I like Alien 3. I always have. Although, the opening is especially depressing and frankly shameful to the throughline of the series. For me, this illogical choice is the only bad stain on this film - a new flavour for the series, but consistent to the franchise's trend of experimenting with a new tone and visual style with each successive film. It may be a minority opinion, but Alien 3 succeeds admirably.
Alien 3 (1992) dir. David Fincher
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover
By Alan Bacchus
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 then 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 the 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 screen time to Ripley’s grieving of their losses, as well as a decent funeral and 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 after he has 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 penance 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 the fine making-of documentary on the Alien Legacy Blu-ray Box Set (though it’s the same feature from the 2003 DVD release). And so, knowing Fincher’s track record of great films since this one, there’s even more value looking back at his artistry in this film. His music video look is more apparent here than in anything he’s done since. I mean, just look at the camera angles, 75% of which are shot from the ground looking up at his characters. It’s a stylized look, which tends to wear out its welcome over time.
The design of the new alien is fresh though. This new beast is more nimble and fleet of foot than aliens of the 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 by falling into a pit of molten metal in slow motion while an alien rips her heart 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.