Alien 3 (Special Edition) (1992) 20tn Century Fox/Sci-Fi-Horror RT: 144 minutes Rated R (language, graphic violence and gore, frightening images, intense scenes of terror, sexual references and brief sexual content) Director: David Fincher Screenplay: David Giler, Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson Music: Elliott Goldenthal Cinematography: Alex Thomson Release date: May 22, 1992 (US) Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen, Christopher Fairbank, Carl Chase, Leon Herbert, Vincenzo Nicoli, Pete Postlethwaite. Box Office: $55.4 million (US)/$159.8 million (World)
It's most definitely true that Aliens is an excellent movie, but I'm about to lay a major surprise on you and I'm sure that some of you will want to excoriate me for saying this ...... I think that Alien 3 is the best installment of the series. No joke, it's my favorite! I liked the 114-minute theatrical cut well enough, but once I got a look at the extended 144-minute cut, I came to the realization that I'd be spending the rest of my life defending my position on this. For one thing, it's NOT the movie than fans wanted to see. The previous summer, a teaser trailer attached to Terminator 2 promised audiences that the terror would be coming to Earth in Alien 3. Something happened between story development and the actual shooting of the movie. The studio brought in first time director David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club) as a last minute replacement and he faced many challenges during production, between the constant creative interference by the studio and the fact that he shot the movie without a finished script, it's a wonder that Alien 3 got made at all. Loosely based on a story treatment written by Vincent Ward (The Navigator), it's one of the most original sci-fi/horror films that I've ever seen. Fans also objected to the fact that it's not an action flick like the previous installment, but I counter this simplistic assessment by pointing out that not all sequels have to be an exact duplicate of the original movie. Personally, I'm a big fan of Exorcist II: The Heretic for all the same reasons a majority of the critics and public hated it, it has a completely different tone than the 1973 original. The same thing can be said of Alien 3, it's unlike either of its two predecessors and that what makes it work so well in my opinion.
Alien 3 picks up right where Aliens left off, with Ripley in hyperspace heading back to Earth after her ordeal with the aliens. In addition to the other survivors of the LV-426 situation, there's something else on the Sulaco and it causes the launching of the escape pod which crash lands on Fiorina "Fury" 161, a penal colony/foundry facility populated by male inmates with double-Y chromosomes and histories of sexual violence. Most of them have embraced an extremely fundamental, apocalyptic version of Christianity and resent the intrusion of a woman as it will upset their delicately balanced and harmonious existence. Ripley is the only survivor of the crash (Newt and Hicks die and Bishop is damaged beyond repair) and the facility's medical officer Clemens (Dance, The Golden Child) assumes responsibility for the uninvited guest. Upon awakening to this horrific reality, she requests that an autopsy be performed on Newt. Although Ripley tells the doctor that she's looking for signs of a cholera infection, he knows that she's not telling him the truth. They find nothing and the bodies are cremated in the prison's furnace, but that's not the end of it. Thanks to an alien facehugger that made its way to Fury 161, the prison dog "gives birth" to a xenomorph that proceeds to attack and kill several members of the colony. Nobody believes Ripley's claims of an alien presence until the creature kills the warden (Glover, An American Werewolf in London) in front of everybody in the mess hall. With no actual weapons on the premises (just some kitchen knives), their only hope of survival is the arrival of the rescue ship that Weyland-Yutani sends to pick up Ripley.
Just like in the previous installment, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation has its own reasons for wanting no harm to befall any living alien specimens and all other concerns, like the safety and survival of the people involved, come second. Yep, it's another instance of the "Crew Expendable" scenario of the first movie. There's something else going on in Alien 3 and it's the main reason why the company is suddenly so concerned with Ripley's well-being. PLOT SPOILER ALERT!!!! Ripley has been feeling sick since her arrival on Fury 161 and she discovers that she has one of those things inside her, specifically the embryo of an alien queen. It's why the xenomorph didn't kill her when he encountered her in the infirmary earlier in the movie. Okay, I think that we all know the ending of Alien 3 and while I won't come out and say it in this review, it's another reason why fans reacted so negatively towards this installment of the series. All I can say in response to that is that it's the only logical way for the movie to end. Everything that happens in this movie leads up to this conclusion, any other ending would be a total cheat. If you examine the movie and Weaver's performance closely, you can see that she goes through the five stages of death- denial, anger, bargaining, depression/grief and acceptance- throughout the course of the proceedings. If I may point out the obvious, it's a depressing and somber movie, what summer movie audience wants to watch a movie like that? One could argue that similarly depressing and somber films like Batman Returns and Unforgiven did very well that summer, but it's my understanding that audiences generally want to pay their hard-earned dollars for lighter fare like Lethal Weapon 3, A League of Their Own and Sister Act during the hot months. In any event, that explains the movie's paltry $55.4 million box office take.
It's the first directorial effort from David Fincher, a filmmaker that I would come to regard as one of my favorites. Even with the demands and constraints of a nervous studio, he put together one of the most visually arresting movies of the 90s. As I said in my review of the first movie, the one constant of the franchise is production design and Alien 3 is no exception, Fury 161 looks like an industrial version of Hell, the whole look of the movie reminds me of David Lynch's debut film Eraserhead (1977). While it's not filmed in black-and-white, the movie's color scheme consists of many different shades of black, gray and brown. Aside from the scenes featuring fire, there's not a single vibrant color in the whole movie. It's a great look for the movie, it augments its bleak tone. Alien 3 also features some dazzling camerawork, including several POV shots as the alien chases down the inmates attempting to capture it. The score is quite impressive, making great use of "Agnus Dei" over the opening titles. The use of choral music throughout the movie makes it seem like a funeral, but I think that's the intention of the filmmakers and they achieve the desired effect. Weaver turns in another great performance, albeit one markedly different from Aliens. Sporting a shaved head (the facility has a lice issue), this time she comes off as vulnerable and angry, but that doesn't prevent her from displaying her inner bad ass on a few occasions. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I regard Alien 3 as one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. For me, it ranks alongside such great sci-fi flicks as Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dune (1984). I know that I'm likely to get a lot of crap from some of my readers and I can think of one friend in particular who will likely have a heart attack upon reading this review, but I'm going to stand firm and defend my position ..... Alien 3 is a great movie!