David Fincher: Alien 3 (1992) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

David Fincher: Alien 3 (1992)

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Ryan:  Ok Andrew, Alien 3, let's do this!  This film is a weird beast for me.  I used to hate it but the release of Alien Resurrection and the Alien vs. Predator films gave me a newfound appreciation for the movie because it's apparently possible to make a worse Alien film than Alien 3.

What used to anger me so much about this film was the beginning where they unceremoniously kill off all the characters from my beloved Aliens with the exception of Ridley.  I always felt that was a giant middle finger to the second chapter and started the movie on such a sour note.  You care about these characters throughout Aliens and it is all for naught because they get offed right afterwards.  Now, with a few years of space, it's easier to see the themes Fincher started working into his films here.

Basically, I can't justify the movie but I understand it.  Alien 3 is Ripley's worst nightmare come true.  Everyone she has cared for is now dead, she is stuck on an ugly, inhospitable world with no escape and the Alien is still after her no matter how much she might run.

With her nightmare coming true, it makes sense that the worst thing which could possibly ever happen to her is in the end when she becomes a carrier for the new Alien Queen.  as I said in the introduction to our dalliance with Fincher, his movies have a theme of dealing with helpless people in helpless situations.  This is the first example of that theme.  What is interesting about the Fincher films is how the characters try to overcome their situation.

Poor Ripley was in an unwinnable battle and jumps off that ledge with that grenade and, while she may be committing suicide (another common Fincher theme), she is also winning the final battle of the war.  If Ripley was going to go out, she wasn't going to let the Alien do her in, and she was going out her own way.  So while i think the movie is not a very enjoyable or good film, at least it does have a little bit of substance when you look for it.

Andrew COMMENTARYAndrew:  Wait, so when Alien 3 kills off all the supporting characters we grew to love (like little girl and, uh, robot parts) it's ok, but when Aliens starts off fresh it's James Cameron being awesome?  The series sheds itself of these extra characters with each iteration because it takes place inside an entirely new genre.  If Alien was a feminist body horror film, Aliens was a Vietnam allegory wrapped in an action film, and Alien 3 was about how the "unreliable" streets can rise up and strike back against the evils both internal and external in the form of a defend the castle film (a la Assault on Precinct 13).

Remember, when Fincher picked up this film it had gone through several different rewrites and went into shooting with no working script, decided to take inspiration from the still fresh LA riots - and you know what?  Rewatching this film I have a significantly greater appreciation of it.  Alien 3 is by no means a bad film and is a pretty darn good one.  Fincher makes the most of his outpost convicts and working stiffs but taking a page out of Kathryn Bigelow's handbook from Near Dark and pushing character points with their accompanying visuals to their respective extremes.

And I'm still not sure I'm sold on Ripley being "helpless" in this film, or "helplessness" being a running theme.  She immediately takes command of the outpost when the Alien attacks, intimidates anyone who opposes her command to move out of the way, and makes an astonishing pro-choice stand at the end.  Ripley shed herself of any gendering in this film, becoming female only insomuch as she will be the mother to the new Alien Queen, and making herself as androgynous as possible in the process.

The action scenes are great, with the chase at the end between the inmates and the Alien taking place from the creatures pancake fish-eye perspective, being a high mark.  Less fortunate are the special effects.  The close up shots of the Alien look phenomenal and the creature work is superb, but the CGI is wretched, leaving me wishing Fincher suggested more than he saw.

Ryan:  Well, Ripley may not be helpless, but she is thrown in a no-win situation where she takes the one choice she has left and takes her life in her own manner.  I agree wholeheartedly with your wish that he would have shown less than he did.  Jaws is great because the shark is felt but rarely seen and this would have made Alien 3 a better film.  Thankfully the "felt not seen" lesson is carried to great effect in his next film.

Fincher has all but erased this movie from his life and that is an extreme case in anyone's career.  While there might have been creative struggles throughout the making of Alien 3 I suppose it's not a bad film.  I would call the flick empty.  It looked nice, had some cool set pieces and the actors gave it their all, but there is very little spark to the film.  It might be Fincher's worst, but many directors would kill for this movie to be their best.

Andrew:  I still find the ironic cool of Fight Club and the "let's hit all life experiences at once" method of Benjamin Button to be worse, but both of those films lack the Postlethwaite factor.  That said, it's clear this was a scattershot production, but like Ripley it puts up one helluva fight there on the screen.

As you noted, it's still a step way up from the dreck of Resurrection, but Alien 3 is a far better film than anyone gives it credit for.  Leave it to Fincher to lead a late game recovery and salvage something great from this mess.

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Next week Andrew and Ryan learn there are many disturbing routes "Dick In A Box" could have taken with Se7en.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. Great article, guys (never saw the movie myself, but you make strong points for the movie).

    Found this article and it seems to agree with you: http://www.ugo.com/movies/unwanted-movie-facts-alien-three-is-great

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