In 1979 director Ridley Scott shocks the system with the stealthy, stalking creature who picked off his prey one by one from the shadows while simultaneously turning an ordinary character into one of the biggest sci-fi heroines of all time. The claustrophobic atmosphere created a legendary antagonistic villain that’s bar was raised even higher in the sequel where director James Cameron gave the horror prequel beefed up action sequences with large set pieces that further cemented the heroine’s legacy. After another six-year period between films, the third film in the franchise has a lot to live up to based on the astronomical success of its predecessor’s.
Alien 3, is trusted to a brand new director in David Fincher following the same path of using a different director who in turn has a different perspective on the franchise. Having a different director for each film in a trilogy keeps the property feeling fresh with new inspirations for the returning characters. After the events of Aliens, four characters survived including Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen) & Newt (Carrie Henn). In the escape pod that crash lands on Fiorina “Fury” 161 a facehugger survives the crash landing along with Ripley.
Ripley lands at a maximum-security facility which specifically houses male inmates. She is told of the grave news that she is the sole survivor by the prison’s doctor Jonathan Clemons (Charles Dance). The prisons warden Harold Andrews (Charles S. Dutton) believes Ripley’s presence will be disruptive to the all-male facility who doesn’t believe Ripley is being truthful about the alien creatures until he is ripped to shreds by the full grown Xenomorph.
“This is the choice. You die sitting here on your ass or to die out there. At least we take a shot, we owe it one! It’s f***ed us up. Maybe we can get even for the others. So how do you want it?”
Alien 3 has a lot to live up to, the first two films are modern classics of the science fiction horror genre. As much as Ripley is back, her emotional attachment was killed off before the film gets off the ground. Killing Newt off screen knocks the wind right out of the film while giving Ripley no purpose to live on past this film. And they kill her too since she’s playing host to a xenomorph fetus. Yet again it’s up to Ripley to save the day largely due to the incomitance from the male characters. She’s right to be skeptical to tell anyone about the creature because who would believe her? The moment a woman is introduced to this group of savage men they act like how men are expected to.
Up until now David Fincher’s primary directing credits came from directing music videos. Alien 3 feels like a two-hour grunge band’s music video. I’m surprised Nirvana didn’t make a cameo appearance. The film gives off a bleak feeling with muted colors in every scene. Granted – the first two have films have the same color palette but the contrast is missing with the full rich blacks that represent shadows or dark corners. With Alien 3, the difference is that it’s hard to see anything unless the characters are in the cafeteria or the infirmary.
Unlike its predecessor’s Alien 3 has a larger cast to play with meaning more death and more expendable characters. It’s tradition for this trilogy to assume anywhere between one and four characters will survive the viscous attack by the adult Xenomorph. Fincher keeps the trend going true but where he differs with his film is the use of more disturbing death scenes and a lot more blood. Any character with some kind of development gets the “axe” early on leaving far too many characters no one really cares about alive.
“When they first heard about this thing, it was crew expendable. The next time they sent in marines; they were expendable, too. What makes you think they’re gonna care about a bunch of lifers who found God at the ass-end of space? You really think they’re going to let you interfere with their plans for this thing? They think we’re crud, and they don’t give a f*** about one friend of yours that’s died. Not one.”
Any sort of relationship Ripley starts or engages in is bad news. Her surrogacy to Newt doesn’t last long and her budding romance with Clemons is cut short which further suggests Ripley has nothing else to live for.
I’ll say it – the only good thing that Alien 3 produced is the iconic scene of Ripley getting sniffed by the Xenomorph that is now an overly used meme.
The plot feels very inconsistent with Alien 3. Too much is being fed to us from the moment Ripley learns of the deaths. Alien is a pure horror film while Aliens is a fun shoot em up action film. Alien 3 struggles to find its identity from the get-go. Throwing in the religious aspect with certain characters development doesn’t land the way it’s supposed to, we still don’t care if they live or die regardless of their beliefs.
One of the strongest aspects of the Alien franchise has always been its stunning practical effects and creature design. The creature is more animal like since the host is not human this time making it more deadly than before. Effects and design alone cannot keep a struggling film afloat.
There is only so much originality as a trilogy moves forward after the original is released. This is the third film where Ripley is tasked with the responsibility to kill the alien creature somewhat singlehandedly. This trilogy is centered around her, and Sigourney is the true embodiment of a heroine. The decision to kill her off feels strange and off-putting. At the time when the Xenomorph comes within inches of her deciding to keep her alive can be confusing but Fincher resolves that feeling of uncertainty with the inevitability that she will die at the hands of a chest burster.
Alien 3 is a disappointment that had a lot of potential after two major successes. Trusting this to a first-time feature length director is part of the problem but it doesn’t all lie with Fincher. None of the characters are remotely memorable and the ones that are ended up dead either in the first hour or by the final act. Alien 3 is too long for its own good – a lot can be trimmed from the final cut given the lack of substance in the overall story and plot. If I were to rate Alien 3, I’d rate it a 1.5 out of 5.
So, tell me, have you seen Alien 3 and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Alien 3 is directed by David Fincher is Rated R and has an 43% on Rotten Tomatoes. Alien 3 was released on May 25, 1979 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 25 minutes. Alien 3 can be purchased by online retailers like Google, iTunes and Vudu.