It’s time to revisit the prison planet Fiorina, also known as Fury 161, alongside Ellen Ripley and the infamous xenomorph. Twenty five years ago in 1992, audiences were treated to the third installment of the Alien franchise, simply titled Alien 3. Though it has had its critics when it was first released, Alien 3 has gained a bit of a cult following with horror movie enthusiasts. Including me! Here’s why.
Alien 3 is directed by David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) and the screenplay was written by three different people, including David Giler (producer on Alien and Aliens), Walter Hill (producer on Aliens), and Larry Ferguson (writer on Highlander) from a story by Vincent Ward (director of What Dreams May Come). The creature effects were created by Chris Cunningham (robot effects work on Hardware). Alien 3 stars Sigourney Weaver (Ghostbusters 1 and 2, Cabin in the Woods) as Ellen Ripley, Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) as Clemens, Charles S. Dutton (Gothika) as Dillon, Lance Henrikson (Pumpkinhead) as Bishop, Christopher Fairbank (Guardians of the Galaxy) as Murphy, and Tom Woodruff Jr. (Special Effects on Alien vs Predator, Terminator) as the xenomorph.
The story of Alien 3 picks up shortly after the events of Aliens. Despite the efforts of Ripley and the space marines in the second film, an embryonic alien infiltrated the starship. It accidentally triggered the ship’s emergency systems, dropping the escape capsule to the surface of a nearby planet. Ripley finds herself in a prison colony populated by a religious cult composed of former murderers and rapists. Meanwhile, the alien has managed to grow into a new and deadly form and is picking off the weaponless prisoners one by one. Ripley soon discovers, much to her horror, that the real danger is much more personal.
Right from the beginning, the film had problems during production, including shooting without a script, with various screenwriters and directors attached. David Fincher was finally brought in to direct after a proposed version with Vincent Ward was cancelled well into pre-production. Unfortunately for Fincher, $7 million of the $55 million budget was already spent on script revisions before he even came on board, so he had less money to work with. Not only that, the whole production seemed to be a disaster, with studio execs stepping in and changing things behind his back. Until recently, Fincher had gone on to say he would never work on a big budget sequel again. In the past couple of weeks, it has been announced that he will be helming the sequel to World War Z, the only thing I can assume is that he demanded creative control.
Now to get into the film itself. When it was released in theaters on May 22, 1992, it had been criticized and was being unfairly compared to the first two Alien films. It faired rather poorly here in the US, just barely breaking even with its budget. However, it made $100 million over seas. It took many years to gather a following of fans who truly enjoyed Alien 3 for what it was. Once the Assembly Cut was released, which was more along the lines of David Fincher’s vision, naysayers started realizing that it was a pretty good movie. I feel a lot of the hate towards it was because of the death of Newt and Hicks, but that is one of the things that hooked me right from the beginning. That, plus the over abundance of gore is another reason I love this film. In fact, it’s probably the most violent one of the franchise.
The creature effects were done really well in my opinion (minus the terrible CGI moments). Tom Woodruff, Jr. did an excellent job bringing the four legged xenomorph to life. That’s another thing I would like to talk about. David Fischer wanted the xenomorph to resemble a puma, so he contacted H.R. Giger to create the creature in his bio-mechanical style. Originally Fincher wanted to put a dog in the suit, but the dog couldn’t perform some of the tasks needed for the role. This has to be one of my favorite xenomorphs next to the queen in Aliens.
Now, the acting in this film wasn’t the greatest, but Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley did an amazing job as usual. In fact, she portrays the character in a more dour tone all the way to the end, where she sacrifices herself to kill the alien queen. Charles Dance and Lance Henriksen also give outstanding performances. But the one that stands out to me is Golic played by Paul McGann, who ended up losing his mind after the xenomorph kills his friends. He names the creature ‘Dragon’ and starts praising it as a sign from God. His performance sticks with me to this day.
Alien 3 is deserving of any praise it gets, even with its flaws. I would suggest, if you haven’t seen it since it was in theaters, to check out the Assembly Cut. It gives you a more cohesive story that I honestly think you would enjoy. In fact, Alien 3 is my second favorite of the Alien franchise. Where would you rank this underrated classic?