Directed by David Fincher
Written by David Giler & Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson
To this point my venture into the world of Alien has been great. I have been treated to one of the best horror films ever when Ridley Scott kicked the series off, and James Cameron continued the success by doing something different and making it a great action movie in Aliens. So two legendary films and directors down in the series and I find myself on the third installment, directed by a then young David Fincher. Since, Fincher has become a very reputable name in Hollywood, coming off his great success on The Social Network and with the American adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo coming out this Christmas. So what can he bring to the table to the franchise which has already succeeded so much and explored so much?
Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is still hanging around after now two encounters with the deadly Alien and unlike Cameron’s reboot of the series, Fincher continues right where the last one left off, with the three remaining from Aliens floating in hypersleep. But when they are awoken early for some reason, and the craft crash lands on a prison planet, Ripley is the only one to survive and must make sure the Alien has not survived as well. She encounters the warden of a maximum security prison that has been downsized to only 25 prisoners, but it is the medical officer (Charles Dance) whom she confides in. But soon they realize the Alien is back, and what is even more threatening is the fact that the Alien refuses for some reason to kill Ripley. At this point I would be mad as hell like Ripley too.
What David Fincher brings to the table, in what is his first feature film as a director, sadly does not live up to what Scott and Cameron brought to the franchise. However, I think much of this had to do with the screenplay. The story in this one seems very forced, whereas the previous two efforts seemed very natural given the premise of the Alien. The fact that it is a prison planet with no women, full of murderers and rapists, doesn’t make for an interesting setting for the story. And instead of reinventing how to use the alien, like Cameron did with Aliens, a film he also wrote, this one just rehashes what we have already seen. Luckily for the filmmakers her though is that what has already been done works.
It does make for a less interesting film, especially since there is reference to the films past which would make a fuller experience for the viewer, but I think it could manage to be a stand alone film with general knowledge of the series. But what does make this an interesting film is Fincher’s style. In his first feature, the style we know and love today is evident. Despite what I would call lackluster effects, except for the alien design, the film is visually stunning with some great cinematography, fueled by the vision of Fincher that we have seen in his subsequent films. And another great touch is the editing in the film, which helps to create the tension and the sense of doom that the alien naturally brings with it.
Sigourney Weaver was pretty stereotypical here and doesn’t build on her character which was great in the first two parts, but she does pull off the fed up Ripley, and her shaved head helps. Ultimately though I was somewhat bored by the proceedings. I failed to find much to really entertain me, though it certainly had its merits, though mostly technical and not narratively speaking. Charles Dance was a lot of fun to watch as Clemens, the medical officer. But I would also be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was inclined to rest my eyes a little bit for much of the second half. There was not as much tension and mood as Alien and not as much action as Aliens. Alien³ just comes off as an attempt to blend the two styles and it only succeeds marginally. And I say it succeeds because I am still interested in seeing the fourth installment directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, especially given how this one ends.