David Fincher’s Alien³ is a tiresome plod through a lousy script and shoddy CGI work. I am quite amazed at how it’s able to maintain such a low level of interest for such a long time.
The Alien inspiration is all but gone. It arrived with gusto and flair with Ridley Scott’s terrifying Alien, and then it gave way to loud special effects and wall-to-wall explosions in James Cameron’s good but ultimately needless Aliens sequel. And now it seems to be playing catch up with the material, which itself is so slow and tedious that the entire conflict developed to drive the narrative forward can be resolved within half an hour. But no, this movie takes a good two and a half to reach its conclusion. Again, I’m gonna say how astonished I am that so little script can be stretched out over such a vast cinematic canvas.
As the movie opens, shots of an Alien facehugger drilling and smashing its way into our heroes’ cryo-tubes are intercut by the opening titles (I’ve always found these arachnoid abominations to be far more frightening than the actual Alien). I’d like to point out that this is an impossibility. There’s no way a facehugger could have made it aboard the ship on which Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and Bishop successfully defeated the Alien Queen. And later on in this movie, there’s a revelation about Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) that is so ridiculous I’m amazed no Alien fan has marched on writers David Giler’s, Walter Hill’s, and Larry Ferguson’s houses and protested.
So the vessel carrying these four characters crash lands on a faraway planet that’s apparently inhabited by one colony of maximum security “double-y” chromosome prisoners. I’d like to commend its GPS system for successfully locating civilised life on an otherwise barren planet. Anyway, the prisoners find the crew, but only Ripley is alive, because heaven forbid Hicks or Newt stealing the limelight from the 25 bald and faceless prisoners who all seem to want their fair share of the movie’s profits (of which there were plenty, unfortunately).
Ripley is nurtured back to health, but she has to stay in the facility until a rescue ship comes to get her — “A supply ship comes every six months. That’s it”. And then the unthinkable — or the thinkable — happens: A local bull is somehow impregnated by a facehugger, and from its belly erupts a mutated Alien that can run on all fours. Oh boy. Now the entire prison becomes one gigantic playground where the Alien runs through the routine exercise of picking off the prisoners one by one, for no reason whatsoever. It is up to Ripley, yet again, to save the day.
Ripley’s been the heroine of every Alien movie thus far, and each time she finds herself thrown into an unescapable situation that will place her right next to the dripping skeletal jaw of the creature. Does she not find it strange that scriptwriters keep finding new and horrendous ways for her to meet her worst nightmare again? I’m sure she’s got family and friends back on Earth — she might not anymore, given the 57-year jump between the first and second films. But why have we never seen them? Why limit such a strong character to the confines of space, men, and Aliens? Weaver is a good actress. She’s proven herself in the first two Aliens, in Galaxy Quest, and even in Cameron’s Avatar. Here, like the script, she seems lethargic and disinterested. She absorbs Fincher’s dank wash of dirty greens and transforms it into a heavy performance, bereft of any dynamism. It’s as if she too is waiting for the end credits to roll.
Her supporting cast is no better. I could list the actors who play them, but why should I? They are nothing but moving targets for the Alien, who traverses the ducts and vents of the prison so efficiently that I suspect it must have had a hand in its architectural design. The prisoners run and scream. Sometimes they huddle together for semi-intellectual conversations about God and faith. As their numbers dwindle, the survivors begin to panic. And these are convicted tough guys. Goes to show you what years of isolation can do to a man. With Ripley’s help, they devise plans to trap the monster. Some work, some don’t, but they all take an exhausting amount of time to set up, and the payoffs are usually lacklustre.
The movie is professional, I can say that much. It’s the first feature directed by Fincher, who spent most of his career directing music videos and commercials. For a debut, he’s utterly confident. He knows the medium. But he’s let down by dingy production design — the prison here makes the facility in Aliens look like a carnival — and horrid computer graphics. The Alien is shown running around in full body, full frame, but each time we see it in virtual space it looks like a completely different creature. It seems smaller somehow; less meaty, as if it shrinks each time it wants to sprint.
I could go on and drag this out, but Alien³ has done that for me. It’s way too long for its material. It’s too dark and boring. It doesn’t have interesting characters. Its story is half-baked and insulting. And Ripley, the grand heroine of the franchise, has all but run out of steam. Someone feed her some coal. Or some Rogaine.
Best Moment | When the end arrived.
Worst Moment | Any scene involving that odd CGI Alien. Not good at all.
This is a review of the Assembly Cut, which adds a solid half an hour or so to the original film. Why? God knows. It’s half an hour of rubbish. Also, why is the title such? Doesn’t Alien³ equate to Alien Cubed? Whatever.