Preparing for Prometheus pt. III – Alien 3 (1992)
My contention with the Alien franchise has been that each installment has been about a different sort of fear. The first was the fear of the unknown. That fear of something coming out of the shadows and devouring you. The second was the fear of being overwhelmed. The idea of being swarmed. The third film in the franchise focuses on the fear of desperation and the idea that death is not something that can be overcome.
Alien 3 has a very long and storied history with regards to its production. At one time it was supposed to take place on a desolate wooded planet involving a monastery filled with folks who believed they were living in a post-apocalyptic dark age where technology is shunned and Ripley and the alien’s arrival would trigger internal tensions that would grow alongside the sci-fi horror. That idea was eventually retrofitted into the final product where we got a prison planet filled with religious convicts. The film had multiple directors before the studio brought in first time director David Fincher, who turned in a cut that the brass didn’t quite care for. Reshoots and creative editing ensued. The theatrical cut is pretty well maligned although I always thought it was a pretty damn good film. The main beef fans seem to have is that the death of fan favorites Newt and Hicks before the end of the opening titles. They contend that such a bold move renders the previous movie worthless. I would argue that it really isn’t a break from what the series is about at all. I read an analysis of the series that the trilogy reads like a treatise on terminal illness. Alien is diagnosis, Aliens is about remission against all odds, and Alien 3 is about accepting the inevitability of death. Some complain that Alien 3 is far too nihilistic when compared to the previous installments, but it is a logical conclusion.
Alien 3 has more in common with Alien than it does Aliens, that much is certain. It is only the overwhelming love of Aliens that sinks Alien 3. The concept is sound, the acting is pretty great all around. Charles Dance is amazing as always and by this point in the series Sigourney Weaver has Ripley’s character down to a science. Fincher’s direction works well with the material and he creates a true sense of dread. The only real downside to the film is the creature FX done with CGI. Anytime the Alien is done practically, it looks menacing and macabre. The CGI creature however is laughable and kills the tension when it appears.
Honestly I would recommend giving the “Assembly Cut” of the film a look. It’s got far more character work than the theatrical print and the finale has far more weight because Ripley’s sacrifice plays better without the addition of the chest burster. That is just my honest opinion.