Alien 3 Movie Review
Fincher’s first feature film and the third title in the Alien series, is a rushed and partially unfinished product. Its not good, not bad either… its a mixed bag.
Genre: Action / Horror / Science Fiction
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Paul McGann, Danny Webb, Pete Postlethwaite & Lance Henriksen.
Run Time: 114 min.
US Release: 22 May 1992
UK Release: 21 August 1992
German Release: 03 September 1992
Well, COVID has the world in its grips; theatres are closed, with new movies are coming out sporadically on streaming platforms, so I decided to keep going on with my reviews of the Alien franchise. Up next, after Aliens is the third instalment Alien3, a serious letdown due to heavy studio interference. Since its release, it gathered a growing cult following, yet, Fincher’s first big studio directorial never really did it for me. It contains good ideas but ultimately falls apart. So let’s get going into it…
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
Following directly the events of Aliens, a face-hugger severely damages the colonial marine spacecraft Sulaco. Crash landing on the prisoner wasteland of Fiorina 161, Ripley is the only survivor while Newt and Corporal Hicks died during the crash. However, something else survived as well and Ripley, once again, faces scepticism as the Xenomorph begins slashing through the prisoners and guards. Without any kind of weapons, Ripley must lead the men into battle, while figuring out that she is carrying an embryo-queen herself.
Script production started pretty much immediately, after the success of Cameron’s sequel. Producers David Giler and Walter Hill went searching straight away for a writer, who can give the film series a fresh spin. Their first pick was cyberpunk author Wiliam Gibson, who himself was inspired by the first Alien flick. His draft was action-heavy, as well as including a handful of Cold-War analogies. The producers were unsatisfied, asking Gibson to rewrite the script. Gibson himself declined and so Eric Red was brought on board as a writer.
Feeling pressured to write a rushed plus garbage script, Red left the project after short two months. Next up was David Twohy who, after the fall of communism, changed the story completely, envisioning a prison planet where illegal experiments were made on the aliens. Hill then approached Vincent Ward to direct, who immediately re-wrote the screenplay, picturing Ripley’s escape pod crash landing on a monastery satellite, whose interior was wooden and archaic. Fox Greenlit Ward’s pitch, secretly shelving the Twohy script to employ John Fasano to expand on Vincent Ward’s draft.
However, the final concept was divisive among the producers, who thought it was too artsy and wouldn’t draw enough audiences for commercial success. Ultimately Ward was fired, after refusing to make changes to the script. With the studio having already invested $7 million, they pushed Hill and Giler to write the final screenplay themselves, who merged aspects of the Twohy draft with the Ward/Fasano script. Approaching music-video director David Fincher to direct, the script was finalised while filming, which shows in tone!
Right from the get-go, dialogues contain some of the worst ADRs I have heard on screen! It is also one of the more dialogue-heavy pictures of the franchise, containing some of the best tension-building conversations, due to the situation that Ripley finds herself in. That said, the lead warden of the prisoner colony, does over-dramatise his lines too much.
The inmates were written as an amalgamation between prisoners and monks, with many having taken a vow of celibacy plus spending their time praying for forgiveness. Technically, all characters on the planet are depicted the same, making them easily exchangeable. The only ones sticking out are played by Charles S. Dutton, who carries himself with divine authority. Then there is Charles Dance, who portrays the colony's doctor, integrating his character with strong personality traits. Everyone else is basically the same persona.
Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley, but only after making specific demands, to obtain some rights to interfere in the script. Ripley herself was kept intact as a character, adding to her already strained psyche, the deaths of Newt and Hicks. She is going through a depressive phase and once the revelation is made that she is carrying an alien embryo, she embraces her fate. Hill and Giler manage to keep the essence of the character intact, as a bad-ass female character, who went through hell twice! Weaver herself gave once again a good rendition.
When it comes to cinematography, my biggest complaint would be about the many low-angled shots used, which cheapens the look of the product. That said, I do appreciate the darker atmosphere, due to the colour grading, although some of the scenes are lit too dark to make out what is happening. I also appreciate the way it was shot overall, giving the project more of a fantasy vibe, than horror sci-fi. In the end, this is more of a character study of Ripley than it is a movie about aliens.
The Xenomorph’s design is great, expanding its mythology as it is visually explained that the alien takes on the physiology of the creature it is birthed from. In the theatrical cut, it is a dog, in the assembly cut an ox. However, the special effects are horrible, even for the time it was shot! Black outlines can be seen, when it comes to scenes in space and the final scene with Ripley, was clearly filmed in front of a green screen. There is no doubt that it contains the worst effects of all the Alien films.
The score to Alien3, composed by Elliot Goldenthal, also took a new approach. Goldenthal created this grand melodramatic sound that includes choir singing, emphasising the fantasy undertone. It is a beautiful soundtrack but doesn’t fit the previous two features.
Verdict: The third flick in the Alien franchise is a real mess, not only due to massive studio interference that lead to frankenstein two ideas together but because the final script was patched together during the process of filming, with the pressure from the studio on Fincher to finish the picture on time. The dialogue feels a lot of the time wooden, as well as overdramatic. However, the general idea behind the story shows promise. The fact that Ripley and these prisoners need to fight off an extraterrestrial invader without weapons, on a distant cut-off planet made for an interesting premise! Technically, it was also a disaster, the ADR is terrible, some of the computer effects look dated and the constant low-angled camera shots were nauseating. There is a reason Fincher disowned this movie! He was in over his head, frustrated and with no one helping him! I’ll give it a 5.5 out of 10.
Are you one of the fans that likes Alien3, or did you hate it? Leave a comment below to let me know & as always, thank you very much for reading!