Newest Review: ... conveniently killed off before the craft even lands, handily ridding the film of any "baggage" left over from Aliens, whilst als... more
Alien 3 (DVD)
Member Name: SWSt
Alien 3 (DVD)
Advantages: Interesting to see David Fincher's first major Hollywood outing as Director
Disadvantages: Dull and derivative
It had to happen. Alien, was brilliantly creepy and atmospheric, whilst sequel Aliens expanded the story, converting the franchise into an intelligent action film. Inevitably, the studio decided to go for film number three; and that's where it all started to go horribly wrong.
Alien 3 takes up where Aliens left off. Having escaped from the alien queen with Newt, Hicks and Bishop, Ripley crash lands on a prison colony planet. Inevitably, she unwittingly brings along another unwelcome xenomorph and soon the killing starts all over again.
The only really notable thing about Alien 3 that it marks the Hollywood directorial debut of David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven). It's no secret that the production process was not a happy one, with allegations of studio interference rife. This is the only way you could consider Alien 3 interesting, since you can look at it as part of Fincher's learning process. Fincher might still have been learning his trade, but there are already some impressively composed shots. The point of view shots of the alien chasing victims down the many tunnels may be over-used, but at least they do add something we have not seen before - a view of the world from the Alien's perspective.
Alien 3 is characterised by a lazy, run-of-the-mill script which adds nothing new and fails to ever come close to reproducing either the tension of the first film or the gung-ho action of the second. The film's lazy scripting is probably best characterised by the fact that the other three survivors are conveniently killed off before the craft even lands, handily ridding the film of any "baggage" left over from Aliens, whilst also ensuring that Ripley is once again left alone and isolated in a hostile environment.
Sadly, this is symptomatic of the overall quality of the script. Alien 3 really fails to think up any new storylines for anyone. Much of the script is simply a retread of the original - a group of people trapped in a single location are gradually picked off one-by-one. As such, Alien 3 lacks any real sense of surprise. There's some mild fun to be had guessing which prisoner will be the next piece of alien fodder, but not a great deal and as with so many films of this type, it's all too easy to work out who will live or die.
It's also full of clichés which means it never generates any sense of tension. People do traditional "horror movie" stupid things (such as going into dark tunnels on their own to investigate strange noises). There are very few scares and the film never comes close to matching the frenetic action sequences of Aliens. Everything feels horribly disjointed as if it's a series of random scenes tied together with a loose narrative and the constant battles David Fincher had with the studio over the making of the film have clearly taken their toll, resulting in a dull, derivative film.
Alien 3 relies much more heavily on gore than scares. There is plenty of the red stuff splashing around and it is easily the bloodiest entry up to this point. Again, one of the strengths of the first two films was that much of the violence was implied, leaving the imagination to do all the work. Yet, even here, Alien 3 disappoints and most of the deaths take place partly shaded in darkness (resulting in other characters being showered in blood). So, no tension, no action and surprisingly tame death sequences. Just what is the point of this film again?
Alien 3 is a film of two halves. Part one tries (ineffectively) to build the back-story of the penal colony and its inmates. This is far too dialogue heavy, ponderous and dull. The second half shifts to the inmates' attempts to trap and kill the alien... with somewhat predictable results. Even here, the film fails to generate much in the way of excitement, and the end sequence simply boils down to people chasing (and being chased) down lots of very similar looking tunnels, which doesn't exactly make for gripping viewing.
The lack of tension is not helped by the characters. With the notable exceptions of Brian Glover (arrogant prison warden), Charles Dance (suave Medical Officer with A Past) and to a lesser extent Charles S Dutton, (murderer with a heart), none of the actors involved really get much in the way of actual acting. The prisoners are all very one-dimensional and you simply don't care when they die. Not even Pete Postlethwaite can make much of an impact; and that's not something you hear terribly often!
Sigourney Weaver does her best to keep things going, but you get the impression even her heart isn't fully in it. Ridley is as feisty as ever and more than out-machos the rapists and murderers she finds herself surrounded by. She is as convincing as ever in the action sequences and manages to generate at least some sympathy for the plight of her character, but you still don't really fear for her in the same way the previous two films made you do.
Neither is the alien itself as much of a character. In Alien, the alien was a hidden menace, seemingly lurking in every shadow and generating a genuine sense of terror. In Aliens, it was an intelligent, cunning animal, acting on instinct and learning; doing both what it was bred to do (kill and survive). You even felt a modicum of sympathy for it at times. After all, in Aliens, it was simply trying to do what Ripley and co were also doing - protect their young and survive.
In Alien 3, it's just a special effect (and often a poor one at that.) There is no attempt to develop its character, no attempt to make it terrifying. It is there to do nothing more than take the role of the serial killer.
Once again, Hollywood proves it just can't leave successful franchises alone. With nothing new to add, Alien 3 is a (very) pale imitation of the original. Sadly, worse was to follow, as Hollywood suits did their best to flog the franchise to death. Alien: Resurrection followed, as did Alien v Predator and Alien v Predator 2 which, in accordance with the law of diminishing returns got less and less watchable as the series progressed.
Director: David Fincher
Running time: approx. 114 minutes (theatrical release)
© Copyright SWSt 2010
Summary: Not Fincher's finest hour