United States, 1992
U.S. Release Date:
R (Violence, Profanity)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio:
Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Lance Henriksen
Larry Ferguson, David Giler, and Walter Hill
First, there was the creepy horror of Ridley Scott's atmospheric Alien. Then, some six years later, James Cameron took elements from the first and crafted one of the best science fiction/action films of all time: Aliens. After two such superior efforts, anticipation was high for the third (and final?) installment of the trilogy, especially after early promotional campaigns offered the slogan: "On Earth, everybody can hear you scream."
Alas, Alien 3 is not the movie fans were hoping for. Sigourney Weaver is back as Ellen Ripley, but it's the writing and direction (by music video master David Fincher) more than the acting that lets us down. Plot inconsistencies abound and, by killing off Ripley's surrogate daughter Newt before the movie even begins, much of the emotional underpinning of the previous film has been rendered moot. A character with that much importance in determining the heroine's motivation deserves something more noteworthy than an off-screen murder. (Hicks is dead, too, but he was more disposable).
Alien 3 is, simply put, a mess. The writers have no idea how to tell a coherent, entertaining story. With the exception of a surprise or two, there isn't much worthwhile here. The storyline frequently doesn't make sense, with actions occuring for which no explanation is given. Direction, editing, and camerawork combine with the disjointed script to disorient and confuse the viewer. Given Fincher's background, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the movie looks like a music video. Another lackluster aspect of Alien 3 is its feeble score, while pales in comparison to James Horner's rousing work for Aliens.
The characters are paper-thin, in large part because there are too many of them. Had individuals been better-developed, their uniform unlikability might have been interesting, but, as it is, this trait is off-putting. The few denizens of Alien 3's prison planet given any personality are treated badly by the script. There are a number of action scenes, but, because of certain plot contrivances and an inability to feel for the characters, there's little excitement or suspense. At least the atmosphere is suitably dark and dreary.
As for that tag line about screaming on Earth -- our homeworld is nowhere to be found. The film takes place on a weaponless prison planet where Ripley has crash-landed, conveniently bringing an alien with her (it impregnated Newt during transit). Now, it's a struggle to kill the creature before it wipes out the criminal population. In many ways, this is just a higher-tech rehash of the first film.
As a science fiction or horror film, Alien 3 is barely passable, but, compared to its two predecessors, it's a sorry end to the trilogy. I enjoyed the first two films, but, in their wake, found this one barely watchable and not especially enjoyable.