ALIEN³ (or just Alien 3) is the 1992 follow up to James Cameron’s Aliens (1986). And that film is staggering genius.
So, no pressure at all for first-time director David Fincher as he took on the mantle for the latest Alien film! No pressure at all.
Sadly, what followed was a goddamn disaster. A hodgepodge mess of studio interference and an incomplete script. Still… at least the film represents balding rather well.
ALIEN³ and the Slide Towards Mediocrity
This film, man. What the hell went wrong? Despite the return of the awesome Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, its various issues bogged the experience down.
An incomplete script during filming didn’t help.
Wiping out Hicks, Newt, and Bishop in the first 60 seconds also didn’t help. Yes, those characters you loved from the last film? Dead immediately. Hurray!
Director David Fincher has since had a fantastic career, but this was not a good start.
He was so frustrated with the experience he’s since disowned the film and criticised studio interference. Which for ALIEN³ was… relentless.
We covered Lost Soul recently about the disastrous Island of Dr. Moreau shoot. This one was almost as bad, in a red tape kind of way.
But, well. Let’s start with the plot!
The film follows on shortly after the events of Aliens, with an egg hatching on the Colonial Marine spaceship Sulaco. A fire breaks out, causing the launch of an escape pod containing Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and Bishop.
It crashes on to the planet “Fury” 161.
Everyone dies horribly, except for Ripley. She finds herself stuck on a prison planet with a load of lunatic prisoners who’ve found God.
It’s a male-only planet, so everyone is freaked about what to do with her.
The prison’s doctor, Jonathan Clemens, wakes Ripley up and the two strike up a relationship of sorts. Dr. Clemens is on the planet after he made a drunken error on Earth, cursing his career to oblivion.
We must say, these early scenes with Charles Dance and Sigourney Weaver are the best thing about the film. They’re terrific.
Interestingly, Fincher here tried to reunite the cast of Withnail & I for this section. He wanted Richard E. Grant to play the role of Clemens.
Meanwhile, Paul McGann (I, in Withnail & I) got the role of Walter Golic. His role wasn’t extensive in the film, though.
However, Ralph Brown (Danny the drug dealer in Withnail & I) did get a major role, that of prison officer Francis Aaron.
Er… yeah, so the one thing you wouldn’t expect from ALIEN³ is this bizarre connection to Bruce Robinson’s cult classic.
Also in the cast was Brian Glover as the prison warden, who had a minor role in a episode of BBC sitcom Bottom.
He died in 1997, but was famous for his unusual voice and generally looking like a lunatic. By all accounts, though, he was a lovely bloke!
You may have noticed at this point we’re avoiding chatting about the film.
That’s because ALIEN³ is a mess. The script is awful. We’ve seen some people try and claim the film is a masterpiece. If they think that then, great, we’re glad they think so.
But we had someone on this blog trying to claim Star Wars: Phantom Menace was actually really good. When it’s just so godawful.
You can read all about the studio interference elsewhere. That’s largely the issue that derailed the third film—20th Century Fox execs did everything they could to infuriate everyone.
The young Fincher was provided an impossible task, in many respects.
We just don’t think, after Aliens, another film was necessary. It was overkill. Where else can you take the concept? The same goes after the first two Terminator films.
Clearly, the cast and crew of ALIEN³ tried their very best. The effort is clear.
And the film’s big set piece is towards the end with the planet’s prisoners racing through corridors and trying to trap the alien. It’s quite effective. Probably vomit-inducing for some (due to various reasons).
ALIEN³ is a bad film. Watching again, we were shocked by how poor the dialogue is. And the flow of the film doesn’t work.
Charles Dance is terrific. And Sigourney Weaver is just brilliant, as always.
It’s Weaver who keeps the thing from being a goddamn disaster entirely. But to watch the film is to see a missed opportunity.
The chance to make a much better film but not screwing with a director’s vision. Or to just fund a new concept, rather than retreading old ground.
Oliver Harpers Alien 3 Retrospective
We didn’t want to go on about the film’s issues too much as they’re kind of common knowledge now.
But we can recommend Oliver Harper’s fantastic retrospective review channel for a more detailed insight into ALIEN³.
That includes notes on the film’s original concepts, such as a wooden planet populated by monks.
Plus, the Hicks character from Aliens (played by Michael Biehn) was initially intended as the lead character. Which, frankly, could have worked after Ripley’s run over the first two films.
Hmmm… all very intriguing.
But what stands is a lesson to Hollywood to sod off and let creatives do their thing. Inane, pedantic feedback will stifle productions endlessly. Be told!