Friday 14 April 2017

Movie Review: Alien 3 (1992)

The second sequel in the franchise, Alien 3 stumbles with a weak plot, poor execution, and uninteresting interchangeable supporting characters.

Picking up immediately after the events of Aliens, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the only survivor when her spaceship crash lands onto Fury 161. The remote planet is home to a derelict foundry facility and penal colony inhabited by 25 male inmates predisposed to extreme violence, and who have now turned to a form of religion. Ripley suspects that her fellow escapees, the young girl Newt, the Marine Hicks and the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen), were killed in their sleep by a stowaway alien. Medical officer Dr. Jonathan Clemens (Charles Dance) appears to be the one sympathetic person on Fury 161, and he tries to understand Ripley's story.

Also on the planet but less empathetic are the prison warden Andrews (Brian Glover) and inmate spiritual leader Dillon (Charles S. Dutton). When an alien spawns out of a dog and inmates start encountering horrible deaths, Ripley has to create a plan to kill the beast despite having no weapons or resources. With a rescue crew days away and inmates lusting after the only woman they have seen in decades, she realizes that her problems are actually much worse than just one alien on the loose.

The first feature film directed by David Fincher is also the first disappointment in the Alien franchise. A troubled production with a myriad of script ideas mushed together never gels. Citing studio interference, Fincher subsequently disowned the film. The script starts in the worst possible way, betraying all of Ripley's thrilling Aliens exploits by killing off Newt. In the annals of creative sequel ideas, this is one of the worst, and Alien 3 never really recovers.

Ripley is instead dropped into the uninteresting premise of a planet occupied by convicts, and neither the inmates' criminal background nor their new found religious zealotry are properly exploited. Instead a couple of supporting characters are built up to provide some level of interest, and then summarily bumped off halfway through the film, leaving Ripley with a collection of ill-defined, interchangeable co-stars. They are all sweaty, dirty and have shaved heads, and nothing else to offer.

Fincher does succeed in creating a bleak and depressing aesthetic. The film takes place entirely in a facility that should have been condemned and abandoned decades prior, providing ample opportunities for dank and dark hiding places.

While the battle between the sole alien loose on the planet and Ripley resembles more the original film than the first sequel, the conflict is almost totally devoid of tension. Fincher resorts to alien point-of-view shots, and promptly over-uses his gimmick, landing in bad video game land. The more interesting drama of Ripley struggling with what is within catches some passion, but it's too little and too late.

Alien 3 is neither tense nor thrilling, just dead on arrival.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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