Feb 22, 2015

Review: Alien³ [Alien 3] (1992)

The production issues of Alien 3 are pretty well known by this point. Pre-production went through several writers and directors as no one could seem to decide what the next logical step in the Alien universe should be. All sorts of ideas were proposed like Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) being the main character of the film instead of Ripley and having the film set on a wooden planet. David Fincher was brought in at the last minute in what was his big budget debut and he didn't even have a finished script to work with.

Predictably, production continued to be troubled and David Fincher went on to disown the film, mostly due to studio interference. Amazing to think that just a few years later, he'd direct insanely popular movies like Seven and Fight Club early on in his career. Who knows what could've happened. There probably was no way that Alien 3 could ever match up to Alien or Aliens though, even if Fincher was given all the breathing room he wanted.

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Genre: action, sci-fi, thriller
Directed by: David Fincher
Produced by: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill, etc.
Written by: David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Running time: 145 minutes
Production company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Brandywine Productions
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox Australia, 20th Century Fox, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $50,000,000
Box office: $159,814,498 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Paul McGann, Danny Webb, Lance Henriksen, Tom Woodruff, Jr., Pete Postlethwaite, Holt McCallany, Peter Guinness, Danielle Edmond, Christopher Fairbank, Phil Davis, Vincenzo Nicoli, Leon Herbert

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Synopsis


The last survivors of the planet LV-426 Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Newt and Corporal Hicks are aboard the Colonial Marine spaceship the Sulaco in stasis. Somehow an alien egg has made it on board and the facehugger that hatches from it leaks some of its acid blood, causing the ship to detect a fire and eject the three passengers into space. The escape pod crash lands on the planet Fiorina 'Fury' 161, which houses a foundry and maximum security prison for men run by Weyland-Yutani.

Review


Alien 3 is about as up and down as you can get with a movie. There are some elements of the film that I actually really like and others that I wish could've been done better. I guess it all starts with the whole setup with the alien egg being on the Sulaco that lacks any real explanation. Did the alien queen somehow get the chance to put an egg on the ship before her surprise appearance, or was it another alien? Was it maybe Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) who put it there, or maybe Bishop (Lance Henriksen) under Burke's orders to bring it back to Earth? Who knows, but I suppose it doesn't matter. Point is, there needs to be an egg that makes it on the ship.

(Spoilers) One of the more controversial elements is of course the killing of Hicks and Newt before they even wake up from being in stasis. To be honest, this was never something that bothered me all that much. Alien has always been about Ripley to me, although I am more open now to new entries without her after having watched a YouTube walkthrough of the video game Alien: Isolation (I'm too much of a scaredy cat to play horror video games). If we're to have Alien movies in the future, it's inevitable. (End Spoilers)

(Spoilers) What did bother me about the deaths of Hicks and Ripley though is that there really isn't all that much of a focus on what those deaths mean for Ripley. There are a handful of scenes that directly show her distraught over losing them and then not much else. She moves on insultingly quickly to a little relationship with Jonathan Clemens (Charles Dance) and that seems to be the end of it. Again, killing Hicks and Newt was OK with me, but they should've been a bigger motivating factor for Ripley than they ended up being. (End Spoilers)

I'm a fan of Fury 161 as the setting of this movie though and I've always liked the opening shots of the planet. It's coldly industrial, desolate and just the idea that it's populated by a group of the worst kind of criminals makes it quite unwelcoming. Definitely some good casting there for the prisoners who are noticeably ugly and crude (sorry Pete Postlethwaite). Ripley's cult of female badassness is easily raised even further as a result of having to tango with these galoots.

David Fincher's skill as a director is seen from time to time, but he's noticeably unsteady at times. There's no doubt that a lot of the film's shortcomings are because of studio interference, but Fincher doesn't seem as infallible here as he usually is. For example, the first couple kills by the alien aren't very well executed since they happen way too quickly. You'll miss them if you blink. Still, some kills are pretty well done though, so it's not all bad in that department.

There's a toxic waste-fueled explosion that doesn't even look like it's part of the same movie. The action doesn't seem to be framed correctly which makes it pretty puzzling to look at compared to the rest of Alien 3. There is also some extensive use of first-person camera that is kind of cool at first I suppose, but gets old when it's used again and again in such a short space of time.

The design of the alien actually makes use of an H. R. Giger design that only appears when the alien first emerges from its dog/cow host depending on the version you're watching. Still, the look of the "adult" alien is more Giger overall since the clear dome on the head is back on after James Cameron removed it for Aliens. The big deal here though is that the alien is more of a quadruped which I guess is kind of cool. I mean there can be different species of aliens right?

Unfortunately this does mean we have to endure some very outdated CGI that maybe looked alright at the time, but not so much anymore. It's a shame that more puppetry wasn't used instead, but at the same time I understand. It would've been a very long process to use a puppet the whole way through and have the alien still look halfway convincing as it was running. Having a dog dressed up as the alien was a proposed solution apparently which is pretty funny to imagine. It did indeed look funny and was quickly nixed.

In terms of horror, Alien 3 works alright. There are definitely some lulls in the scares by the halfway point, but there are some scenes that works pretty well. (Spoilers) The highlight of all this is probably the famous scene of Ripley trembling in fear as the alien gets up close and personal with her in the infirmary. The killing of Clemens right before is also pretty intense. (End Spoilers) I wish there could've been more scares in Alien 3, but things could definitely be worse though.

One thing that's definitely impressive is Sigourney Weaver's performance. As usual, she's convincingly vulnerable when she should be and her more emotional scenes are also a success. She can play it tough as well as she's shown many times over the last two movies, so no problem there. Charles S. Dutton is a good presence as the prisoner's community leader and I especially like Charles Dance as Clemens. (Spoilers) Seeing Lance Henriksen as Bishop II was also an unexpected treat. (End Spoilers)

The last thing I want to comment on which to me works quite well is
Elliot Goldenthal's score. I love the music of Alien and Aliens and trying to match Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner's is an impossible task. He goes in a completely different direction, very dark and quite depressing really. It's a good reflection on the story, except for one scene where I absolutely hate the choice of music.(Spoilers) It's during the attempted rape on Ripley scene that features some sort of industrial sounding rock music. It honestly ruins the entire scene all on its own. (End Spoilers)

Alien 3 is far from perfect, but there's enough here for me that makes it a halfway decent watching experience. I think it makes a difference to watch the Assembly Cut version which apparently is close to David Fincher's original vision for the film. It's far from being as scary and tense as it could be, but it's an Alien movie and I want to like it so badly.

Rating


6/10

Related Reviews:


Alien (1979)
Aliens (1986)
Alien: Resurrection (1997) 

AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)
AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem (2007) 

Prometheus (2012)