“In an insane world, a sane man must appear insane.” – Golic, Alien 3 (1992).
You can probably tell from that quote above that this film is balls to the wall dreadful. It’s no secret that anything post Aliens (1986) has been very splitting in regard to fans and critics alike. For me, I’ve enjoyed all of the Alien films except for two so far. Alien vs. Predator (2005) was a pile of shit, and Alien 3 was some messy display of poor directing, writing and performing. To be fair, I have yet to see Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) and the next review I do is of Alien: Resurrection (2000). So the real question this review won’t be answering is this; what exactly went wrong with Alien 3?
I ordered this film and the following sequel with the sole intention of reviewing them. If anything it was to complete the ensemble of Alien films I had. Now I’ve got them all on DVD and it’s one of the few series I have reviewed almost fully. But apparently this and the sequel are dreadful bits of cinema that should be avoided at all costs. So instead of listening to everyone, I ordered myself two new copies off of Amazon. They arrived fresh in the post and I put off watching them for a week. But now, here we are. You’ll notice that I am now two paragraphs into this review and have managed to put off actually talking about the film. That isn’t a mistake, that was on purpose.
See, the thing about Alien 3 is that it is truly dreadful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Foodfight (2012) levels of horrendous, but it is still quite bad. Alien (1979) was truly stellar horror film that I thought was fantastic. The following film, Aliens was a very solid, albeit very long action masterpiece. So where exactly could a third film take us? What new adventure could Ellen Ripley and the surviving crew of Aliens be on this time? Crashing on a prison planet sounds like a good start. A single Xenomorph too, that’s the best part of this film. Instead of relying on the hectic carnage that Aliens did, it goes for the much more traditional format. In essence, one Xenomorph is scarier than hundreds of them. It shows how one on its own is bloody scary, and the film does this well.
Director David Fincher shows how scary the Xenomorph’s can truly be with some magnificent opening pictures. The opening credits spliced together with the reveal of a Xenomorph on board the Sulaco is genuinely impressive. It’s both chilling and informative, as it sets up the events of the third installment of the series. My only issue with this is that, this is where the enjoyable direction stops. I should point out that I am no stranger to Fincher’s work, he produces some truly amazing films. Se7en (1995) is one of the best crime dramas I have ever seen. To be fair, for a directorial debut, it’s not the worst. Having said that, The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) was a directorial debut too.
I was quite honestly surprised and scared to find out that David Fincher directed Alien 3. Given that he’s disowned the film entirely, I wasn’t really going in to this film with the best confidence. That being said, I had to watch this in two instalments. I watched the first forty five minutes, got bored and switched it off. Finishing the film on a separate day was possibly the best idea I have ever had. Honestly it’s not even that long of a film either, clocking in at just under two hours. Where did it go wrong for Fincher here? I think for me it’s going to be the cinematography and set design. Everything was very dull and very grey, a similar problem featured in Alien vs. Predator, entire stretches of that film were dark, dim and dull. Dark lighting does not equal a great atmosphere.
The supporting cast are poor, but they’re well rounded I suppose. Charles Dance looks a bit like Ade Edmondson in this film which I thought was a bit odd. Doesn’t matter anyway because he doesn’t make it past the hour mark. That’s a very interesting choice honestly, he was one of the main faces for this film and he’s randomly killed off with no build up to the scene itself. To be fair his death does kickstart the “climatic” start of the film, which honestly doesn’t really do that much. Basically the climatic stuff for this film is a ten minute chase scene featuring the entire cast, who are picked off one by one. Then they put the Xenomorph in a lead mixer or something, then they blow its head off. What a mess.
Of course the appeal of the Alien films is Sigourney Weaver’s ever brilliant Ellen Ripley. So killing her off isn’t that good of an idea, is it? Honestly I’m not convinced she was too interested in doing this film especially given her performance. She seems uninterested, and who can blame her? The dialogue she is given is dreadful, and the development of the character throughout is truly despicable. To say it is a step down from Aliens is a genuine understatement.
One of the biggest step downs is the dialogue. Given the talent of the cast, you’d think something much better could be done. Aside from a fairly interesting setting and a return to the roots of the original film, there really isn’t anything on offer from this film. There’s nothing in the way of a unique feel or an interesting plot or anything of the sort. Killing off Bishop (Lance Henriksen) was a dreadful idea that I despised. Killing off everyone from Aliens except for Ripley was the final nail in the coffin of this film. It did lead to some fairly interesting scenes with the deceased Newt autopsy being genuinely horrifying to see.
As far as the visuals and special effects went, there were two extents to it. On the one hand it was truly fantastic. Scenes like when the chestburster blows up the dog, it was amazing stuff. However on the completely opposite side of the fence, there was some truly dreadful CGI in this film. The Xenomorph itself at times looks quite dreadful, with some odd choices made for how it acts throughout. Some of the scenes with the Xenomorph itself were boring. No matter what scene it is in this film, you shouldn’t be able to describe it as “boring”, that’s how you know the scene has failed. It reminds me of 12 Monkeys (1995). That is not a compliment.
Such a wild turn of events was Alien 3. It’s both inept in performances yet leads to some of the biggest and dumbest plot developments of the series thus far. Although a return to the roots in some ways through the direction, this film is plain bad. It sets a tone, sort of. Everything throughout feels very half arsed and it just looks grey, bland and dreadful. Maybe it’s because I didn’t watch the director’s cut edition of this film. To be fair I don’t think that would have made a difference.
Some poor performances all round but some decent chemistry between Sigourney Weaver and Charles Dance. It’s always nice to see Brian Glover getting work too, because he’s a solid actor. For all the brilliance of the cast and the future star director David Fincher would be, this film is a disaster. It is a definite mark on the series as a whole. At least it wasn’t as bad as Alien vs. Predator but I’m pretty sure that is literally impossible. It’s not an interesting film, nor is it one you really need to watch. Considering they killed off Ripley and then she’s brought back in the next film, you can guarantee that the impact of this film is minimal to say the least.