Alien 3

Yup, I’m banging the old retro drum again with Alien 3, disappointingly not called “Alienses!”.

Alien 3 (1992)

Where to begin with this one? Whilst loudmouthed fanpeople sweatily debate over which is superior: Scott’s original or Cameron’s sequel, they generally agree that Alien 3 is where it all went wrong and started a nosedive that the franchise still hasn’t managed to pull itself out of (the last film to feature them was the scarily recent and terrifyingly shit Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem in 2007) So what went wrong? Well, numerous things. They had hired newbie director David Fincher (yes, that one), who was unused to huge studio productions, they started shooting without a completed script and were financially in the red from the very beginning ($7 million had already been spent, with $2 million of that going on sets that were unused) and most importantly, the studio execs were constantly pushing in their cocaine-dusted nostrils in where they weren’t wanted, resulting in Fincher walking out before the final edit.

“You’re all gonna die. The only question is how you check out. Do you want it on your feet? Or on your fuckin’ knees… begging?”

So, after escaping LV-426, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) crash lands onto prison planet Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161. Things aren’t exactly looking up for Ripley as the inhabitants of Fury 161 are all imprisoned for violence in all its flavours, from the Vanilla of standard physical stuff to the horrific Raspberry Ripple of sexual crimes. Ripley soon meets Doctor Clemens (Charles Dance), seemingly the only sane person on the planet. However, things go from bad to worse as it transpires that Ripley has unwittingly brought an alien hitchhiker with her in her pod, which is now picking off prisoners left, right and centre. I actually don’t mind the story too much, although it’s nowhere near as decent as the well-plotted previous films. Sigourney Weaver is still impressive as Ripley, although she’s not given as much depth as in Aliens. I thought Charles Dance was good and I liked Paul McGann as Golic. Charles S. Dutton is also solid as Dillon. Thing is, all of these characters are severely under-developed and not nearly as memorable as any of the people in Alien or Aliens. Most of them are interchangeable blood balloons, ready to be popped by the all-too-willing slavering alien.

Alien 3 is a frustrating mess. There’s a good film in here somewhere and if more care and attention had been given to it, it could have been a gem. I was on board with the decision to scale it back after Cameron’s noisy, all-out war on the creatures. Fincher goes back to Scott’s original and just has the one beast tear-arsing about and murdering folk. It’s a smart move as trying to out-epic Aliens would have been tough and unrewarding. I really like the intro sequence, with the 20th Century Fox fanfare segueing directly into the creepy score and the little flashes of a facehugger crawling around in the escape pod. There are a couple of nice little ideas scattered throughout. There’s this incredibly famous bit, our first Alien P.O.V. shot, on both ceiling and floor and this fantastically timed F-Bomb, which always gets a laugh from me. The setting is hellish but awesome and I’m a fan of the slight redesign of the alien- the beast being a different colour and having snarling lips due to its surroundings and its original host.

Most of the time though, the film sucks. I imagine the off-screen killing of Hicks and Newt pissed off a lot of fans. Personal beef aside, they’re great characters that deserve a better send-off than this. It’s also boring at times, something the previous two never suffered from. There are plot holes galore, ranging from where the alien egg came from in the first place, to what happened to Golic. Golic’s one of the only interesting characters and to just leave him on a hospital bed gibbering about the “dragon” is unforgivable (this is fixed in the “Assembly” cut of the film, however) Also, for some odd reason about midway through everyone starts saying “fuck” like it’s going out of style. I believe it’s after Ripley learns that the facility has no weapons and she says “We’re fucked”. After this, it’s wall-to-wall fucks, which gets unintentionally funny, destroying any tension that was accidentally created. I get that they’re stressed and such, but it gets ridiculous.

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

Alien 3 just isn’t very good. Too many things don’t make sense, it gets plodding and tedious where it should be upping the ante and it just feels like its treading water until its unsatisfying conclusion. It batters you over the head with previously subtle series hallmarks such as motherhood and just ends up making you wish they’d drawn a line under Aliens and walked away. The Assembly cut does make more sense out of this mess, but Christ would have I been angry if I’d seen this in cinemas.

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