Alien³ [retro review]

“I forgot. You’re the one who made the deal with God to live forever.“

The Scoop: 1992 Rated R, directed by David Fincher and starring Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dutton, Charles Dance and Paul Mcgann.

Tagline: The Bitch is Back.

Summary Capsule: Ripley battles the big nasty on a prison rock.


Justin’s Rating: I gotta have a ten-foot pole around here somewhere…

Justin’s Review: If you’re a sci-fi or horror or action fan, you most likely have at least one of the Alien movies high up in your favorite movies chart. I would severely doubt, however, that Alien³ would be that Alien film of choice. First-time director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) took his stab at the chest-bursting saga, and did some mighty strange things to Lt. Ellen Ripley and her little squirmy friends. Many thought it was the end of the world. It’s at least been one of the most hotly debated (and reviled) scifi sequels until Star Wars: Episode One came to the screen.

At first (and perhaps last) glance, Alien³ does every. single. thing. wrong. It’s as if Fincher and the screenwriters were deliberately trying to sink the franchise. After the high-octane Aliens, Alien³ returns to gloomy and cramped quarters.

Except for Ripley herself, all of the survivors of the previous film are whacked in the first minutes of this one. That particularly is a crushing blow, seeing as how I came to love Newt’s role in Ripley’s life, and it really makes the victory of Aliens meaningless. Ripley crash-lands on a maximum security prison planet, where there are no weapons and there is a lot of rust-themed decor. One of the big problems of the film lies in the opening credit sequence, where several plot elements are introduced without explanation, and then never answered. Somehow, the alien queen laid an egg(s) that went undiscovered on the Sulaco. Somehow, a facehugger manages to burn… um… something that causes the Sulaco to eject its passengers. Somehow, the facehugger(s) get on board to make the trip down. Somehow, ejected lifepods are drawn by a billion-to-one chance that it’ll crashland on a planet instead of float away into space. It’s a whole lotta “Huh?” packed into a two-minute sequence.

Instead of the many aliens of the second film, this movie has only one (which bursts from the chest of a dog, granting it a slightly different appearance). Oh, it gets better. None of the all-male prison population is glad Ripley’s there, the alien starts to kill and perform horrible puppet shows, and there’s a good chance that Ripley did not come away from the crash without a — heh, heh — souvenir. They even bring back Bishop for the sole purpose of making us first be revolted by him, then later to hate him.

Granted, it’s one of the most depressing movies ever.

Having no strong reason to live, the newly-bald Ripley just goes through the motions. Ooh, I’m the only one who knows how dangerous the alien is. Ooh, we have to organize and fight it. Ooh, if I have to crawl through one more air duct I’m going to spit blazing fire. Ooh, nobody believes me until it’s too late. Since her new friends (which include Charles Dutton and a blimey doctor) just aren’t that interesting, the film audience is left with that dead feeling inside. Plus, since everyone is bald, it’s hard to tell some characters apart. Do we want Ripley to survive? Well, sure, I guess. She went from being a pivotal character to stock horror movie victim in the space of the opening credit sequence. Goodie.

As bad as the opening shock of Newt’s death was, that’s nothing compared to the end of the film. No reason to spoil it here, but the steps leading up to the finale (and the climax itself) have to be one of the all-time worst ways to finish a movie. It’s like Fincher was so afraid of a happy ending that he deliberately forced everything from set design to plot twists to make sure that we’d watch the end credits going, “Well! Thanks for the reason to live, Mr. Fincher!”

In all the conversations I’ve had discussing Alien³ (not just bashing it, but also discussing) the only things I’ve heard in its defense come from staunch David Fincher supporters, who see his genius everywhere, even in his nasal hair. He’s an inventive and imaginative guy, I’ll grant, but he’s not God; he is capable of making a stinker. About the only thing I personally can say in its defense is that I like how the 20th Century Fox fanfare at the beginning draws out into an eerie wail. And perhaps bald girls can be cute, but Sigourney ain’t one of them.

Alien³ left me feeling betrayed and bewildered like a three-legged puppy, as my much-loved movie icon got the melodramatic shaft. Between the excellent Aliens and the glitzy Alien Resurrection, Alien³ stands as a sadly necessary viewing to complete the series. But boy, was it a mistake.

C'mon, kiss and make up!

INTERMISSION!

  • I always love it when they pronounce it “left-tenant” instead of “loo-tenant”
  • Those are some really bad POV shots.
  • Prisoner Golic (the raving prisoner accused of killing Boggs and Rains) is never killed and is not shown to be present when Morse and the “rescue team” leave the planet at the end of the film. The last we see of him is when the doctor is killed by the alien. (A shot was cut that showed him getting killed after freeing the alien from the vault.)
  • I (Justin) was fond of the Alien³ SNES game, where Ripley actually had a Marine pulse rifle, grenades, and a cool-as-anything flamethrower. To date, it was the most fun Alien video game I’ve ever played.
  • Apparently, many people took a hack at this script (botching it up quite a bit). Multiple proposed scripts caused misleading advertising which implied that the movie would be set on Earth. William Gibson also drafted a script in which Ripley spent most of the film in a coma.
  • The original script (and the director’s cut of the movie) show the alien impregnating a cow, not a dog.
  • First-time director David Fincher disowned the film, citing constant studio interference and actually walked out of production before editing began.

Groovy Quotes

Ripley: This is a maximum security prison… and you have no weapons of any kind?

Ripley: 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 going to care about lifers who found God at the ass-end of space?

Dillon: Oh, I forgot. You’re the one who made a deal with God to live forever.

Dillon: You’re all going to die. The only question is how you check out.

Dillon: Why? Why the innocent, punished? Why the sacrifice? Why the pain? There aren’t any promises. Nothing certain. Only that some get called, others saved. She won’t ever know of the hardship and grief of those of us left behind. We commit these bodies to the void with a glad heart. For within each seed, there is a promise of a flower, and within each death, no matter how small, there is always a new life. A new beginning.

Ripley: Don’t be afraid, I’m part of the family.

Andrews: Let me see if I’ve got this straight, Lieutenant: it’s an 8-foot creature, some kind with acid for blood, kills on sight, and is generally unpleasant.

Ripley: You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.

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10 Comments

  1. ha! I was laughing my head off at your review of Alien3!

    I consider myself a HUGE fan of that series. Growing up, Ripley was my rolemodel (wow, that sounds just a little f’ed up). The first movie? know it by heart. Also have the tie-in book. the 2nd movie? know it by heart. the 4th movie? I consider it more a fun scifi thriller than a true Aliens movie, but it is such a fun flick that I’ve seen it about 10 times and will happily watch it anytime it’s on TV.

    but Alien3? Saw it in the theatre the weekend it came out, STILL want my money and my 2 hours back.

  2. No one will agree with me, here, but I’m going to put it out there that the director’s cut of Alien 3 is a totally different film, and pretty good.
    Also, Golic’s absence at the end of the film is explained…

    Double also, has anyone read any information on what this movie COULD have been? Wiki it, and be amazed, then furious. Hicks could have lived, and it could have been an action extravaganza!

    PS. Alien 3 rules!

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