Alien 3 (1992) - After watching and reviewing the first two films of this series it is easy to understand why this film is so reviled by fans. Everything that was built in the first two films was destroyed in the first ten minutes of Alien 3. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Newt and Hicks get away in Aliens and are in hypersleep at the beginning of this film. Unfortunately we see that there is a face hugger on board with the sleeping survivors. We watch it crawl onto the sleep tubes as well as conveniently get acid blood on computers which will fail and eject the sleeping crew out in the escape pod. It is established in the first film when Kane got the hugger on hit helmet that they can melt through to get to the face so we at this point can speculate that either Newt, Hicks, or Ripley will be infected by this face hugger. The pod crash lands on Fiorina Fury 161, a prison planet that was once a mining facility. It is inhabited by a small contingent of about 25 men who all are murderers and rapists, lifers with no thoughts of ever rejoining society. Ripley is found by the doctor for the facility, Clemons (Charles Dance) and we quickly learn that neither Hicks or Newts survived the crash. After spending the entire second movie setting up the Mother / daughter relationship between Newt and Ripley, and then the relationship between Hicks and Ripley, it is a major blow to throw all of it away. Michael Biehn was pretty clear in the extra interviews that he was quite upset with not being included in this film. He thought it was possible that he and Ripley and Newt could be sort of a family unit in the third film but they did not even want him. They went in the prison direction and he was not part of it. Later he was approached for use of his face in some images and says he got paid more for the use of his image than he did for the entire Aliens movie. Carrie Henn (Newt) also thought it was a shame that the series moved away from the ideas set up by James Cameron in the second feature. She hoped to see the three characters all together back on earth in the third movie. Audiences had a similar reaction when this film came out in 1992 and it was also vehemently rejected by fans of the series.
Its not that the film did not make money, not only did it pull in 23 million dollars its first weekend but over its life it made an estimated 159 million. This on a budget of 63 million spent on what turns out to be a bit of a mess of a film. Several writers and directors were rotated in on the film while it was in development, then it started taking form under director Renny Harlin, who two years earlier had directed Die Hard 2. He was sure he did not want to copy Ridley Scott but the idea of setting it on the Alien planet was not flying with the multitude of executives on the project. The Monks in space idea was the primary theme they were going with and ultimately Harlin left the project. Part of the films production problem was that they set the release date prior to having their film making team up and running. So many people were spending money building sets and hiring actors without the script being complete. Towards the end of the effort 20th Century Fox brought in young director David Fincher to direct the script we see as the final product. At the time known primarily for directing Modonna videos, long before his fine work on films like, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo he was untested but ended up doing an adequate job. I say this only because I know coming into the project so late he still managed to put together a cohesive film, not because I liked the movie. He did this with the main cinematographer getting ill and leaving the project before completion.
The story from where Ripley is found and the history of the series is trashed is she survived. She is on a planet with 25 male rapists and murderers and oh there is another alien that got off the crashed ship. It's facehugger got a oxen that the prisoners just happen to have and a nasty dog like alien bursts from it in record time. The primary tension in this film should be that there is a fucking alien on the planet and they need to kill it but that only comes later. The first structure put in place is one about a woman among these kind of men. They are a bit of a religious cult. Part of the original prison work colony they found God and took oaths of celibacy. When the planets mining production life span came to an end they asked to stay at the facility and serve out there life sentences in solitude and prayer. So with little contact with the outside world they did. Now with the greatest temptation of all, a 6'1" dark haired woman walking around unsupervised they are challenged in their commitment. Ripley for her part failed to listen to any of the multiple warnings she received about staying out of the main population. If not for enforcer and spiritual sheriff Dillon (Charles Dutton) she would have been severely abused by some of the inmates tempted into straying from the path. She is more interested in how she crashed on this planet. If there is one thing she learned by this time it is those damn aliens sure have a way of showing up. So flaunting her womanly wilds (not really in her prison garb she actually looks quite manly) she goes to the ship and sees the acid melt on the sleep chambers. This is tension point number two. Ripley wonders if she or Newt have been infected by face huggers, through dialog Hicks has been ruled out because his body was mashed in the crash. She also knows from the data recorder on the ship that the company is aware that an alien was on the pod. She knows they will be coming for it. The necessity to locate the alien is now in her mind. So in what is a touchingly gross scene she and Clemons visit Newt's body in the morgue and she insists on a autopsy. No alien there but that can only mean one thing and she then really needs to have an ultrasound on her own body. Weaver does a great job in the scene conveying the emotions of loss she feels for Newt. She has to mourn to move on and this is the place it happens coupled with the funeral of Newt and Hick's body we completely leave the old story behind and begin the new.
To his credit Fincher does a nice job along with editor Terry Rawlings on cutting the film so it weaves Ripley's story in with scenes of the men and their increasing encounters with the dog alien that is running about. We get a time limit with the expected arrival of the rescue team, which means the company wanting to collect Ripley and the creature inside her. There is also the tension of will the alien burst from her chest at any time now? It is a strange thing, there seemed to be a very fast birth with the ox but Ripley's seems quite content in her chest even though it has been there longer. Of course the gestation time was made a mute point in later movies where birth seemed almost instantaneous when the film needed a creature. Particularly Alien vs Predator (AVP) and AVP 2 where even the idea of a queen and the facehugger were discarded like they didn't matter. The alien starts killing prisoners and the story turns to how to deal with the creature. This is pretty standard stuff, with this man or that traveling the facility alone, hears a sound, investigates and dies. Ripley has to convince the group what they are up against which is of course emphasized by the alien showing up and killing someone. They come up with a plan to use left chemicals to create a fire that will force the creature into an airlock. The plan does not go as planned but it works anyway and they capture the creature.
Unfortunately for the viewer the film still has another twenty minutes and so a contrivance must be created to keep the story going. It takes the form of the crazier inmate Golic (Paul McGann) who decides he has to see the alien one more time and lets it free in the process of being killed. So now we have to have a final plan that when executed will kill the alien before the company arrives. You can guess that this plan although not perfect accomplishes its task right as the rescue ship arrives. It is dropped in a vat of molten lead and when it survives it is blown up by a cold water dousing. This though does not end the story, we established that Ripley has a little critter inside her and the company men are here. As she stands herself poised above the molten ore, Bishop II (Lance Henricksen in his cameo) tries to talk her off the edge. He is a face she can trust but trusting at this point is not something Ripley is willing to do. The final scene for her is a bit better than the theatrical release. Here in the Special Edition she falls back into the molten metal denying the company the alien prize. In the theatrical release as she falls the alien bursts from her chest and she grabs it pulling it with her. This was really over done and not needed, so I like this ending better.
This film was a big disappointment after seeing the first two. Although Fincher puts together a reasonable narrative it never quite gets its footing. So in the end the viewer is left feeling a bit betrayed by the third entry. A nice game to play before you watch it all the way through is after the prisoners are established try to get which one is the sole survivor in the film.
Rating (4.9) 5.0 and up are recommended. You might watch it but you won't be happy.