Thursday, June 7, 2012

Alien 3 (1992)

So in 1986, Aliens came out and was an even bigger success than its predecessor. Massive box office... great reviews... another Oscar for effects, and even an Oscar nomination for Sigourney Weaver (for a sci-fi/action/horror movie)! So you know what was on Fox's mind: how soon can we get another one out? Their answer was Easter, 1990... then 1991... then finally May 22, 1992. Why the delays? Well, because some idgit did what is almost never a good idea, when making a blockbuster movie: locked in a release date, before having ANY idea what the fucking movie was going to be about. The result was an epic derpage, consuming three directors, a dozen or so writers, and a polarizing, mediocre movie that failed to meet any expectations.

Spoilers ahead

So in the end of Aliens, Ripley escaped the creatures, bringing with her Newt, and marines Hicks and Bishop. Sounds like they're home free, right? *smacks* Sorry. In the first five minutes, not only does an alien SOMEHOW appear on their spaceship (we never get an explanation for that), but its acid blood causes an electrical fire. Since this MILITARY SHIP somehow lacks a fire suppression system, everyone's cryotube is immediately dumped in an escape pod and fired into space... where it immediately falls into the ocean of a nearby prison planet. And since this MILITARY ESCAPE VEHICLE is about as safe as a Pinto designed by Facebook, the crash kills everyone on board but Ripley and the alien itself.

As if that's not enough, the locals are 25 maximum security prisoners -- murderers, rapists, child molesters, etc. -- who were allowed to stay in the abandoned prison, after finding religion (as long as they are watched by the asshat warden, his assistant with an 85 I.Q., and ex-morphine addict of a doctor). And despite this being A MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON, there aren't even weapons locked up for emergencies. So you know the drill by now; the alien reappears, finds his human buffet, etc. etc.

In case my suddenly sarcastic attitude towards these reviews, hasn't made it apparent, this is a huge step down from the previous movies. First-time director David Fincher has taken a lot of heat over this, but speaking as someone who's actually read the script they finally shot, I can tell you that if anything, Fincher SAVED this movie. It's true that he deserves criticism for some things -- like the nihilism that goes so far that it kills several beloved characters OFF-SCREEN in the very beginning of the film, nearly all of the characters looking and sounding the same, etc. -- but 90% of the problems stem from the studio completely half-assing the script, and compounding the issue by constantly undermining Fincher as he tried to do his job.

It's true that Fox was overbearing to some extent on all of these productions -- like a lot of studios are -- but on this movie they took it to sheer dick moves. They hired a young director, who had never made a feature film before, to do a massive franchise picture... but gave him absolutely no support system that would allow him to do that (apparently an attitude also experienced by previous directors Renny Harlin and Vincent Ward, hence their departures from the project). Now, having been an independent producer, I realize that it's the job of those upstairs to make sure that a movie is made efficiently -- after all, it's their money being spent on the thing -- but there's a difference between cutting the fat and flat out sabotaging your investment. It is also indicative of Fox's rather low opinion of the series' fans, who responded so well to the previous movies, because they WEREN'T just average blood-and-gore fests. This is an attitude that has carried itself all the way to the home video releases, where the extended DVD cut was given a restored negative cut, full colour correction, new digital effects, a 5.1 surround sound mix... but they couldn't be bothered to have dialogue that wasn't garbled as hell. This was finally corrected in the Blu-Ray release, but it's still an incredibly unprofessional and insulting move, in my opinion.

I can't say that I would blame any Alien fans for wanting to just pretend this movie never happened, and that the series ended at Film Two. I can find things to enjoy about Alien 3 -- like the atmosphere, the visuals, and at least some of the mean atmosphere -- and believe it or not when I'm just WATCHING the movie I can find it easy to ignore the plot holes. However, many of the supporting characters are undeveloped redshirts (some of them literally just vanish, in the theatrical version), the effects work is more spotty this time, and in general a lot of the depth and intelligence of the previous films is just gone. This is improved in the extended version -- making it the only movie in this series to benefit from the alternate cuts available on the DVDs from 2003 onwards -- but there's still only so much blood to be drawn from this stone.

Overall, Alien 3 is passable as an average horror/action film. If you're a major behind-the-scenes nerd, you'll probably find it more interesting to get this, just to dissect the special features and learn how NOT to make a franchise movie/sequel, but as a follow-up to the truly incredible first and second movies, it leaves a lot to be desired.

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