots.
That said, the Dog Alien’s C.G.I. is poorly done. The practical effects are great, but whenever the creature has to run around in its computer generated glory, it looks incredibly artificial. It loses some of its “fear factor” because of that.
Themes of disease, mortality and redemption are tackled in the film, but due to the mangled narrative (More on that later) the message gets buried. However, Weaver’s performance manages to dig them up. She is devastated by the loss of Newt and dark trance for much of the film. After she discovers an Alien Queen is inside her, she eventually becomes more determined. In a perverse twist, a different kind of motherhood gives her purpose. Weaver brings much needed humanity to an increasingly despairing film.
And that is Alien 3’s downfall. There is a stifling despair almost from the beginning, mostly due to deaths of the characters from Aliens. While it gives Ripley motivation, the deaths are just too abrupt. And ultimately, they ripple throughout the film, depressing not only the main character but also the audience.
There’s no one other characters for the audience to latch onto either. Besides Charles Dance’s calming prison Doctor Clemens and Charles S. Dutton’s prison preacher/leader, the prisoners on Fury 161 tend to blend into each other. They are all rapists and murderers who constantly swear through heavy British accents. There’s no laid back Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) or entertaining loudmouth like Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) in the lot. The sequence in the planet’s lead works where Ripley and the prisoners play a cat and mouse game with the alien is actually well done, but because none of the prisoners are particularly interesting, their deaths are simply an excuse for blood.
The narrative only has one direction to go: For Ripley to end this life long fight with the alien. It becomes very obvious and while it is a change from the previous films, this direction risks alienating the audience. And ultimately, that is what Alien 3 does.
The whole film is a funeral procession and that’s not exactly fun to watch. The Alien Franchise are deadly serious, but they have never been this depressing.
The behind the scenes drama of Alien 3 is pretty well known. Multiple scripts by different writers were considered. The studio constantly interfered with first time director David Fincher. Famously, Fincher disowned the film and moved on to much better work. I’m a huge fan of his work now. You can find different cuts of the film that add more character development, but ultimately all of them suffer from the same problems.
While there is a lot to like in Alien 3, the film just doesn’t hold up. And besides, it allowed the existence of Alien Resurrection.
And there’s no forgiving that.
Score: 5 out of 10