Alien³ (1992)

Alien³ (1992)
AKA Alien 3

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen, Christopher Fairbank, Carl Chase, Leon Herbert, Vincenzo Nicoli, Pete Postlethwaite

Directed by David Fincher

Expectations: High, but guarded. There’s no way this can hold up to my love of it as a teenager.

Alien³. I remember seeing this in the theater very vividly; I was 11 and it rocked my world. I’ve since seen it a couple of times, but those were all before I cracked 20 and my tastes changed a bit. I’ve been eagerly awaiting Alien³ with nostalgia and a lot of trepidation, and now I can honestly say that I understand why everyone’s so hard on this film. It really doesn’t live up to its predecessors, and it’s much too drama-heavy, but I gotta say, I still greatly enjoyed it. David Fincher may have disowned the film because it was such a horrible experience for him, but I have always — and apparently will always — harbor a great love for this one.

Alien³ immediately pisses off every giant Aliens fan in the room by informing us during the credits that everyone in the pod except for Ripley has died. I imagine they were about as mad as I was at Cameron’s complete disregard for the atmosphere and feeling of Scott’s Alien. Anyway, I was never very attached to any of these characters so I’ve never cared that they decided to go this route, but it is a definite point of contention for many. To this I say: PRISON PLANET, and rest my case. I have such a love for the sci-fi idea of a prison planet that it easily overrides any discomfort or ill feelings the questionable reveal brings on. And like I said, I was never too fond of any of them anyway. OK, I did like Bishop quite a bit, but he actually does get to come back for a bit. Besides, the deaths of the characters allows Alien³‘s story to move in some interesting and intriguing ways, and it gives the film its somber tone.

What’s so interesting about the Alien franchise is that each film is a reflection of a different creative vision. Because each vision is so different, they’re all kind of an all or nothing proposition. Fincher may want to forget he made this, but it still reflects a lot of his personal style that comes up throughout his body of work. I’m no Fincher expert, but I have seen most of his movies and Alien³ feels like a Fincher film. That’s not to say that I truly believe the creative vision here is fully Fincher’s. An unproven music video director called in to helm one of the studio’s biggest, most iconic franchises? The studio definitely had their hands in the cookie jar.

What I love about Alien³ is mostly related to its production design. I’ve already stated my love for the prison planet concept, and Alien³ pulls it off better than any other film I can think of. I’m sure there are other good ones (like this motherfucker!), but the dingy corridors and broken-down, hulking machines of the refinery fire every goddamn sci-fi lovin’ synapse I have. It feels like some of that artistic, inventive spirit that permeated Alien is back in some small way, with gorgeous, detailed sets and more interesting cinematography than Aliens. Also nearly everything in Alien³ is colored gold, and while that might cause gold overload for some, I love it.

There’s also some fantastic editing contained here during the funeral/alien birthing sequence, and especially in the Newt autopsy scene. Fincher wisely chooses to focus on the reactions of Ripley and the small details of the moment instead of just showing the girl’s body being ripped open. Through sound effects and careful shooting of the gnarly medical instruments and the bloody drain, we cringe and wince at every crunch. I would argue that this scene is far more effective at eliciting an emotional response from the audience than having a live Newt running around the complex. Not only would the actress have aged six years, making it impossible to use the same girl, it would also dictate that the story of Alien³ would need to be a rehash of the mothering instinct sub-plot of Aliens. And as we’ve already established, the Alien series is all about new creative directions in every installment.

Did they have to use such obvious CG to achieve this shot?

Through all my nostalgia and genuine enjoyment of this film, Alien³ is dreadfully slow in parts and quite jumbled overall. The slight romance sub-plot between Ripley and the doctor takes up way too much time, but its unceremonious ending is unexpected and fantastic. The CG aliens are also immediately noticeable, ugly and definitely not a good thing. They keep it to a minimum as this is 1992 when CG was still largely unproven and only used in extreme need cases, and as such there is still a fair amount of dudes in suits. There’s still way too much, though, and while I really like the idea of the alien taking on the form of the creature it gestates in, it creates the need for CG in certain shots and I can’t condone that. I can also understand wanting to have a shot of the alien on the ceiling, but does it need to look like utter shit? I’m sure the team did they best they could, but the poor CG is rather distracting to watch twenty years later. I should note that when I first saw this I thought the FX were “fucking awesome,” so perhaps for the time they weren’t that bad. And just as you might be thinking that I was changing my mind and coming around to the popular, negative opinion of Alien³, I saw my note about the A-Team-inspired “getting ready for the big battle” montage and literally every bad thought I had went poof. As a lifelong fan of The A-Team, the quickest way to my heart is a well thought-out plan accomplished in a kick ass montage.

10 comments to Alien³ (1992)

  • As I have been confessing a lot this week I will confess that I saw this Alien movie for the first time last month. It’s true that each and every movie really has a whole different feeling, but if I had to choose I’d still go for the original. The idea of a prison planet is cool indeed (didn’t Chronicles of Riddick also have something like it?). In general though I was a bit disappointed by Alien 3 (saw the extended edition). The romance bit was a bit weird and I was expecting the doctor to have a hidden agenda, but that never happened. What happened was unexpected, I’ll give you that 🙂

    • Oh yeah, without a doubt the original is the best one. I think Riddick also did a prison planet, but I never saw those movies. I think it’s natural to be disappointed with it because it’s flawed to its core, but I still enjoy it quite a bit. I love the look of the sets.

  • Stephen

    While I, too, didn’t have a whole ton of love for the characters, I was still upset by killing them all off at the outset. I certainly didn’t need Newt running around the place, and I understand that it was good for this particular story. But in doing so, it completely destroyed the second film in the process.

