A bad Alien film? It was once unthinkable, but it happened in 1992 - according to the critics, anyway. But were they right? Sadly, yes...
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance
Running time: 114 minutes
In 1979, Alien changed the science-fiction genre forever, bringing pulse-racing action to the silver screen like never before. And seven years later, Aliens took things to even bigger, bolder places - becoming countless people’s favourite ever film in the process. Yet in 1992, the franchise took its first stumble, with Alien³ being panned by critics and audiences alike. But as we look back thirty years later, was its frosty reception really warranted? Pretty much.
When Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley crash lands in a maximum security prison, she must navigate miscreants and ne'er do wells, as well as an eight-food alien that is out for blood. An interesting premise, sure, but one that never quite hits its target, instead leading to a cluttered, confused and frankly underwhelming couple of hours.
Why does it not live up to the sky high standards of the first two films, you ask? Well, largely because it lacks so many of the vital elements that made them such a success. Where in James Cameron’s duology the story is streamlined and focused, fully effective in its simplicity and with just enough plot to keep people interested without ever detracting from the tension, this is ultimately something of a meandering mess. Spending far too long diving into uninteresting character dynamics and fleshing out tedious lore, director David Fincher never quite instils the same urgency or anxiety that his predecessor managed so well - and can’t seem to piece together the idea that more blood and gore doesn’t necessarily mean more entertainment.
Alien³ still feels deserving of its reputation as a weak, shoddy and almost unnecessary addition to what was previously a near-flawless series
It is a shame that the film focuses so heavily on these new, tiresome dynamics, especially considering its decision to take beloved former characters off the board in such a cheap, lazy manner. While refusing to rely too heavily on the past is undoubtedly a bold move, the way in which it wipes the slate clean seems almost disrespectful to the legacy that Cameron created. The script also feels surprisingly outdated - with certain plot developments and lines of dialogue belonging more in the 1970s than in 1992, and the big moments lacking the subtlety or nuance you’d expect from a talented filmmaker like Fincher.
Despite its faults, however, this certainly isn’t all bad. Weaver shows the same remarkable commitment to her role as ever, executing every emotional beat and character quirk with the confidence of an actor who has made an entire franchise her own. And the world that is built by Fincher and his team is delightfully grimy, providing a suitably drab, dystopian setting for an extraterrestrial game of cat-and-mouse. Sure, the CGI and visuals don’t exactly blow you away, but the sets are impressively crafted, and fully immerse the audience in the grotty environment these characters are forced to live in.
Overall, though, Alien³ still feels deserving of its reputation as a weak, shoddy and almost unnecessary addition to what was previously a near-flawless series. Bringing bland characters into the mix, creating a convoluted and meandering plot, and struggling to land its biggest blows, this really isn’t one worth revisiting. Sure, it’s not quite a ³ out of ten, but it isn’t far off…
Did you know? During filming, the script was still constantly being re-written, with new versions faxed to the studio on a near-daily basis. Cast and crew often filmed a scene, and learned the next day that it had already been scrapped.
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