Alien 3 review by The Grim Ringler
In the legendary horror/sci-fi series of Alien films only two of the four films are considered truly classic and are accepted as the good parts of the series. The other two films, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection are considered little more than bastard children that were better off in a state of non-existence. And while I can say that I concur when it comes to Resurrection (bad writing and a weak plot really killed it more than anything, which is a shame since Joss Whedon is a pretty good writer but he was trying to do too much with the film) I completely disagree when it comes to the third Alien film, which, in my mind is a highly underrated entry in the series. Recently I was able to buzz through the astounding Alien Quadralogy (I didnt partake of the extras which is why there is no review of the set) and got to watch all four films again and was able to re-evaluate them all and honestly, of the four, the only entry that makes me cringe is the last entry, which is almost worse in its extended version.
Alien 3 find Ripley alone and stranded on a prison planet, the ship she, the little girl Newt, the android, and the space marine were having suffered a security breach which sent the survivors of Aliens out into space in an escape pod which crash landed. Ripley is the lone survivor on this planet and her heartbreak at hearing this is brilliantly under-played so that by this point, Ripley almost expects the worst. Which is what she has to deal with. This prison planet is essentially a dead world that is mined by men who have committed such heinous crimes as to be forgotten to society and all they want is to live out their days on this world and wait for the Rapture. Ripley appearing throws a wrench into that plan though as suddenly their darker desires are awakened and they look at Ripley with the eyes of predators. There is something far worse that has come to this world with Ripley though and it is soon loosed from the belly of a dead bull and begins hunting the prisoners one by one and Ripley must face a familiar nightmare. The twist though is that this time it is Ripley that is as much an enemy as the alien as she is carrying what we find out is a queen within her and there is nothing she can do to stop its birth. As the inmates agree to work with Ripley to trap and kill the alien the Company has gotten word that there is another alien that lives and so send a team out to capture it, and Ripley, alive. And when the initial plan to trap the alien fails and it is freed from its initial prison and begins thinning the numbers of the inmates it is up to Ripley and the patriarch and religious leader of the prison, a man that hates Ripley for the disruption she has brought with her, to stop the beast before it can be captured and studied by the Company that began everything in the first film.
To a degree, I can see why people dislike this film so much. It is very slow, very dark, and has the darkest story of all four films. Your cast is full of murderers, rapists, thieves, and an unsympathetic warden and his intelligence impaired second in command. The story also essentially says there is no way to save Ripley, Ripley must die, and then it sets out to kill her. This was filmed with the intention of ending Ellen Ripleys story and a lot of people didnt want to see that. And that it begins with the death of the people that you cheered for when they survived the Aliens is asking you, as an audience member, to let go of the investment you made in these previous characters. To have them die off screen like that is beyond anti-climactic, its downright cruel.
So why do I love it?
I love the balls of this film. They knew they were making a dark film and they bloody well made it. How do you compete with Alien and Aliens? You dont, and to try would be madness. Instead they created a story that is much akin to the first one alien in a dark, dirty, womb-like place. I also love that as much as it is about Ripley, it isnt as well. Its about these monstrous men and their lives, and their deaths as much as it is about anything. In the extended version you get a lot more story and a lot more of the interactions between the prisoners, thus investing more interest into them. But the last thing you want to do is cheer for what are essentially monsters, but you do. And of the four films, this is the one that gives Sigourney Weaver the most to work with and the toughest challenges. We see her tough as ever here, but there is a sadness to her as she has now lost not just friends and her natural daughter but her adoptive daughter as well. And now she is to be the mother to a queen alien. She is the host of the thing that haunts her nightmares. We also finally see a sexual side to Ripley when she and the prisons doctor have a brief moment together. In Alien 3 we are finally given a full picture of Ripley the woman and not just as the angry or scared fighter. This is a very unpleasant film and is meant to be. The film has a dirty, grimy, awful look that reminds one of a sewer and you never feel comfortable with this film. And the alien of question is more animalistic and is shown as little as possible, upping the fear factor and returning the series to its roots.
Filled with religious symbolism, as well as bringing back the themes of motherhood with Ripley, and in that case turning it to a darker meaning, this is also the most thought provoking film. In the film we have societys castoffs that are called on to kill a beast that could theoretically destroy the human race. And Ripley, a character we have developed a very strong attachment for, turns from mother to martyr (they thankfully eradicate the chest-bursting scene as she is diving to her death that was in the theatrical version) and gives a tragic yet fitting end to her character. If only theyd let her die and stay dead! Director Fincher took on a project that seems cherry in theory but which he could never have won with. To have to follow the other two Alien films is a thankless job for any director and no matter how good the film was it never would have succeeded. To me though it did. He created a dark, scary, heartbreaking finale to a much beloved series. He ended it with class, intelligence, and without compromising the character. Is it perfect? No. Its obsessively dark and brooding and is full of characters that you cannot really care about as hard as you might try. But this film is, at its core, about Ripley and her alien and the fight they have had, which is to a degree just in name alone, since the first film. You have the mother versus the monster. Life versus death. Hope versus damnation. And in the end, the alien within her is as much her baby as her own daughter was and she chooses to destroy it, and herself, before she will let the Company use it for their own purposes.
Maybe I love Alien 3 so much is because its a big screw you to everyone that loves the movies. It takes the series into a direction we never expected and ends things with as crushing a blow as you could imagine. Its my hope that if you can, you will track down the extended version of A3 and will give it a second chance. Let go of the hype. Let go of the false promises of aliens on the earth that had been boasted about before the film was released, and just watch it for what it is. If only other series would have this kind of moxy with their characters (James Bond, I am looking at you kid).
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