Review by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: May 22, 1992
DIRECTOR: David Fincher
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Alex Thomson
WRITERS: David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson
MUSIC: Elliot Goldenthal
After the success of “Aliens”, it really came as no surprise that 20th Century Fox would want another sequel. Director David Fincher, who would eventually go on to bigger and better things, is quick to disown the movie these days. Fox interfered with the production and enforced strict deadlines, leading to an ultimately compromised final film that is considered a low point for the series.
For the sake of this review, I decided to watch the “Assembly Cut” that was released in 2003. This version of the film attempts to push it closer to what Fincher was originally striving for despite the fact that he wasn’t involved in the recut of the film. I will also say that this version of the film helps highlight the positive points in the movie.
Yes, there are positive things to say about “Alien 3” as it feels like there is a good gothic horror film trying to break free from this flawed production. First off, it shows an early look at Fincher’s unique visionary style that he would bring to his later projects such as “Se7en”, “Fight Club”, “Zodiac”, and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. Despite working with a rather low budget that was already partially used on sets that were never even used, Fincher took what he had and definitely tried to deliver a visually interesting flick.
The movie also contains strong performances from pretty much everyone in the cast. Sigourney Weaver is just as strong here as she was in the first two films. She knows Ripley better than anyone else as she brings out both the character’s vulnerabilities and strengths in the film.
Charles S. Dutton as Dillon is another highlight. Dutton had been a real-life convict and he brought that real-life experience to his role. He also brings out Dillon’s heart of gold as well despite hiding it at first as he throws his defenses up when Ripley is around.
Unfortunately, everything else is wrong with this film and just like they did back in 1992, these flaws ultimately kill the film. Right at the start of the film, it kills two of our fan favorite characters from “Aliens”, foreshadowing several other terrible decisions to come. The other biggest flaw is the story itself.
The script went through several rewrites even as the film was shooting. The idea that Ripley is stuck on a prison planet with several nasty criminals means that we only really care about her character throughout. In other words, when a character in this film gets killed, I don’t necessarily feel devastated by the loss.
Truthfully, this film does attempt to push the series back firmly into the horror genre of the first film instead of the action genre that “Aliens” fit into. The problem is that there are times in this movie that the gore outweighs everything they did in the first two films. Don’t get me wrong, the first two films are not cheery by any stretch of the imagination, but the gore just seems a little excessive in this entry.
Finally, there’s the weird puppet Xenomorph that they used in some of the scenes. Even back in the day, these effects didn’t look that good and that means that by today’s standards, they just look downright atrocious!
The movie is not the worst sequel that I’ve ever seen, but it is definitely not a good movie. Even as I type this, I’m already forgetting the finer details of the movie. Beyond being an early example of what David Fincher could do as a director, the movie’s flaws are still there. I definitely see why 20th Century Fox is perfectly willing to ignore this entry in the long-running franchise.