Alien³ – #2 in the US (May 22-25 – Memorial Day Weekend)
All-Time Domestic $55,473,545 | All-Time International $104,340,953
All-Time Worldwide $159,814,498
Alien 3 fails on its promise of three times the suspense, the danger, and terror.
This logline in the teaser trailer was only the first of the many promises that Alien 3 failed to deliver. After the monster success of Aliens with audiences and critics, 20th Century Fox was all in for the next installment. Sigourney Weaver herself was fresh off the Best Actress nominee for the film. Weaver was involved and ready to agree to return. Yet, the script had to be original and impressive to get Weaver all in on the project. After a script by the “father of cyberpunk” William Gibson had a promising reaction, the studio passed on it. This would have been a “duology” of sorts with Hicks as the main role taking on a new threat along with a new group of humans. Ripley would return in the fourth as they both unite humanity to take on the aliens. This rejection leads to two more scripts from Eric Red and David Twohy. Red’s involved a Xenomorph invasion of Earth. Twohy’s involved a prison planet for its setting to be invaded. Vincent Ward came in with a concept after those two were nixed revolving around a wooden planet of religious monks of only men. They would see the Xenomorph as a form of Satan with Ripley being the only person with the knowledge to defeat it.
Both scripts were tossed. Producers Walter Hill and David Giler had to write an amalgamation of sorts of Twohy and Ward’s scripts to form a sense of a plot. Music video director David Fincher was hired to direct his first feature. The challenge now was to film without much of a written script. $7 million was spent already on pre-production alone That’s why Alien 3 is fascinating. The behind-the-scenes in its creation are much more fascinating than what is actually presented on screen.
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) crash lands on a prison mining colony Florina “Fury” 161 away from the Sulaco. “Fury” itself is filled with only men, all criminals of various horrific crimes. Ripley gets close to the medical officer Clemens (Charles Dance) and the leader of the prisoners Dillion (Charles S. Dutton). The warden Andrews (Brian Glover), meanwhile, has heard enough of Golic’s (Paul McGann) stories about “The Dragon” which has attacked and killed already. Ripley, sensing that it may be a Xenomorph, warns the prisoners that if this continues, every one of them could be next.
Alien 3 does the impossible by making a complete bore of an Alien film. Nothing is thrilling or exciting about this film outside Fincher’s direction. There are great Raimi-esque handheld shots for the Xenomorph’s POV. The iconic shot that everyone remembers with the Xenomorph and Ripley face to face is perfect which Fincher fought to include. Fincher distances himself due to the constant changes and studio interference in the final cut. Even the Assembly Cut released later is not a “director’s cut” approved by him. Fincher and cinematographer Alex Thomson try their absolute best to breathe visual life into a breathless film.
It’s drab and dreary with the only color wheel in the production on set seeming to be brown. It’s as brown as the All in the Family set in this film. It’s desaturated and makes everything such a bore to look at. Even the kills aren’t exciting. Only one is done with terror with the reveal of the alien being born. Yet, most of it is basic horror movie 101. This is not helped by the fact that the characters Ripley is surrounded by aren’t intriguing. They are men seeking redemption for their crimes, but they are all so one-dimensional outside of Dance’s Clemons. The chemistry between him and Ripley is stellar as they play off one another. Dance is given a true character with insight delivering an emotional backbone that rivals Biehn as Hicks. It makes his eventual fate all the more shocking as the one outlet Ripley has is depleted. This would be okay if the film did not open with Newt and Hicks being killed off-screen.
The heart and soul of the second film are now gone with no return. That’s one of the stupidest decisions I’ve ever seen in a movie. Imagine spending all your time waiting with pure anticipation to see what’s next only for it to be squandered with the quickest of ease. Within six minutes of the film, I was already disappointed. Weaver does try her damnedest and succeeds, but the story and the route it goes are so uninteresting and uncompelling, that it seems to be all for naught. And given how Alien: Resurrection wound up, it does not get better. That movie is way worse.
The premise is interesting, but the execution is poor. The idea of a priesthood planet made of wood is fantastic, but they only kept the religious aspect. The idea of a prison colony is also great with prisoners escaping to get away from an army of Xenomorphs. Nope, there’s only one Xenomorph. Don’t expect anything more than the last time. This mishmash of ideas only fails when together. Separate and it would have been another story. An alien invasion of Earth would have been wild, but the most we will ever get of that was spent on Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. That movie is also way worse.
The true highlight of the film is that it made me finally see Aliens. It’s a masterclass in sequel making by expanding upon the world and building on the promise of its title. It’s a terrifying horror movie with an action coat of paint that only adds to the thrills. The ensemble makes it work with genuine care for each of the characters. The direction by James Cameron is stunning. The immersive POV shots and closed quarters make viewers feel as trapped as the Marines and Ripley (much like Ridley Scott did in the first film). Weaver is a bonafide star in that movie, showing how the traumatic experience of the first film has hardened her, but she never lets that get to her. The production design from the set to the miniatures to the Xenomorphs themselves, makes Aliens have a life. There’s more HR Giger inspiration and a deftly cold atmosphere throughout that adds character. Alien 3 is the complete opposite.
Alien 3 fails on its promise of three times the suspense, the danger, and terror. It’s a massive disappointment of a sequel in a franchise that in itself these days has more of that than success. Even interesting direction and a great premise cannot save a dull lifeless film.
Revue Rating: 2 out of 5 (★★)
[Side Note: Once again, apologies to Freejack.]
Next time, we go from a religious prison colony back down to Earth to get our Sister Act together.