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1992 - R - 114 (146: Assembly Cut) Mins.
Director: David Fincher
Written By: Walter Hill
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, and Lance Henriksen as Bishop II
Review by: John Ulmer
Alien: 5/5 stars
Aliens: 5/5 stars
Alien Resurrection: 2.5/5 stars


In its complexity, "Alien3" is a failed story. It's bleak, it's flawed, it's stupid. "Alien3" is a sequel to two of the most memorable films of all time--and it completely ruins the ending of its 1986 predecessor, "Aliens," by killing off two of the lasting characters and entirely negating the emotional underpinning of the film. It practically scratches out the second movie with its mediocrity, and the fourth scratches out the first.

In its simplicity, it sucks.

If you recall the ending of the last film, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) survived her encounters with an alien colony, along with the marine, Hicks (Michael Biehn), and a young survivalist much like herself named Newt (Carrie Henn). They were put into cryogenic sleep and all was well. The story ended happily and should have stayed that way. It was the ending we all loved.

Now it's ruined. Ripley is picked up by a large space ship another number of years later. She is the only survivor. The spaceship suffered a malfunction. Hicks bled to death and Newt drowned in her cryo chamber. But Ripley believes that Newt may have been impregnated with a chestburster after finding traces of acid on the floor of the ship.

Ripley's new home is a large maximum-security prison ship. Conveniently enough, there isn't a single weapon on board, as it would be too tempting for the criminals to grab the weapons and murder the authorities aboard the thing. Well, that's what containment is for. But oh well, this movie is as stupid as they get, so that's one of the more forgivable plot contrivances.

That's a problem with this film. Everything's contrived. I was willing to believe that Ellen Ripley could and would encounter aliens once again in the film "Aliens" because (a) the plot was strong and (b) the movie was good, so any minor contrivances set up by James Cameron were not very noticeable. It was a very good sci-fi film, and the more I view it on the new Quadrilogy DVD, the more I grow to like it.

Same with "Alien3." The new cut is better than the old one. But it's still an awful film--so bad that everyone associated with it has only bad things to say about it. Even its director, David Fincher, has reportedly disowned the film. He claims that the film is not his, that FOX controlled every aspect of it. He was the only director on the entire Quadrilogy DVD collection to refuse a DVD commentary track recording. Even James Cameron recorded a commentary, and we all know how hard it is to get him to do that for a film. (Come on, we need a commentary for the original "Terminator" already!)

"Alien3," even with the superior extended version, still stinks to high heaven. Fincher can disown the film all he wants, but he still made it, and he still ruined it in part with his odd direction style (a style that is splendid for "Se7en" and "Fight Club" but not in an "Alien" movie). The "Alien" series was always dark and brooding and somewhat disturbing, but this pushes the limit--it's too dark, too brooding, too disturbing, and almost feels evil. The characters are extremely strange and weird; Ellen Ripley is very different, and her new hairstyle--no hair--is just silly. This whole film is just too dark. It's the type of movie that makes you want to take a shower after it's all over to cleanse away the filth. (Which brings to mind Bob Gale's "Back to the Future Part II" documentary, in which he said throughout the filming of the "new 1985" scenes where Biff runs the town, the entire crew felt dirty after bringing in all the set decorations and biker gangs. It made them feel like they were physically and emotionally disturbed.)

Another problem? There's nowhere to go after "Aliens." In 1979, "Alien" introduced the new face of horror a year after John Carpenter's "Halloween." The two back-to-back slasher flicks were both very different and yet very similar. One took place in the future, one in the present. Both were films about killing creatures (for Michael Myers is not a human). And so to change the genre, in 1986 James Cameron made the sequel an all-out combat film, preparing audiences for the change with the tagline, "This time it's war." He wanted people to know that it wasn't "Alien." It was "Aliens."

The primary problem, among many, is the step backwards for the series. What after "Aliens"? There's nowhere to go except to make the action faster, the suspense horrifying, the script better and the aliens more plentiful than before. David Fincher steps backwards a notch. We no longer have hundreds of aliens with a queen. We alien. One single alien that no one can kill. (Yet hundreds were killed in "Aliens.") After watching "Aliens" and seeing Ripley kill them so easily like squashing bugs, you'll wonder why she can't use her skill to kill one more. Granted, there are no weapons in this film, but the characters do the most stupid things imaginable. I'm glad they get eaten. I wish Ripley had. Her IQ seems to have dropped after the last installment. She deserves to be food in this one.

Renny Harlin ("Die Hard 2") was originally tagged to direct this film. Complications ensued because a release date had been set without his confirmation. After some bitter disputes, he left. I wish he hadn't. He would have possibly brought a fresh approach to the series--a better one than Fincher, anyway, whom I stress is a good director given the correct material ("Se7en" remains one of my favorites).

Walter Hill ("Red Heat") wrote the script for "Alien3" after another writer had written a much better one that kept Hicks and Newt in the picture. Fincher and Weaver didn't like this idea, because they thought that Ripley was not a family person. So they killed 'em off. Y'know what I think? I think that Sigourney Weaver was afraid that the series would start to focus less on her character and more on Michael Biehn's, and that she would no longer be a valuable asset. After a third film, she knew that audiences would tire of seeing Ellen Ripley getting stuck with aliens more and more. It would grow unbelievable. So they'd shift the focus a bit like all horror series always do. Maybe start new storylines with her in the backdrop. She didn't want that. Greed ain't good, no matter what Gordon Gekko tells you.

"Alien3" is infamous for its awfulness. It is the movie no one wants to claim credit for. Not Fincher, not Hill, not the producers, and not even FOX, really. It made a lot of cash, but for the most part everyone hated it. Some die-hard fans enjoy it, but if you ask them, they'll always tell you that it's the worst of the series (sometimes they choose "Alien Resurrection," though).

I'll tell you what: It's certainly my least favorite. I hate this movie. I literally find it painful to watch. And I wouldn't even call myself a huge fan of this series. But it bugs me when directors take liberties to kill off characters. The story of James Cameron's hatred for "Alien3" is pretty well known. Some people say he needs to get over it. Now he's talking about making a sequel with Ridley and forgetting about the latter two sequels. I don't think this is a good idea (forgetting the other two--it would confuse audiences), but I don't blame him for despising "Alien3" and often referencing it as an awful film in his interviews. I'd be pretty pissed if someone ruined big parts of my franchise, too. (A franchise Scott started, but one that Cameron certainly added more than a few pieces of the puzzle to.)

This is probably one of my longest film reviews. Good. I have a lot of problems with "Alien3," and if it takes up over 1,000 words to explain them, I don't care. But I know other people might, so I'm ending this with a quote. As Bart Simpson once said: "I didn't think it was possible, but this both sucks and blows." If you're ever in need of a rude summary of something, turn to The Simpson family. They summed this one up pretty well.
Movie Guru Rating
Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable. Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable.
  1.5 out of 5 stars

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