Alien 3 (1992)
Release Date: May 22nd, 1992 MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Fincher Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen, Pete Postlethwaite
t is no secret that sequels tend to get progressively worse, and that the third – and intended to be final – chapter of the “Alien” trilogy by no means challenges that trend. Helmed by newcomer David Fincher (this is his feature debut, excluding a 1985 documentary), who would later make many commercial successes (such as “Fight Club” and “Seven”), “Alien 3” has many aspects that work but even more that do not; a sign of immense potential but limited experience. A noble effort with partial faithfulness to the concepts praised by the rapidly growing legion of fans that were inspired and impressed by Ridley Scott’s revolutionary masterpiece, and then by James Cameron’s unusually phenomenal sequel, “Alien 3” is an entirely unnecessary continuation of the lore – though the film does attempt to tie up all of the loose ends and bring to a close a seminal science-fiction series.
Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), the demolished remains of Bishop the android (Lance Henriksen), and young girl Newt drift in deep sleep in the outer regions of space, having narrowly survived the alien infestation of the mining colony a band of colonial marines set out to investigate (in the events of “Aliens”). When the escape pod crashes on a refinery and prison colony called Fiorina “Fury” 161, Hicks and Newt are proclaimed dead, presumably by a fire that mysteriously started onboard. Ripley, alone and in shock from her harrowing adventures with the alien species, struggles to cope with her new environment: an all-male, 25-man group of murderers, thieves, rapists, and other such miscreants. But stowed away on the ship is a creature much worse – a facehugger, which attacks a local dog, forcing the unprepared, weaponless assemblage into the clutches of the hellishly lethal xenomorph spawn.
“Alien 3” commendably maintains the dark, grimy, gritty visual and atmospheric tone of the franchise; the tattered, soiled, humid, and rusted areas of the facilities help to make the behemoth even more menacing, providing countless corridors, air ducts, and lightless passageways to hide the salivating killing machine. In addition, the colonists are just as volatile as the monster; they’re unable to formulate plans and strategies like the military troops; and they have no weapons of any kind – allowing for a smartly morbid setup. If protocol, discipline, training, and firepower couldn’t save the previous combatants, this new crew is at an exponentially greater disadvantage.
Viscera and pools of glistening blood also make regular appearances, as Fincher doesn’t shy away from the gore. An autopsy scene is thrown in for disturbing measure, cleverly using the “less is more” idea, while death scenes are all around grislier. Where “Alien” had unique maturity and superb designs in its haunted-house-in-space formula, and “Aliens” had unrelenting action/adventure, “Alien 3” boasts an unabashed grotesqueness about it – that will likely only appease fans of the horror genre.
Ultimately, the project fails because of its unfriendly story. Although it tries to resolutely conclude the series, the extreme lack of likable characters and the abundance of contrived events hinder its overall appeal. Ripley loses her hair, adding to her overly macho essence, and she’s grown considerably rough around the edges; she’s more at home with solitude, aggression from the beast, and deception from fellow humans than interaction or camaraderie. She’s not a hero as much as a mere survivor. Comparably, the supporting cast is composed of convincing ruffians, but there is not an agreeable one amongst them. “Alien 3” adopts the popular sci-fi motif that mankind can be just as cruel and inhuman as the extraterrestrials they fight – but the casualty is that the viewing becomes more nasty than entertaining.
Early on, viewers will probably assume that, once again, very few characters will make it to the end alive. Sure enough, a budding romance between Ripley and medical officer Clemens (Charles Dance) is abruptly cut short, while the slightly memorable religious angle of Dillon (Charles S. Dutton) can’t counter the prevalence of villainy – further helping to ensure that the last of the persevering prisoners are the ones no one cares about, while also increasing the likelihood of audiences simply rooting for the alien. Abandoning the identifiable characters of Hicks and Newt and the familial structure they presented was certainly a strange, somewhat unmarketable decision.
But the makeup and practical creature effects, including the puppeteering and animatronics, are all quite good. The computer-generated alien, however, is so poorly integrated that switching between molded parts and full-body CG shots is painfully noticeable. Even with potential from the bleak, uncompromising outlook and ghastly setting, “Alien 3” falters on too many areas to come anywhere near to the incredibly high standards of its predecessors. While a decent effort by Fincher (although he eventually disowned the results due to deficient creative control), his supreme consolation is that even more sequels followed, and each is increasingly more pitiful. An “Assembly Cut” special edition of “Alien 3” adds an extra half-hour of footage, but alters the plot and pacing rather negligibly.
– Mike Massie