“Don’t be afraid, I’m part of the family”
Sequels, you either love them or hate them, and the Alien franchise in particular has a number of sequels both beloved, and bemoaned, by many. Alien 3 directed by the very great David Fincher, is often considered to be the black sheep, and most contentious of the Alien films. That said it is also definitely one of the more stylistic and evocative.
As the third film, the audience already had a fair idea of what to expect, so the pressure was on to give the people what they wanted in a new and fascinating way. Fincher is now well known for his subversive, edgy features, but back in 1992 he had only made music videos and commercials. As this was his directorial debut feature, the production company kept him on a tight rein, even editing the film without him, resulting in Fincher pretty much disowning it. That said there had been issues with the production long before Fincher was brought in to helm it. Studio drama aside, it’s fair to say that Fincher cut his teeth on Alien 3, and that fact combined with the studio’s interference means it’s clearly not one of his best. However, it clearly shows signs of the quite capable and brilliant filmmaker that he would become. The brooding atmosphere and shadowy darkness that permeates every scene is now an established Fincher trademark.
The Alien films are notable for their portrayal of a super strong female lead in the character of Ellen Ripley, as immortalised by Sigourney Weaver. Alien 3 takes the fiercely capable Ripley and places her as the sole woman on a planet housing a male penal colony. Including the rather sinisterly dashing prison doctor Clemens (Charles Dance), you can’t get any more of a feminist scenario than that. Fincher makes full use of the repartee that clearly arises from this unique situation.
Alien 3 also fully exploits the recurring theme of the little man sticking it to the system. Represented of course by the ever present Weyland-Yutani Corporation, as always trying to further their sinister motives. This film however sees them pushing Ripley to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to outwit them. We get to see some really bad men become not quite good, but definitely almost likeable as they join Ripley to fight for their lives against a freshly incarnated xenomorph. Different to the creatures that had come before, but just as deadly, and this time Ripley and the rest of the humans don’t have any weapons, cue some ingenuity amidst the screams.
Fincher delivers a film riddled with the Alien franchise’s signature air of dark foreboding, in a setting at once familiar, but also equally ingenious, for the fresh new opportunities afforded for all the horror. For there are many monsters in Alien 3 and only a few are alien in nature.
Alien 3: Assembly Cut will be screened at The Victoria (E8 3AS) on Monday 17th April. Tickets are available here.