David Fincher’s “Alien 3” made one crucial mistake even before the first shot was put to celluloid. In the screenwriting phase, the writers killed off Hicks, Newt, and Bishop without so much as an apology. For anyone who has gasped and jumped and had their heart crash against his or her chest throughout the harrowing experience that was James Cameron’s “Aliens”, “Alien 3” was a slap in the face. There’s no other way to put it. So it’s no surprise that “Alien 3” was the least profitable of all the installments in the franchise. The people hated it and the critics despised it. And they had every right to.
“Alien 3” brings back franchise star Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, who is once again the sole survivor after the experiences of the previous installment. Ripley crash lands on a climate-challenged prison/mining colony and wakes up to find herself surrounded by male prisoners. The prisoners have all elected to stay at the prison for various reasons, mostly because they feel at home there. But Ripley is not the only survivor — it appears that an alien had also been onboard the ship, and it’s now loose on the prison compound…
Besides being the first movie in the franchise to incorporate alien cgi with the traditional plastic and man-in-rubber suit version, “Alien 3” has also made a concerted effort to get as far away from Cameron’s sequel as possible. Because the movie takes place at a former prison, there are no weapons of the bullet kind to be found, and once the alien begins stalking victims, the prisoners, led by tough guy Dillon (Charles Dutton) must use guile and cunning to catch the predator.
Adding to the problem is that Ripley is revealed to be playing host to an alien chest-burster. Worst, the chest-burster is a queen, and if it should come out of Ripley, it will surely give birth to even more acid-spewing aliens. What’s a tough girl to do? Well, once she learns of this problem Ripley is intent on getting herself killed. Which might be a problem, because the Company (the omnipresent corporate bad guy in the franchise) is on their way to the prison to take her back home for study.
For much of its running length, “Alien 3” comes across as too much of a Teen Slasher film. There’s the dumb prison superintendent who, despite all the evidences to the contrary, insists Ripley’s notion of a 7-foot alien creature stalking the halls massacring prisoners is pure fantasy. There’s also an unconvincing romance between Ripley and the prison’s doctor that seems perfunctory, especially since the doctor doesn’t even last long enough to figure into the movie’s finale.
“Alien 3” will most likely be notable for introducing David Fincher’s style to the world. Fincher (“Fight Club”) shows an abundance of cinematic abilities here that cannot be denied. While the final sequence, involving a chase through a maze-like part of the prison, is not altogether coherent, the overall look and feel of the film is fantastic. The prison is archaic and falling apart, steam is shooting from every direction, and every hallway and room is grungy and dirty and doesn’t look livable in the least. In short, it’s everything Fincher thrives at.
As a final aside, it’s interesting to note that “Aliens”, the first sequel in the franchise, went in the complete opposite direction of the original, while Fincher’s sequel went the complete opposite of Cameron’s; later, “Alien: Resurrection”, the fourth in the franchise, returned to Cameron’s guns and firepower. Taking this pattern into consideration, I predict that the fifth installment in the series (if there is one) will revert back to Ridley Scott’s original and Fincher’s — re: no guns.
David Fincher (director) / Vincent Ward, David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson (screenplay)
CAST: Sigourney Weaver …. Ellen Ripley
Charles Dutton …. Dillon
Charles Dance …. Clemens