“You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.”
The original Alien trilogy is unique in as much as it has three very different directors and each film was released in a different decade. This means that there is something to keep everybody happy. Looking for a high octane action flick? Stick Aliens on. Want something a little more tense and atmospheric? Has to be Alien. And if you want to just go weird then, of course, you would choose the third instalment, directed by the inimitable David Fincher.
Alien 3 sees Ripley crash land on a desolate planet home to a high security prison inhabited by rapists and murderers. If that feels like a bit of a departure from the two films that preceded it, then you are absolutely correct. Fincher takes a lot of risks with Alien 3, not least killing off Newt and Hicks offscreen, and while they don’t always pay off, it certainly makes for a fascinating spectacle.
The casting is brave and inspired with the British trio of Paul McCann, Brian Glover and Charles Dance all excelling. The violent and sudden nature of most of the characters deaths confirms that this is very much Sigourney Weaver’s film however. Ripley was already an icon before this film but Alien 3 is arguably her finest hour capped off by her fitting and poetic self sacrifice at the end. There is a strong argument to be made that the Alien franchise should really have ended there, but I will look at that more closely when watching the next three films in the series.
Fincher’s threequel is far from perfect however. The editing is disorientating and makes for an, at times, confusing experience and aside from Ripley, we never really know who we should be rooting for as characters drift in and out. It is no secret that the production of Alien 3 was troubled at times with various parties unhappy before, during and after filming. There is a nagging feeling that there is the makings of a classic somewhere within the mess but Fincher’s genius only reveals itself in tantalisingly brief glimpses.
Despite all this I do love Alien 3 and in many ways it feels more mine than any other Alien film as it is the one I watched the most as a teenager. Watching the three films together has given me a new found insight into just how different they all are and it is difficult to think of a successful film franchise that is comparable in that way. That alone makes the Alien films vital viewing.
On to Alien:Resurrection.