A Quick Hit: Alien 3

Art by Tim Clinard

Starring: Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley), Charles S. Dutton (Leonard Dillon), Charles Dance (Dr. Jonathan Clemens), Paul McGann (Walter Golic), Brian Glover (Harold Andrews), and Ralph Brown (Francis Aaron) Directed by David Fincher Written by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Vincent Ward, David Glier, Walter Hill, and Larry Ferguson

Google it for yourself. Hit up Wikipedia. Alien 3 went through the development ringer.

Executive indecision about the direction of the story lead to it passing through several different writers’ hands. Vincent Ward and David Glier eventually cobbled together ideas from a couple of the other versions of the story, and the final product feels like something rushed together just to get it done, like the final season of Game of Thrones, only not as heartbreaking.

David Fincher and crew had to begin shooting Alien 3 without a completed script. That was a problem for this rookie movie director. It would be for a lot of directors, but because he just happens to be one of the all-time greats, Fincher managed to pull together a decent sci-fi horror movie.

Decent. Not good, and far from the high standard set by its predecessors. Alien 3 is more terrifying in concept than it turned out onscreen. I put that on the incessant studio meddling. Maybe they didn’t trust Fincher enough to let him do his thing, but it would have been better if they gave my man room to breathe. Fincher had the chops back then. If it wasn’t evident with his Rumpelstiltskin-esque work this Aliens sequel, then it was damn obvious two years later with one of his masterpieces, Seven. Fincher just needed the execs to back up.

Sigourney Weaver and David Fincher on set. Alien 3, Fox (1992).

Sigourney Weaver returned as Ellen Ripley, an all-time great character in sci-fi cinema who got a raw deal when it was all said and done. She gets that famous buzz cut and is surrounded by former criminals of the worst kind (she even sleeps with the worst of them!). Her arc moves from survivor to hero to tragedy in the span of the first three movies in this series — by the time Alien: Resurrection was barfed onscreen, it’s straight up bizarre — but it’s hard not to feel bad for Ripley from the moment the Alien 3 opening credits roll. We eventually learn that (SPOILER) she has to kill herself, and I mean without a doubt suicide, because she somehow got impregnated with a xenomorph queen embryo while in cryosleep. That’s a bit of a cheap trick, Fincher. Or was that the studio’s idea? Did they also decide to rip-off the T2 ending? That was unnecessary.

It’s an average movie, but Alien 3 catches more heat than it deserves. That’s not because audiences in ’92 weren’t prepared for what Fincher had in store. That’s preposterous. Silence of the Lambs came out the year before. Audiences had been prepped for a little xenomorph gore just fine. No, I think it subverted fans’ expectations, and that caused an uproar. Alien 3 was a dark and desperate movie, and it explores a more existential perspective. Like its predecessors, it’s a distinct entry in the franchise. You’re not confusing it with Alien or Aliens. It has the unfortunate task of following those two extraordinary movies, and it’s just not as good.

Originally published at https://www.farfromprofessional.com on May 18, 2022.



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