Alien3 USA/UK, 1992.  Rated R.  110 minutes.

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Daniel Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen, Pete Postlethwaite
Writers: Larry Ferguson, David Giler, Walter Hill, Vincent Ward
Music: Elliot Goldenthal
Cinematographer: Alex Thomson
Producers: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill
Director: David Fincher

Grade: C Review by Carlo Cavagna

A lien3 is generally viewed as the nadir of the Alien series, and you don't have to wait long to see why. Within minutes, Alien3 invalidates the point of its immensely popular predecessor, Aliens. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) awakens from cryogenic sleep to discover that Newt, the little girl she risked everything to save in Aliens, is dead, as are the others with whom she escaped. Unbeknownst to them, a second alien slipped onto their ship as they fled and made mincemeat of Ripley's comrades as they slept. Understandably, fans of the series felt betrayed, and when the rest of the film delivered atmospherics instead of non-stop action, viewers were even more disappointed.Alien 3 poster

If you can somehow set aside the beginning of Alien3 and watch the rest of the film without hostility, you might discover that it's really not a bad movie. Ripley's ship has drifted off course and landed on an all-male penal colony of extremely violent offenders. Insert a female into their midst and things are bound to get tense. Moreover, it eventually becomes clear to Ripley that, although whatever alien was aboard her ship did not have the benefit of cryogenic sleep (which allows humans to sleep away the years it takes to travel between star systems without aging), something has survived.

Just as Alien features a recurring birth motif and Aliens examines the concept of motherhood, Alien3 has its own higher themes to explore. Of the alien, Ripley says, "It's been a part of me so long, I can't remember anything else." The idea of a symbiotic relationship between Ripley and the aliens is introduced for the first time, an idea that Alien Resurrection would later build on.
The Big Picture

The second theme of Alien3 is redemption. Led by prisoner/preacher Dillon (Charles S. Dutton), the convicts have embraced religion and repented their sins. Ripley, however, is temptation personified for these men, many of them ex-rapists. Ripley herself has sins that need to be redeemed (or so she believes), as does enigmatic, melancholy Dr. Clemens (Charles Dance).

Beyond its ill-conceived opening, Alien3 does have another serious problem. Just as Alien3 begins to draw you in with its story, it suddenly seems to skip ahead several chapters. The character development is cut abruptly short when the alien begins munching people. Dr. Clemens in particular, the most interesting and complex character in the movie other than Ripley, should be allowed to survive longer. Alien3 also gets a nice supporting performance from Charles S. Dutton, but with Newt killed off and Dr. Clemens' premature exit, there's no incentive to care about any of the characters still left.

Alien3 is also notable for being the feature film debut of director David Fincher (Seven, The Game), who artfully composes every shot and knows how to build a mood. As a result, Alien3 is just as skillfully made as its predecessors. Indeed, high quality direction and sophisticated themes are fixed constants in the Alien series. Unfortunately, the script of this installment is fundamentally flawed.

Review © March 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
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