A grimy, sci-fi nightmare that serves as the perfect conclusion to the phenomenal Alien trilogy.
“You’re all gonna die. The only question is how you check out. Do you want it on your feet? Or on your fuckin’ knees, begging? I ain’t much for begging! Nobody ever gave me nothing! So I say fuck that thing!”
Harrowing. A grimy sci-fi nightmare that recaptures that sense of dread perfected in Ridley Scott’s original. Alien 3 is thoroughly unpleasant – perhaps even more so than its filmmakers ever intended. From its opening moments it alienates a large chunk of fans with an audacious twist that, when coupled with the bleak tonal shift, tears the franchise away from the relative comforts of Aliens. We’re greeted by a metallic purgatory, imposing at times, claustrophobic at others – and populated by a sea of hostile aggression and testosterone. Fincher does such a wonderful job staging this remote, hellish penitentiary, we instantly wish Ripley was back on the infested LV-426.
He achieves this through collaboration. The crew’s attention to detail with production design is exquisite – lending the film a powerful air of authenticity that’s largely absent in many genre affairs that followed (hello The Cube, Resident Evil, and, yes, Alien: Resurrection). The opening exterior shots of this industrial wasteland suck you in to this tale, before the succeeding blood-splattered stomach-turning imagery crawls under your skin. DoP Alex Thomson (stepping into the legendary Jordan Cronenweth’s shoes at the eleventh hour) does an admirable job making the film look so visually appealing in spite of the dour setting, casting haunting silhouettes and heavily contributing to that claustrophobic feel. And Elliot Goldenthal’s score is equal parts ominous and rousing, flitting between both when required.
The film’s shocking tonal departure from its predecessor is its greatest achievement, giving Fincher the freedom to build his own tale around the Xenomorph threat (rather than retread Cameron’s). Each chapter in this trilogy feels wonderfully unique – the patient, methodical horror, the 80’s action flick and the dirty, dystopian thriller. They complement one another through their contrasting style and aesthetic – and yet still share plenty of thematic through lines. Alien 3 offers satisfying conclusion to several established narrative strands, exploring the depths of Ripley’s PTSD and helping her find peace, restoring the truly chilling nature of the titular Xenomorph (shitty CGI not-withstanding), and – perhaps most satisfyingly – showcasing the real villains of this series as humanity’s greed and ambition (personified by the loathsome Weyland-Yutani Corporation).
It’s probably not the Aliens sequel you wanted (it wasn’t mine) – and it’s better for it. It’s fuckin’-A, man.
I didn’t like this film very much when I half-slept my way through it last year. I even enjoyed Resurrection more. Forgive me, I’m a changed man.