1992 Twentieth Century Fox
Most fans of the Alien series probably know Alien³ was a troubled project from beginning to end. Several directors sighed on and left before any film had been shot. Countless story concepts and screenplays were considered and rejected. Some of the concepts included Ripley and some did not, some had Newt, Bishop, and Hicks and some did not. With so many ideas and possible directors it’s a wonder this movie ever got made at all and is even close to being coherent. Even after David Fincher had been sighed and a story chosen the idiotic company executives would not let him do his job leading to his departure before he could finish the process. Anyway enough of the back story for now and onto the review.
Alien³ begins shortly after the events of Aliens as we rejoin Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and assorted bits of Bishop heading back to Earth on the newly repainted and remodeled Sulaco. Unbeknownst to the three and half survivors there are some eggs on board that didn’t come from a carton. Soon the ship is damaged and they are loaded into an EEV and jettisoned while still in their cryo-tubes. The EEV crashes hard on Fiorina “Fury”161, an inhospitable planet with nasty weather and a mostly shuttered maximum-security prison/foundry housing double Y chromosome male inmates who don’t play well with others but have found god. In a move that was guaranteed to piss off Aliens fans Hicks and Newt are killed in the crash and the already structurally compromised Bishop is damaged even further. Soon a facehugger is giving the warm fuzzies to a resident Ox and all hell breaks loose.
Now as you can probably tell from the rating above I actually like Alien³. I know that’s a shock since nobody seems to really like this movie but I do so there! Yes it’s quite a departure from Aliens but Aliens was quite a departure from Alien. The bleak style is far closer to the style of the first movie as is the production design. I find the story to be very gutsy and even though two popular characters that I liked are killed right off the bat I didn’t have a problem with it. This movie returns Ripley to the situation she found herself in at the end of the first movie all alone in a very hostile environment with the odds stacked even more against her than ever before. On top of dealing with the threat of the alien she also must deal with the inmates, supervisor, and the profit mongering Weyland/Yutani Corporation. I think Weaver does a brilliant job of juggling the inner turmoil of Ripley dealing with knowledge that she is not going to survive with the immediate need to lead the inmates against the alien in order to keep the company from getting their hands on it and her. The rest of the cast is excellent, they manage to do wonders considering many of them only had a line or two. I have heard complaints about the sameness of the characters but I prefer them over the more traditional Hollywood character approach used by James Cameron in Aliens. The characters in this movie are more inline with the characterizations of the crew of the Nostromo.
Just by its very nature Alien³ was bound to anger some sci-fi fans who don’t seem to cope well with change and loss. Aliens was more a mainstream and traditional movie than Alien and added action and more audience friendly characters into the mix. Returning to a style closer to the tone and feel of Alien did not seem to be a popular choice among fans and probably didn’t make the studio execs very happy either considering action oriented movies are the bigger draw and tend to make more money. I for one found this to be a very satisfying conclusion to Ripley’s story.
Great production design. I love the rundown Gothic look of the mostly shuttered metal works and the barren landscape of Fury 161.
I actually like the characters in this movie. I know a lot of people don’t but I do.
I love the music by Elliot Goldenthal.
The bleak tone and equally bleak characters and storyline. This movie is not your typical Hollywood happy ending “look I found a new mommy” story and I am immensely grateful for that.
Ripley’s death is handled in a mature and satisfying way. Ripley knew she was as good as dead and her final act allowed her to maintain her dignity and keep the company from getting their hands on an Alien. This should have closed the story once and for all seeing how all known aliens were finally destroyed.The Not So Good:
What a way to start off a movie. Within the first minute of the opening credit sequence the continuity is screwed up. First the Sulaco now has its designation printed in big white letters on the side even though in Aliens the letters were black and smaller. The cryo-tubes have morphed into the style seen in Alien. Sloppy as hell. According to extras on the disc Fincher liked the more elegant style of the cryo-tubes in the first movie so went with that design. I hate shit like this. I don’t give a rat’s ass what you like you are not going to make any fans intentionally screwing with continuity.Why is Ripley’s final Nostromo log being played in the EEV? Even if there was a short circuit or glitch that caused the log to play why the Nostromo log? Okay maybe it was included in the information given to the Marines to peruse but even if that was the case the EEV log was last seen hooked up to Bishop in the medical bay. Not a big fan of the rod puppet used for the running and climbing alien effects. It doesn’t match the full size alien suit and the special effects are a bit wonky as well. Random Thoughts and Observations:
The award for most ludicrous proposed and thankfully rejected story concept is the one concerning monks living on a planet made of wood that somehow get involved with an alien. WTF people? Although I have to admit some of the preliminary design work done for this concept is stunning.
This should have been the final Alien movie with Ripley. Her story arc was complete and ended realistically, thinking she would survive three encounters with the aliens when everyone else around her had perished is ridiculous. She went out with dignity choosing to finally destroy the aliens and keep the corporate assholes from getting them.
Studio Executives should be seen and not heard and do whatever the hell they do without interfering with the creative process. I would have loved to see what David Fincher’s final cut would have looked like.
I love the design on the super facehugger briefly seen in the extended cut and shown in greater detail in the special features.