From the Archive: Alien 3


The debut of the new Netflix series Mindhunter has brought a fresh wave of attention on filmmaker David Fincher, who seems a little less glum than usual as he makes the promotional rounds. The accompanying newsy tidbits — he almost directed the Deadwood pilot! he thinks Marvel movies don’t allow for much directorial creativity! — and fresh analyses of his visual style have been peppering my various online feeds for the past week. That seems as good of impetus as any to dust off my original review of his feature directorial debut, Alien 3. The sequel had a bizarre, tortured trip to the multiplex, evidenced by a teaser trailer that promised an entirely different plot than the one found in the film Fincher delivered to the confused indifference of moviegoers. (It opened behind the second week of Lethal Weapon 3 and was out of the Top 5 two weeks later.) This review was written for my campus radio station, during the summer my cohort and I were putting together roughly two-minute reviews that were dropped in periodically during the daily programming.    

Alien 3 is certainly not a film that can be faulted for a lack of ambition. The third installment of the film series that focuses on Lieutenant Ellen Ripley’s confrontations with murderous alien creatures mixes religious overtones and death acceptance in with the mayhem. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a better Alien.

This time out, Ripley has crashed on desolate prison planet populated by lifers who have turned to religion to forget their messy histories. It’s supposed to be a temporary, uneventful stay, but an alien has along and begins tearing apart the incarcerated inhabitants, forcing Ripley into battle again, this time without advanced weaponry.

Sigourney Weaver again displays her mastery of the character, leaving no doubt as to why her performances in the series have been even more memorable than the special effects and alien creatures. This is especially evident in the scene that reveals the location of “the most terrifying place of all” that they movie ads promised the creature would be hiding in.

Also very good is Charles S. Dutton, on the Fox TV series Roc, playing a no-nonsense inmate with strong determination and devotion the religion he’s adopted. The rest of the characters are little more than soulless soldiers, bickering with each other as they face this terrifying threat. They’re similar to the groups in the first two films, but with less life.

First time feature director David Fincher has a keen eye for the memorable image, but falters on the storytelling level. He relies too heavily on quick edits and not the story itself to keep the film moving along. The exciting visuals just aren’t enough to prevent Alien 3 from being an uninteresting film.

2 stars, out of 4.