Alien 3 Review


The behind-the-scenes story of Alien 3 is almost as interesting as the film itself. Director David Fincher, in his feature debut nonetheless, was reportedly so frustrated with the studio interference that he essentially disowned the cut of the film that audiences saw in 1992. I did not watch that movie, so I can offer no comments on whether it’s inept or brilliant (somehow, I doubt the latter). What I saw was an “assembly cut,” which was cobbled together with much of the original film and pieces of Fincher’s vision that never made it through post-production. And despite being relatively pointless, it’s actually a pretty great—and very unique—amalgam of the horror aspects of Alien and the action of Aliens. And it has a number of Fincher trademarks, including the dark, creepy sets and the relentlessly bleak situation he puts his characters in. Like Fight Club, it’s an audacious approach to filmmaking, and while it’s definitely flawed, I kind of loved it.

After the events of James Cameron’s Aliens, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is headed for home in the company of Corporal Hicks, the android Bishop, and Newt, the orphan who Ripley saved from the deadly queen xenomorph. But these characters aren’t destined to have a happy ending. They crash on the planet Fury, where violent criminals turned religious extremists call home. Ripley is awoken in the hospital wing and is devastated to learn that her comrades have been killed. Her first thought is to check to see if an alien caused the crash, and for a while, it appears they are lucky. But soon, bodies start piling up, and these defenseless individuals look to a morose, hopeless Ripley for leadership, and she’s not sure her body or mind are up to the challenge of defeating this creature again.

Alien 3 is such an interesting project because it somehow crafts its own unique feel, despite being a threequel in one of the most respected sci-fi franchises ever. The tagline to the first film was, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Not bad. The second film featured the tagline, “This time, it’s war.” I guess that’s OK. My own personal tagline for the third film: “I’d scream and fight, but I’m too tired. Just let this thing kill me already.” Sounds exciting, right?. Anyway, that sense of just not being able to handle the stress of fighting anymore is really, to be frank, weird, but kind of cool and different.

While Alien and Aliens featured ensembles full of memorable characters, Alien 3 isn’t quite as fortunate. Too many generic criminal-types wander the halls of Fury, and while Charles S. Dutton’s Dillon and Charles Dance’s Clemens stand out, neither is as enjoyable (or infuriating) to watch as Ian Holm’s Ash in the first film or Bill Paxton’s Hudson in the sequel. But then there’s Ripley. Sigourney Weaver is as good as ever while bringing a totally different dimension to the role. In the first film, she was timid but resilient. In the second, she was a badass fighter. Here, she just doesn’t care anymore. This creature has taken everything from her, and she has little desire left to put up a fight. It’s a bold move by both Fincher and Weaver to make this beloved hero so helpless, but it’s fascinating to watch her deconstruction play out.

Being this is a sequel to Aliens, one of the best action films ever in my mind, there must’ve been a lot of pressure on Fincher to craft some really cool action scenes. However, he’s only partly successful. First of all, there aren’t many action scenes, which is fine. But when the ones you have are so generic, that’s a problem. That being said, the way Fincher filmed them is pretty cool. During one chase in particular, the camera moves in a such a way that we really get the sense of chaos and fear these characters must be feeling. Filming certain shots from the alien’s point of view was a genius move. Filming them from the characters point of view is less successful not only because it’s uninspired, but the alien also looks silly when it runs. In other words, Fincher hadn’t yet mastered visual effects—not even close.

It’s a shame audiences didn’t get to see this film when it first came out because what they saw really stained the Alien name. I was dreading watching this film for my David Fincher marathon this month because I was afraid it might soil my incredibly favorable opinions on the first two films in the series. And while I’d definitely say this is the weakest of the three films, it’s a better than solid effort and at least it dares to be different.

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