Rated R for monster violence, and for language
Running time: 114 min.
Release date: May 22, 1992
Alien 3 is one of those films that, through miracle alone, got to see a big screen release. It had a notoriously rough production, including several different screenwriters and directors. David Fincher finally settled in as director, marking his feature film debut. Even with all that went on behind the scenes and off-screen, Alien 3 almost becomes a good film. It is nowhere near the level of its predecessors, Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), but it certainly has qualities that it can be admired for.
The story begins during the opening credits, as a fire breaks out aboard the spaceship Sulaco, which is carrying Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the young girl Newt, Cpl. Hicks and the android Bishop, all survivors of events from the previous film, Aliens. All four are in hyper-sleep, while a facehugger has attached been aboard the whole time, and has now attached itself to one of the occupants. With the accidental fire, the ship launches an escape pod carrying all four of the crew to the prison planet Fiornia "Fury" 161, where it violently crash lands in the water. They are discovered by the inmates and pull out the only survivor, Ripley.
When Ripley awakens, she is informed that she is the only survivor. The prison warden, Andrews (Brian Glover), lets her know that there is a rescue ship coming for her, but meanwhile, her mere presence amongst murderers and rapists is very tempting and is bound to cause a disruption in the harmony. Ripley requests an autopsy be done on Newt by the chief medical officer, Clemens (Charles Dance), without truthfully explaining why. Internally, we know that she has fears of an infestation of aliens, but she keeps this secret for as long as she can. The bodies of her crew are cremated, however, a dog kept at the facility is definitely infected, and once the alien hatches from the dog, inmates start to disappear one by one. One drawback of the movie are the effects surrounding the alien in a few scenes, which are less than convincing.
Ripley comes clean about her knowledge of the alien, and the inmates decide to fight back. However, one of the major problems working against them is that there are no weapons on this planet. A message arrives from the corporate network Weyland-Yutani stating that Ripley is to be quarantined and held until a team arrives; meanwhile, Ripley discovers that she is carrying another secret, one that will surely kill her. She tries to convince inmate Dillon (Charles S. Dutton), the spiritual leader of the inmates, to kill her; however, the inmates need her experience with the alien in order to combat it and take it down. The film really breaks down near the end as it becomes yet another "monster in the house" movie, with chase scenes through tunnels and doorways.
Sigourney Weaver gives another good performance as Ripley in this film. The character is now carrying even more weight as she deals with a familiar foe once again, while also carrying sorrow over the loss of her "family unit" in Hicks and Newt. The role here is perfectly balanced by Weaver as she experiences loss, which then turns into doom as she realizes her own fate. The supporting cast are made up of professional character actors like Dance and Dutton, but the others all pretty much look and sound the same. Pete Postlethwaite is wasted in his role as prisoner David. The script by David Glier, Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson starts off with some interesting ideas, including religious dialogue, but it then gets bogged down in creature feature clichés, with everyone running for their lives. The alien itself doesn't appear to have the the intelligence that it had in the previous film, Aliens. Remember when the creature learned how to use the elevator in that film? There is none of that in this film, as all it does is hide in dark corners and leap out and eat people.
The art direction and atmosphere in this film works very well, Fincher develops a tone of doom within the confines of the prison planet. Sepia tones wash over everything as there is no color in this world; credit goes to cinematographer Alex Thomson. The tone of the entire film feels like there will be no happy ending, no matter what happens. The camera work on the chase scenes through tunnels was not necessary, as we got a lot of alien point-of-view shots that were upside down and rounding corners, This felt rather pedestrian and didn't add anything to the film.
Alien 3 was a solid debut for Fincher, who has since disavowed the film due to issues with the studio. It's not a perfect film, by any stretch, as it has faults in the screenplay and in the treatment of the alien. It certainly is not as bad as some would have you believe, but they are also correct in the assertion that it's not a worthy follow-up to its predecessors.