Alien3 is an indifferent sequel to its great predecessor. Whereas the previous installment did all kinds of wild things with the story and broke new ground for the genre, Part 3 comes across as a botched attempt to end the series with a bang.
Stories about how much the studio meddled in the filming process have become the stuff of legend. Finally after lots of mishaps and disagreements - the director initially tapped to make the movie walked out - Fincher was brought on board, and he had to work without a script.
Small wonder the end product is a mess: a horror movie, and not very original one at that, with thin science fiction-esque underpinnings, read, lots of the usual cheap shots - run, trip, crawl, get up, trip again - bland dialogs, and a plot lacking in plausibility. So why bother with Alien3, you may ask.
Review by SAndman
January 25, 2009
Director: David Fincher
screenplay: David Giler, Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson
Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley
Charles S. Dutton as Dillon
Charles Dance as Clemens
Lance Henriksen as Bishop II
Pete Postlethwaite as David
Dillon: I don't like losin' a fight. Not to nobody, not to nothin'. That damn thing out there's already killed half my men, got the other half scared shitless. As long as it's alive, sister, you're not gonna save any universe.
Well, for a start, Alien3 is the third installment of the Series, and thus the integral part in the narrative. Although it is every bit a disappointment they say it is, it provides the necessary link in the narrative between the events prior to the death of Ellen Ripley and her resurrection in the next, and thus far, the last installment.
The plot of Alien3 picks up where the James Cameron movie left off. Ripley and the survivors, the little girl Newt, Corporal Hicks and Bishop, the ruined android, went to cryosleep. There was an accident aboard their ship, Sulaco, when a dormant alien hatched and set off the ship’s emergency procedure, the result of which was that the part of the ship with cryo chambers detached itself from the rest of the ship and crash-landed on Fiorina "Fury" 161, a backwater planet.
They are found by some monks, who turn out to be prisoners, and the planet itself turns out to be a penal colony. The monks practice a form of millenarian Christianity and have all vowed to celibacy, so the sudden arrival of a woman disturbs their daily routines and causes a general consternation among both the prisoners and administration, consisting of the warden and a medical officer and a guard.
However, it is not until Ripley, who suspects the presence of an alien aboard the Sulaco, demands that Newt’s body be surgically opened, and Bishop reconnected, that the inmates and their guards really get a sense that some is amiss. By that time an alien has nabbed the first victim and started a new life cycle.
To make matters worse, Ripley realizes that she has been impregnated by alien while hibernating helpless in cryosleep aboard the Sulaco. This renders her safe from the attacks of the newly hatched alien, which is running around wreaking havoc with the colony.
At the same time it means that she will most likely die at the end of the movie. As a matter of fact, she wants to die - she makes that clear all along - and when towards the end of the movie she is offered a choice between letting the Company surgically remove the alien from her body, an uncertain prospect, to say the least given the Company’s history of shady dealings (more of which you can find out in Part One and Two), and dying, she chooses death.
Both Alien and Aliens introduced new ideas regarding the alien's physiology and its life cycle. Both movies also had different takes on the alien's design, which had accordingly been changed and upgraded. Alien3 is no exception. Again we are confronted with this ultimate killing machine - jaws, slime, the whole shebang.
But, whereas the previous two movies were real treats in showcasing its deadliness, adaptability and complexity, plus glimpses of something akin to vindictiveness and higher mental processes in Aliens, Alien3 slackens off considerably.
There is quite a lot of emphasis on the graphic aspect of the alien’s attacks, which are accompanied by all the usual blood and lashing, which, oddly enough, never really elicit more than a perfunctory revulsion, unlike the viscerally scary quality of Scott’s Alien or the sheer kinetic energy of Cameron’s Aliens.
All the complexities of the alien physiology are gone, and generally the impression that the director (only so much blame can be laid at Fincher's door considering how much he was hampered by the studio's meddling during the filming and afterward) simply cuts corners and as often as not goes for effect rather than plausibility - for instance, the presence of the alien eggs aboard the Sulaco is never explained - pervades the movie.
In all fairness, the alien's design is different from the previous takes. So in that respect Alien3 has a touch of originality and brings something new to the Series. Too bad the alien does not inherit some of its canine host’s proverbial loyalty to humans. On the other hand, I find it rather odd that the director should opt for the alien's point of view in some shots - which reduces the tension and occasionally makes the chase scenes in Alien3 look like some absurd freak show. Consequently, the fear factor goes by the board.
Alien3 features some compelling characters, to say the least. Besides the good doctor, warden and guard, pretty much everybody else demonstrates propensity for violent and anti-social behavior, and all the inmates come across as utterly selfish and self-absorbed individuals, even sociopaths.
Apparently, the inmates to the one have double Y chromosome, which should supposedly account for their misguided ways - the theory that genetic mutation brings about criminal behavior was in vogue at the time of the making of Alien3! (Needless to say, it has since been dismissed as total BS.)
The inmates' religiosity, which has a nihilistic twist, fits perfectly with the gritty environs. At the same time it makes them especially dangerous to Ripley. She is an absolute outsider for having the double whammy of being a non-convict and woman. In one scene she suffers the full brunt of their aggression when in a fit of what looks like the ultimate instance of male aggression against women they turn on her and attempt to rape her.
This scene packs all the savagery of a classical gang bang, with a difference - the inmates pounce on Ripley and savagely push her over a rail tearing her clothes off with a knife in a way which clearly indicates that their idea of a rape involves nothing short of utter obliteration of the woman.
This is a particularly gut-wrenching scene, much more than anything involving the alien. But in a sense, for all its inherent wrongness, it remains just another rape scene and it falls short of the really disturbing scene effect that, for instance, a similar scene in Scott’s Alien has - remember this is not the first rape attempt on Ripley?!
The Ripley in the Scott movie was a rugged survivor, who at times comes across as being on a power trip. In the second installment she was this indomitable, near-titanic figure who took on the alien Queen in the cathartic showdown.
In Alien3 the sheer quantity of abuse Ripley takes off of the other characters is so utterly out of sync with the indomitable heroine from the previous installments that it creates a rather annoying effect. To call this incarnation of the character a martyr figure would be a gross understatement.
The paranoia levels were pretty high in the previous installments, and one would expect them to reach new heights in this one.
But again Alien3 does not deliver since we just know from the first appearance of the alien in the very opening scene aboard the Sulaco - which basically plays foul with our expectations and is a dead giveaway to everything that ensues in the movie - that this time it is Ripley who copped an alien.
The other two candidates, Newt and Hicks, are already dead, and nothing in the way they died indicates the alien aboard the Sulaco impregnated them, so bets are off before the game has even begun. Again the impression that no one had really bothered to think the material through before it left the edit room.
The final scene of Alien3 is an absolute gem. It is probably worth watching the whole movie, and slogging through all the screw-ups, just to get to that one scene.
The unexpected happens, and we are offered a rare moment of beauty, one of the few in this mediocre movie. Oddly enough, the studio cut this scene from the DVD release (again I am not sure how much say, if any, Fincher had in this decision), which is a pity considering its emotional impact.
After such scene you have to pause for a while to take it all in. Maybe take a day or two off from the Alien movies. And then you start looking for the sequel, in which the saga of Ripley, and the alien, comes to a long-awaited conclusion.
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