    What was the point of Aliens if it ended with everyone dead and never accomplishing anything? They destroyed the whole value of Aliens because nothing of consequence came out of it. It might as well have never existed. You put all this love into a film and then someone comes along and says “Hey, all that stuff that you just saw? That huge struggle to win against all odds? Well it turns out none of it mattered.”

    I think that is far more the problem than killing off a few characters that someone liked. And when you do that at the very beginning, it creates an immediate sense of dissatisfaction that the rest of the film can never dispel.

    I don’t recall disliking anything in particular about this movie, but acknowledging it means that Aliens was a waste of time. And if I have to choose which film to ignore as worthless, then I’m sorry, but Alien 3 is the one going in the garbage.

    • I agree with you, and you have sound logic, but I feel the same way about what Aliens does to Alien. The whole idea that’s she gonna wake up and go back to the planet is absolutely preposterous to me and seems to completely ignore the entire first film. Cameron was also lucky that the only survivor of Alien was Ripley, allowing him to do literally anything he wanted. By leaving so many survivors in Aliens, he basically made it so that if they made another one, they’d be tied into using his characters and exploring them. But that’s not the MO of the Alien franchise, so they disposed of them and did their own story.

      I never really considered any of the films as a whole cohesive narrative because of my feelings about the gap between Alien and Aliens, even if they use the end of the previous film as a jumping off point. If a trilogy with a real story arc did this (like Star Wars), I’d completely agree with you, but to me the Alien series is like Indiana Jones where the films are merely different adventures for Ripley. If you think of them as a true series, there’s no way to enjoy 3 & 4 because they will just anger you. While I feel Aliens did essentially the same thing, it did it in such a great way that no one really cared.

      • Stephen

        I can see what you mean about the Alien/Aliens change, but I guess I bought into the explanation of her needing to confront her fears in order to overcome them. She was after all assured that she would be only an advisor and never see combat. Of course the whole thing goes wrong, because if it didn’t we wouldn’t have a movie, but I accepted the logic of going back to reassure herself that everything was being taken care of. It seemed necessary for her character to develop, while 3 just felt like a cheap excuse to get rid of people who were in the way.

        It reminds me a bit of what wounded U.S. soldiers are doing now. Once they’ve been treated, they return to Iraq or Afghanistan to get a formal dismissal from active duty there. It gives them a chance to put some closer on their experiences rather than getting shot, then waking up in a hospital back in the States.

        • Yeah, you’re right Alien 3 gets rid of them because they were in the way, but like I said in the review: PRISON PLANET. That literally overrides any real story issues for me in Alien 3 and allows me to love it a lot despite it being a rather flawed work.

          Interesting point about the US soldiers, and that definitely puts Ripley’s return in a new light. As she was just a space trucker, I’d think she’d want to just get the fuck home… oh shit, I kinda get it now. I’ve been told there’s a scene in the director’s cut (which I’ve never seen) where it’s revealed that Ripley had a daughter, but she died at some point in the 57 years of Ripley’s cryo-sleep. Assuming she’s a single mom, this would’ve killed her only reason to get home, and knowing that there were colonists in danger, that mothering instinct would kick in and she’d go back willingly. OK, I get it. I’ll definitely watch the director’s cut next time, and hopefully the sequence of events lines up with the way I imagine it to be.

  • Stephen

    Haha, OK I’ll try to cut the prison planet some slack. There haven’t been a whole lot of those movies out there, and I can’t think of a really good example of one.

    I think you just hit the nail on the head there. I was coming at Aliens from an overcoming personal demons angle, and you seemed to be coming from the motherhood angle, but it’s really both of them together that drives the story. I, too, never watched the director’s cut, but I did see a brief description of the scenes that were taken out. They all sounded kind of pointless, but now I see what Cameron was trying to do with Ripley’s daughter. It also ties into another deleted scene where Newt’s parents apparently head off to the alien spaceship and find the alien eggs. At first glance it seemed pointless, but it must have been setting up Riplley losing her daughter and Newt loosing her parents, thus foreshadowing the two meeting and fixing each other’s problems.

    I’m really glad you did these reviews. Thanks to our conversations, I’ve gotten a lot of new insight into this franchise. Thanks!

    • There are definitely not many prison planet movies, so that’s why we need to praise the ones we have and that do it right. I’m also a big fan of the prison planet in Star Trek VI, but it’s not nearly as fully fleshed out as this one.

      Yeah I also thought the deleted scenes were pointless when I saw what they were, but I guess we cracked why they’re valid without watching it. Glad to provide a forum for new insights! I love a good movie discussion and the Alien series definitely provides that.

      But it’s not over yet! Alien: Resurrection next week, and then I think I’m gonna cave against all my better judgments and actually watch the AVP movies. I changed my mind when I found out that the second one had a “Predalien,” basically an alien gestated inside a predator, creating a hybrid. That just sounds like too much stupid fun for me to resist these days. And Prometheus too. That’ll probably be a while because I think I missed my theater chance.

      • Stephen

        Sounds awesome! I’ll get to find out about those movies without having to watch them. Not that that’s any benefit to you, but I do appreciate your willingness to suffer for the masses.

        Don’t forget to give the original Predator films a look too. You also need to shore up your Arnold review list, so it’s a perfect combination.

        • Oh right, the Predator movies. I don’t relish watching any of those except the first, but you’re right that I should get them done before I bust the team-up movies. And yeah, Arnold is very poorly represented here for being one of my absolute favorites.

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