Alien 3 (1992) dir. David Fincher
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover
By Alan Bacchus
I like Alien 3, always have, though the opening is especially depressing and frankly shameful to the throughline of the series. After the harrowing narrow escape by Hicks, Newt, Ripley and the severed body of Bishop, at the end of Aliens, the producers of Alien 3 open up the movie killing off all but Ripley while in hypersleep.
Perhaps Michael Biehn didn’t want to come back for another film, or perhaps no one wanted him back. As for Carrie Henn, Aliens was her only role and she left the business. Either way, there’s no problem writing them out of the movie, but killing them off just after they escaped from the last picture, robs their characters of their narrative purpose in this big picture cinema reality.
But it’s Hollywood and we shouldn’t be looking back at these other films as sacred right? That’s debatable. To the filmmakers’ credit they did give appropriate screentime to Ripley’s grieving of their loss as well as a decent funeral, along with a fantastic eulogy by Charles S. Dutton’s character Dillon.
If you can get over the loss of Newt and Hicks, Alien 3 makes for a rather enjoyable chapter in the saga. As mentioned, we join up with Ripley recovered from her derelict spaceflight by a ragtag group of space prisoners, incarcerated on a planet not unlike the island prison of Alcatraz or Australia for that matter. Ripley suspects an alien was on board which caused the havoc, but an autopsy of Newt proves negative. But what about Ripley? She has had a funny feeling in her chest lately...
Meanwhile on the prison planet, her female presence is unwelcomed by certain inmates who have taken a vow of chastity and found God in pennance for their crimes of rape and murder. Ripley finds friendship in the kind and soft spoken doctor Clemens (Charles Dance) and the inspiring people’s leader cum gospel orator Dillon (Dutton). Of course, yes , there was an alien on board, and yes, he’s run amok again killing the prisoners one by one. Ripley assumes leadership and uses the resources of the decrepit prison to evade the creature and hopefully kill it for good.
This was David Fincher’s first feature, and the on set conflict has become widely known, something which is honestly addressed in fine making-of documentary on the Alien Legacy Blu-Ray Box Set (though it’s the same feature from 2003 DVD release). And so, knowing Fincher’s track record of great films since, there’s even more value looking back at his artistry in this film. His music video look is more apparent here than anything he’s done since. I mean just look at the camera angles, 75% of which are shot from the ground look up at his characters. It’s a stylized look which over time tends to wears it's welcome.
The design of the new alien is fresh though. This new beast is more nimble and fleet of foot than aliens of past. The final chase sequence is a terrific set piece, highlighted by the great point of view shots of the alien scurrying over the floors, walls, and ceilings of the cavernous tunnels.
Three great characters anchor the emotion of the film. Charles Dutton is simply marvelous whenever he says anything. The cadence in his voice is soothing and dramatic and inspiring. Charles Dance is a delightfully warm character, a tortured soul and we can see why Ripley so quickly hops into bed with him. Yes, Ripley gets laid, and by god, it’s about time. After all, it’s been about a hundred years!
SPOILER ALERT... Sadly the film ends with a terrible sequence involving Ripley committing suicide falling into a pit of molten metal, in slo motion, while an alien rips out of her chest. Like the fate of Newt and Hicks, I begrudgingly forgive this silliness, in order to enjoy the rest of the film.
Alien 3 is available on Blu-Ray in the Alien Legacy Set from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment