Thursday, 25 November 2010


Though I had actually watched this film recently after I had bought the Alien Quadrilogy boxed set, this time it was on Film4, and was a Film4FilmClub film. Essentially this means that as you watch, you make any comment you like to the @Film4filmclub twitter account with (in this case) the #alien3 hashtag. This at once was a good idea and certainly was amusing & great fun, but at the same time, you tend to miss half of the film as you spend so much time looking at all the tweets! So I guess this review will half be based on this viewing and half from when I watched it several months ago.

After I can't remember how long spent in cryo-sleep, Ripley's shuttle crashes on Fury 161, a prison world. The facility Ripley is taken to is home to a bunch of criminals who are all "double-Y" chromosome (presumably this means they're all particularly nasty) therefore all male, with histories of extreme violence (just the place a single white female wants to find herself). Of course she's not alone. There was a facehugger on board which impregnates not only her (as we find out later) but a dog/cow (depending on whether you're watching the theatrical/director's cut), which is the source of the Xenomorph that terrorises the inmates. Of course then the story arc is obviously going to be several plans for getting rid of the Alien (resulting in various deaths, not of the Alien-ular variety) until at the climax of the film it is killed. In this case by superheating in molten lead, and then turning the sprinklers on to it (of the fire extinguisher type, not the golf green watering type) causing the exoskeleton to contract too tight and it explodes?!!

I still think that this is a good film. Obviously it is not in the same league as the first or second instalments of this series, but David Fincher does manage to create a certain amount of isolation, desperation and downright moodyness!

-The story takes no quarter. Neither Hicks or Newt survive the crash on Fury 161. Quite a shock I guess, but good that the film doesn't want to try and recreate past glories, it's moving on.

-Atmosphere. The mood of the film is very bleak, lighting and music create a very moody film, quite unlike either of it's predecessors.

-Cast. There is quite a wealth of actors on offer, mostly British. Great to see Paul McGann and Ralph Brown together after Withnail and I. Pete Postlethwaite of course. I guess they all work together well as a bunch of cons.

-The Alien. It's fine when it's a suit, as it is in the iconic shot from Alien 3:

but when it moves, the cg is awful; it just looks like it never made it out of pre-viz! Now I know this film isn't so much horror as thriller I guess (Alien was horror; Aliens was a shoot 'em up!), but the cg Alien just spoils any tension the film had.

-Accents. Despite thinking that the casting is generally pretty good, I'm not sure why they all have such plummy British accents (apart from the scousers from Brookside!) I really don't think this collection of "Double-Y" cons would speak like they do a lot of the time.

-Script. Generally it's fine. Just fine. But then when one or two characters (I guess it's often Dillon) have some quality screen time it all goes to shit.
Dillon: Nobody ever gave me nothing! So I say Fuck that thing!

Dillon: I don't like losin' a fight. Not to nobody, not to nothin'. That damn thing out there's already killed half my men, got the other half scared shitless. As long as it's alive, sister, you're not gonna save any universe.

I mean, really!

I guess finally I'll mention differences between the theatrical and director's cut. For a start, the alien comes out of a dog in the theatrical and a cow in the director's. Not sure why they changed it. I did feel foolish though when I tweeted "The dog will be fine, this isn't The Thing!", just to be shown to be ignorant when clearly the dog died!

The other obvious difference is that in the director's cut, the queen does not burst out of Ripley as she falls into the molten lead. I personally feel that this is better. When the queen jumps out (perfect timing of course) as she falls, well, for one it looks cheesey, and for two; is she trying to strangle it or cuddle it? Better to not show it, she's going to die anyway.

The less obvious difference was Paul McGann's role. In the director's cut we see a lot more of him as he describes the Alien as a dragon, and almost worships it. To the extent that after the alien is captured, McGann's character "Golic" sets it free again. Now I could be wrong that this isn't in the theatrical release, but I don't think I had my head down tweeting for that long!

So, I think it is a good film, a very different Alien film from the first two, it's just that it's let down by some bad special effects and a below par script every now and then.