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.
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.