So near, yet so far. Looking back from a comfortable position in the 21st century, the component parts of Alien³ would make it sound superb. The conclusion to the Alien saga (until Resurrection and the vs. Predator films pissed all over the franchise), the return of Ripley and David Fincher behind the camera should have been incredible.
Of course, part of the problem is that at this time David Fincher was simply a music video director and not yet the man who would come to direct Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network. A pattern of studio interference and missteps prevented Alien³ from being all it could be, but the film is unfairly maligned and still manages to be an enjoyable, if flawed, outing.
Crash landing on Fiorina 161, Alien³ boldly discards the survivors of Aliens besides Ripley. Fiorina 161 is a prison planet, the unhinged psychotics there haven’t seen a woman in years and it appears the escape pod had a stowaway, last seen approaching the prison dog…
In an attempt to go back-to-basics, one single xenomorph terror, the film gives rise to a laudable goal but also some of its biggest flaws. Here ‘host’ births are a far more kinetic and animalistic version of the beast, and an intricate set piece where it chases folk through winding corridors is extremely well choreographed. However, as with the original Alien, a greater responsibility lies in the cast as a result of this – which falls sadly short. Weaver is on her usual excellent form, but the more engaging members of the prison’s population bite the dust early on and leave us with a rather uninspiring and dull rogues gallery.
It is also unfortunate that the special effects look decidedly shonky, even for 1992, which doesn’t serve to ramp up the terror very well at all. The only times you genuinely feel threat is when an animatronic is in use, with the CGI shots being painfully obvious.
However, there is an admirable and fitting narrative to conclude the franchise, which is why it is unfortunate Fox has spent the time since the release of Alien³ flogging a dead horse. By leaving Ripley, and only Ripley, the trajectory of Alien³ is the best way to conclude the epic confrontation between her and her adversary.
Alien³ is an extremely flawed piece of work, but with the nucleus of a fitting conclusion to the saga. It just about works, but it will always be tainted by what it could have been. Had it been up to it, folk would now talk about the Alien trilogy (forget this ‘quadrilogy’ guff, the less said about Resurrection the better) in the same breath as Star Wars, The Godfather and such as one of the greatest trilogies of all time.