Review: Alien 3
You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.
Alien 3 disappoints on a number of levels but perhaps its biggest disappointment is its failure to get close to its predecessors. It’s a stale and feeble film that lacks a sense of its own identity.
The start sums up the film, a sense of stick, or twist, a question the film never provides adequate answer to. From one point of view, the killing of Hicks and Newt is a mistake but from another their deaths are needed necessary if the film is to succeed in its own right.
The plot revolves around Ellen Ripley’s pod which crash lands on a distant planet, a former maximum security jail now an ore refinery inhabited by prisoners who chose to stay. Living there until she’s rescued, Ripley discovers the reason for her crash is an alien stowaway and as the alien matures it begins to kill off the inhabitants one by one.
Alien was a slasher film set in outer space, Aliens a war film, Alien 3 returns to the slasher formula, but you surmise that’s down to a lack of new ideas. Setting the film in a former high security jail that’s full of men – pent up and full of aggression no less – should provide some tension. The resulting film fizzles, never sustaining a sense of dread or upping the stakes.
The lack of available weapons causes problems as the prisoners have to find inventive ways to kill the alien. It’s admirable to try and differentiate itself from Aliens‘ gung-ho action but flounders in scenes where former inmates have no means for protecting themselves.
The alien has developed in some way for reasons unknown, but isn’t as scary as previous incarnations. After the Alien queen and several aliens in one film, going back to one seems a mistake.
It doesn’t help that it stalks its prey in an unconvincing manner (the early use of cgi is bad). Little is made to give the human characters any sense of empathy. They’re cannon fodder (or alien dinner), that’s incapable of striking back and lack a reason to care about whether they live or die.
The last half hour loses momentum with a few instances where the viewer is made to be uncomfortable. Fincher’s approach to violence detached, creating sequences that make you squirm, one of the film’s few successful approaches.
The use of sound is effective in communicating the violence again it all fizzles out to an unsatisfying denouement. It’s ultimately an unconvincing entry in the Alien franchise that neither carves out its own character or push on from the franchises’ excellent foundations. It really ought to have, and should have, been better but for reasons in front of and behind the camera, it ends up failing.