A review of David Fincher’s 1992 film Alien3.
One sentence synopsis: Ripley crashes in a prison full of inexplicably-cockney-rapist-monk-murderers, run by Tywin Lannister.
My rating: a whole bunch of shiny sweaty faces/10 (seriously, everyone is doing all of the sweating all of the time)
Housekeeping: The 1992 film was written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, directed by David Fincher and the theatrical release runs at approx. 114 minutes.
Well, was I expecting anything else? The third installment in the Alien franchise is widely regarded as the worst in an otherwise beloved and iconic series. And, now having seen them all, I think I can probably confirm this as completely true. Spoilers ahead, but if you haven’t seen it by now, where have you been?
Firstly, why on earth would you kill off Bishop, Hicks and Newt, three characters that your audience is already familiar with and cares about, in the first ten minutes of the film? In fact, they’re not even given good deaths, we merely see quick images of bloody corpses and later Newt’s cold cadaver, in addition to a barely functioning Bishop who then asks to be killed anyway. Perhaps he’d rather face the eternal void than stay one minute longer in this catastrophe of a film. Because not only does the film kill off well-liked characters, but also replaces them with 25 ravenous rapist-murderers. The thing is, when you decide to make the bulk of the characters within your film blood-thirsty convicts it is supremely difficult to care about them one bit. Why would I sympathize that you got your eyes poked out and your skin and internal organs burned away by a xenomorph? You are a rapist, I could not give less of a fuck. Therefore, the film automatically loses all suspense and tension through pure lack of identification.
And that brings us on neatly to the subplot: Ripley must not only tackle the xenomorph, but also the 25 woman-starved convicts who now wish to force themselves upon her, despite their vows of chastity. This makes for highly uncomfortable watching; the notion of her imminent rape takes over the first half of the film, and then simply disappears in the second, as though the filmmakers thought maybe they could make a statement by Ripley fighting back against her assailants and asserting her dominance and self-worth, but then just decided that this would be far too much hassle, and so dropped the notion altogether.
In fact, Ripley herself seems to be lacking in her usual bad-assery. Yes, we do care about her, because after all, she is the same Ripley that we have known and loved in previous installments, however she appears to have diminished somewhat. The weird implied sex between her and Charles Dance’s character, which we do not ever see, but instead are forced to watch an awkward post-coital scene complete with euphemisms and double-entendres about “physical fraternization”, detracts from the androgynous, hard-bastard Ripley we have come to love. Not that she must remain asexual, I just feel that if Ripley were to engage in this so-called “physical fraternization”, it would not be in the girlish and coy fashion depicted in the film. And she definitely would NOT call it “physical fraternization”.
Charles Dance, while we are on the subject, does not make a suitable love interest, since his wooden and rigid speech, possibly an effort to make him appear overly British and aloof, simply comes across as unemotional, and therefore not relatable in the slightest. This, coupled with the fact that he is mercilessly killed off before their affection has a chance to blossom, curtails what could have been a potentially quite pleasant sub-plot. Again, it was as if Fincher, or the interfering powers that be the studio, could not be bothered to expand any of the characters into vaguely passable human beings.
The CGI. OH THE CGI EVERYONE. In some parts of the film, it was B-movie bad. Really. How on earth, almost 15 years after the original Alien, complete with its beautiful and superior practical effects, scaring millions with the notion of a gigantic, double-mouthed, acid-blooded, irrational monstrosity, could you have regressed so far back as to present us with THAT. I cannot even articulate to you how dreadful that was for such a big budget blockbuster. Truly sub-par. Although I thought the shots from the xenomorph’s point of view were half-creative, there was simply no suspense; each and every time I knew exactly when the alien was going to pop out of its hiding place, eliminating all thrills and scares from the film.
And now, to the ending. Once we have established that everybody in the film (characters who we already do not like or sympathize with) are about to die in an effort to kill the xenomorph, what little tension was left evaporates into thin air. This, coupled with a confusing and elaborate plan involving many a corridor which plays out for slightly too long, means the audience are left considering more interesting alternatives to this film, such as slowly and deliberately hammering a nail into one’s temple or watching dry paint not do anything. Then, we briefly see some people from Weyland Yutani, who turn up for a few seconds and do a really bad job at convincing Ripley to go with them, forcing her to jump into the flames to escape the horror of this film, piss-poor CGI accompanying her as she goes.
Self-inflicted torture this experience may have been; after all, I knew precisely that I was not in for cinematic delight upon pressing play. However, what I was not prepared for was the uncomfortably rapey sub-plot, the complete absence of any character development, the half-arsed attempt at a love interest, the regression back to the dark ages in terms of CGI and the odd choice of a lukewarm Ripley. Rant well and truly over.