Alien 3, the most underrated of underrated SciFi movies, is probably where the Alien franchise should have drawn to a close. Script problems, David Fincher’s disavowal of the final product, and poor box office combined to taint it so badly that talented upstarts like Neil Blomkamp feel perfectly justified in bypassing it all together, winning Sigourney Weaver around to the idea of a mad alternate timeline project – some kind of deformed, cloned, ‘other’ Alien 3.
Well, it could work. Some evidently feel there was more in Ripley than the ‘Laurie Stode in Space – Action Mother – Saint Ripley’ trinity of the first three movies. But Alien 3 fans will feel there is simply no need to find out. Fincher’s movie provided Ripley with a bountiful new world – with the magnetic supporting cast, claustrophobic location and creature itself realised through a startling new vision. Plus, for a story about a dragon stalking double Y chromosome prisoners about the plumbing of a vast lead furnace, it is an incredibly sensuous film.
Fincher is obsessed with his cast’s eyes – those of Newt’s corpse, reflecting Ripley; Charles Dance’s famous bulging orbs; Charles S Dutton’s thick, black-rimmed specs, and of course Weaver’s bruised, discoloured pupil after the EEV crash.
Painted in orange and black, you squint through half the film, which is shrouded in a dim “pilot light”, shed by rows of candles, flickering bulbs, industrial flares. The Alien reveals itself behind plastic curtains, reflected in surgical instruments, coiled around rotting pipes.
It’s a movie with incredibly diverse sounds: the silence of the med lab; the boom of the furnaces and the roar of the gales outside; echoing, half-heard conversations between prisoners; the ill fated Murphy shrieking a song while he scrapes the ducts clean.
Even the voices are powerful character elements: Clemens’ stilted tones speak of affronted dignity, while Superintendent Andrews’ piercing Yorkshire bellowing is the personification of the tyrant jobsworth. It’s like the cast are trying to outdo each other for vocal performance: Dutton’s voice rings with belief; McGann’s Golic whispers with trembling madness. In the best Alien tradition even the small parts have magnificent lines (Morse emits surely the best “FUCK!” in cinema history).
It’s alright to say ‘shit’. It ain’t against God
For a slasher movie it’s full of surprisingly subtle physical moments: Ripley wiping condensation from the mirror, running her hand over her bald head, touching at her bleeding nose; Clemens dabbing her vein, preparing it for an injection; The whole movie is bruised and bloodied, even the set, where you can almost reach out and feel the grime coating the prison walls, jamming up the works. It’s smothered too in seeping fluids; blood from the torn-apart host dog; Alien drool on boots. Interestingly it’s also the only movie that allows Ripley a sex life; even if it’s with a criminally negligent medical officer who’s only just told her to shave her private parts to ward off lice.
we ain’t got no entertainment center, no climate control, no video system, no surveillance, no freezers, no fucking ice cream, no rubbers, no women, no guns. All we got here is *shit*!
Yes, there’s a baggy old fifteen minutes in there -an aberration for an Alien movie; one or two gaping plot holes; and one of the worst “ass on the line” exchanges in cinema – but there much to admire here, and on repeat viewing some themes come out that remind us of Fincher’s amazing talent.
Principally it’s interesting because writers David Giler and Walter Hill seemed to feel that if Ripley’s story were to move forward at all, it must also draw to a close. Let’s see if Blomkamp can prove them wrong.