Year: 1992

Production: A Brandywine Production / 20th Century-Fox

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dance, Charles S. Dutton, Lance Henriksen, Paul McGann, Brian Glover

Screenwriter: David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson

Based on a story by Vincent Ward. Novelization (1992) by Alan Dean Foster

110 minutes, Color

One of Hollywood's occasional, strange films so unmitigatedly uncommercial that it is impossible to work out why they were ever made. The film had an unusually troubled development history, previous screenwriters having included William Gibson and Eric Red, and previous director Renny Harlin and Vincent Ward (director of The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey [1988]); some of Ward's story ideas were retained, and the final script was reworked by producers Walter Hill and David Giler. The latter has said that he sees a subtext about the AIDS virus in the film, and the film itself supports this. The final director, Fincher, had previously been known primarily for his inventive rock videos.

Ripley (Weaver, who also has a credit as producer), having twice survived alien apocalypse (see Alien; Aliens) crashlands on a prison planet occupied by a displeasing men-only group of double-Y-chromosomed mass murderers and rapists, who have now adopted a form of Christian fundamentalism, as well as three variously psychopathic minders. Her companions on the ship are dead, but she brings (unknown to her) an alien parasite within her and an external larva hiding in her ship. The latter grows, kill, grows again, lurks, and wiped out most of the base (as before). But the - again female - alien seems somehow unimportant this time; the film's twin centers are the awfulness of the prison, explicitly and repeatedly compared to a cosmic anus, and the pared-to-the-bone Ripley, head shaven, face anguished, torso skinny, sister and mirror image of Alien herself: her sole function is as victim. Even the ongoing feminist joke (Ripley is as ever the one with metaphoric balls) is submerged in the bewildering, monochrome intensity of pain and dereliction, photographed in claustrophobic close-up throughout, that is the whole of this film. All else - including the narrative tension and indeed the very idea of story - is subjugated to this grim motif. This (probably bad) film is almost admirable in its refusal to give the audience any solace or entertainment at all. At the end, Ripley immolates herself for the greater good, falling out of life as an alien bursts from her chest; she cradles it like a blood-covered baby as she falls away and away into the fire of purgatory.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

A piece of awkward exposition eliminates the other left-over characters from Aliens (1986) in computer read-out asides and brings Ripley (Weaver) and a handy alien egg to a prison planet populated by religious fanatics. Conceived by Vincent Ward (one of many writers and directors to come and go on the project) as a medieval space epic, the script was scaled down so it could be shot in the familiar disused ironworks of the future. Rock video graduate Fincher employs a grainy brown sludginess that tries for atmosphere but comes off as simply murky. The shaven-head theme allows Weaver to look striking in Joan of Arc poses, but also serves to render the rest of the cast, in contrast with the well-fleshed monster munchies of the earlier films, totally anonymous.

The few attempts at character (Dance gets an emotional speech as Weaver's brief love interest but is swiftly killed by the monster) come off as unfortunately gigglesome. Weaver, who took the two-dimensional character from Alien (1979) and gave her real depth in the first sequel, goes over old ground with a new haircut, being required by an idiotic script not to tell anyone she thinks there's a monster on the loose until well after heads have been crushed to pulp and acid-blood dripped all over the show. The film hurries towards an absurb "transcendent" finale - which owes much to Terminator 2: Judgment Day - in which Weaver falls into a furnace to save the universe from the alien bursting through her chest, but consists mainly of interchangeable characters running around dark corridors while a fish-eye lens monster chases them.

With the raising of stakes between the first two films and coming after James Cameron's all-out war with dozens of monsters, Alien3 finds it hard to make m uch of its lone dog-shaped alien, especially since the beast seems to have come not from the finale of the last film but from a script conference in Development Hell that began when Renny Harlin was going to direct from a script by William Gibson.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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