Time: 145 Minutes
Age Rating: contains violence and offensive language
Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley
Charles S. Dutton as Leonard Dillon
Charles Dance as Jonathan Clemens
Director: David Fincher
After her last encounter, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) crash-lands on Fiorina Fury 161, a maximum security prison. When a series of strange and deadly events occur shortly after her arrival, Ripley realizes that she brought along an unwelcome visitor.
Despite the success and acclaim of the previous movies in the series, Alien 3 was a very divisive film upon its release in the early 90s. When I first saw the movie many years ago (around the same time I watched the other Alien movies for the first time), I actually liked it. However it did have its issues, mainly with studio interference, director David Fincher (who has gone on to do make better things) has since disowned this movie. There was an assembly cut put together, which included extended footage, deleted scenes, new digital effects and different key elements. I legitimately think that this version of Alien 3 is great, or at least close to being great.
Again, the version of Alien 3 I’ll be reviewing is the Assembly Cut, which is widely known as the superior version of the film. It was years since I saw the movie for the first time (which I assume was the theatrical version), so I can’t comment too much on the differences between the two versions. However watching this movie now, I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like without 30 minutes of extra footage. One difference I know for certain was that for the creation of the main xenomorph, the theatrical version has it birthed from a dog, in this version its from an ox. One of the biggest criticisms was early in the movie was the fact that all the characters who survived the previous movie aside from Ripley die at the beginning (not really a spoiler it’s very early on). While I didn’t like that decision for the longest time, now I’ve sort of warmed to that idea now. Killing these characters at the beginning was a bold choice. After the action film that was James Cameron’s Aliens, Alien 3 firmly establishes itself as being a very different movie, a much bleaker and nihilistic movie, and this alienated some fans. Despite this, I think that the tonal departure from its predecessor works to Fincher’s benefit. This film is also closer in tone to the original Alien, being much more of a horror film than an action film. The movie is also set in a more confined location, reasonably large but still closed in and claustrophobic, and while the characters aren’t in space, there aren’t any weapons to fight back with (though the reason behind this does feel a little bit forced). It’s very much its own movie. With all that being said, Alien 3 is one of the most infamous cases of studio interference. The assembly cut puts together the movie as best as possible, and while watching it now I liked what I saw, there was a feeling at points that it was a little rushed. The ending was satisfying, and would’ve been a good place to end the series (and then they made Alien Resurrection for some reason).
Sigourney Weaver is great as usual as Ellen Ripley, still having that strong on screen presence, I actually think that this is her best performance as the character. Alien 3 really shows the PTSD that Ripley has from the experience of the previous two movies and how those events took a toll on her. The rest of the cast are good, with two standouts being Charles Dance and Charles S. Dutton. Both of them have some quite solidly written characters, elevated by the great performances. Unfortunately the rest of the supporting characters don’t have much to them, though not a whole lot worse than the supporting characters of the previous two movies.
The direction of the movie by David Fincher was great, and his direction took the film to another level. One of the film’s biggest strengths is the setting, taking place on a prison. Fincher does well at making this location feel remote and dystopian. Despite it being a somewhat large environment, it still feels claustrophobic. The production design was particularly great, with a lot of attention to detail. The cinematography is great and makes the film look so visually appealing, with dark shadows, strong aesthetics, and really adds to that claustrophobic. In the third act, the POV shots from the Xenomorph’s perspective also really worked. One of the more noticeable problems with the movie was that the CGI on the Xenomorph is very much a mixed bag. The actual design on the new alien is great and is something that hadn’t been shown in the previous two movies. Also, whenever the xenomorph is on screen with practical effects, it looks fantastic. However, in some points it will just cut to a very fake looking Xenomorph doing stuff, and the effects even in the Assembly Cut haven’t aged well. The chase scenes are pretty repetitive, though I guess that a whole lot of those moments were inevitable with the movie being a more open environment than the original Alien, and lacking the weapons in Aliens. The score by Elliot Goldenthal is also great, and fits the movie very well.
Alien 3 is definitely a flawed film but it’s by no means a bad film, in fact I think it’s really good. The new take for an Alien film is interesting, it’s greatly directed, I like the places that the story is taken, and the performances are great, especially from Weaver, Dance and Dutton. I’d recommend checking out this version of the film. It isn’t as strong as the first two movies, Alien still remains the best film in the series but Alien 3 is at least close to being at the level of Aliens.