Thursday, November 2, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Alien 3

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I complain about someone else's hard work!


Today I'll be talking about one of my least favorite sequels ever, Alien 3!  Yup, it's gonna be a struggle to come up with many positives about this film, as I hate it.  HATE. IT.  But I wouldn't be telling the truth if I failed to talk about its good qualities.  Directed by the great David Fincher, Alien 3 is a stylish, exceedingly bleak sequel to the mega-popular thrill ride that was James Cameron's Aliens.  Picking up where that film left off, Alien 3 finds Ripley stranded on a penal planet populated by the worst criminals in the galaxy, when a stray alien breaks loose and starts butchering people by the dozen.  Ripley and the others must find a way, sans weapons, to kill the alien before a Weylan-Yutani supply ship arrives to bring the specimen back to Earth.  And, well, that's about it.  Nothing terribly complicated about this story, and the film was such a troubled production for the first-time director that Fincher has disowned the movie.  The studio began shooting without a completed script and questioned Fincher on nearly every creative idea, to the point that his intended cut was very different from the theatrical version (The "Assembly Cut" as it's called is widely considered superior to the latter, but I still don't like it).

But before I begin shredding this movie, let's take a look at what did work.....



The Awesome


Acting

Sigourney Weaver is back as Ellen Ripley of course, and she once again brings a sense of both empowerment and vulnerability to the role that made her famous.  She doesn't have quite the emotional arc here as she did in Aliens, but with what she's given to work with she excels as always.  This film has a number of strong supporting performances as well, the two biggest standouts being the dignified and understated Charles Dance as Dr. Clemens, and Charles S. Dutton as the reformed murderer and spiritual leader of the prison, Dillon.  Add accomplished character actors such as Pete Postlethwaite and Brian Glover, and there's no shortage of convincing work on the acting front.

There are some fine thespians in this tripe movie.



Visuals

As with all of his films, Fincher lent Alien 3 a distintive, stylish look, with filthy, gothic sets and a muted color pallette of yellows and browns.  The one area where this film surpasses Aliens for me is its unique visual style.  This is a gorgeously photographed movie from a young director already demonstrating his superior skill.  'Tis a shame the story didn't have more going on, as it's akin to a beautifully painted but mostly empty landscape.

There are also some fine visuals.



Effects (mostly)

Most of the special effects in Alien 3 still hold up, from the grotesquely sloppy chestburster scene to the amazingly lifelike Bishop head/torso, to the frightening closeups of the full-size alien.  The blood n' guts look first-rate, and aside from terrible compositing of the rod puppet used in wide shots (The puppet looks great, the blue screening looks like garbage), any xenophile should be satisfied with the effects.

And a boss-looking alien.





Aaaand that's about all I can muster in terms of compliments for this film.  Now for what I didn't like....




The Shitty


Story

Alien 3's script went through multiple divergent drafts, the most promising of which centered mostly around Cpl. Hicks and played out similar to the Dark Horse Comics series Aliens: Earth War.  But the epic climax involving a whole platoon of marines in loader suits fighting a horde of aliens was deemed prohibitively expensive to shoot.  Still that's really the direction the story should've gone after Aliens (if it needed to continue at all); the company should've finally gotten its hands on some specimens and begun to weaponize them, while Ripley and her new "family" lead a resistance force.  Instead the studio settled on a terribly uninspired plot that's essentially a rehash of the first movie.  Murderous alien gets loose in confined space and kills a buncha people, a la Ten Little Indians.  Considering how many Alien knockoffs there were already by this point, this story felt twice as tired.  Within the first few minutes of the movie I already knew where it was going, and the only curve ball was the fact that Ripley was now impregnated and thus the alien wouldn't kill her.  Everything else about this story was paint-by-numbers.




Setting

Originally the setting of this film was to be a monastery, with Ripley crash-landing on a planet inhabited entirely by monks, where everything was made of wood.  That could've been an earthy, visually unusual setting for this series and at least would've made the sets stand out from other films of this ilk.  Sadly that was dropped in favor of a prison, and thus the drab sets all feel borrowed from other similar movies.  The exteriors of Fiorina are largely left unexplored but what we do see is not that different from LV-426; heavy winds, rain, and a general unpleasantness.  The film doesn't give us any significant outdoor sequences, which again would've at least been something new.  Instead we're back to claustrophobic, dimly lit, utilitarian locations in an Alien movie.  Same facehugger, different egg....

This set always struck me as kinda generic, and it's in the movie a ton.



Unfinished Script

Look, I know Hollywood films are a business venture and there's a fuckton of moving parts that have to come together, soundstages booked, actors scheduled, etc., but in what goddamn universe does it make sense for a professional film production to begin filming before the script is finished??  Isn't that like beginning construction on a high-rise before the blueprints are finalized?  I know directors will sometimes rewrite scenes on the fly but this seems like a next-level clusterfuck.  And the results weren't pretty; Fincher was at odds with the studio and the producers from start to finish.  Has studio meddling ever resulted in a better film?  I'm curious...




Newt & Hicks

Here's where the movie actually lost me.  Right in the first minute where it's revealed that Newt and Hicks get killed before the opening credits are even over.  This struck me as both an appalling betrayal to anyone who was emotionally invested in Aliens ("Ya know the little girl who served as Ripley's entire motivation in that movie?  Yeah, that was all pointless cuz she never makes it out of hypersleep."), and an incredibly lazy bit of screenwriting.  Surely Newt and Hicks could've been included in this story to both offer a real continuation of Aliens and to give the audience something different in terms of character interaction.  A little girl stuck on a planet full of murderers and degenerates?  Nevermind the alien, that's fuckin' terrifying.  Michael Biehn was so furious at not being included (as he should've been - that guy's awesome) he demanded a considerable salary from the studio just to use his likeness for two seconds in this film.  It's like the filmmakers just threw out everything that Ripley and her newfound "family" had gone through in the previous movie, just so they could go back to basics here.  And it sucked out loud.

Biehn got like six figures for this one shot.  Good, fuck those guys....



No Hair

One of the quirks of Fiorina 161 is the infestation of lice, necessitating every character to have a shaved head.  I mean, I guess that's something different, but it also makes every character look the same, and in the third act when the alien is chasing everyone around the leadworks it becomes hard to tell who's who.  Thus it gets boring.  On top of that, early sequences show the alien killing off characters who haven't even been properly introduced.  Why should we care about the deaths of the guys cleaning the exhaust fan?  Those aren't characters, they're fodder.

Look, it's Ripley.  And like 20 bald dudes.



Climax

So they trap the alien in the foundry, pour molten lead on it, they think it's dead but it isn't, and then when it bursts out they douse it with cold water and it shatters.  Hmmm, this ending seems awfully familar, except in reverse...

Wow, they shit all over one James Cameron movie,
while totally ripping off another one.



Ad Campaign

Alien 3 had to have one of the sleaziest bait-and-switch ad campaigns of all time.  The original teaser contained the tagline "In 1979 we discovered that in space no one can hear you scream.  In 1992 we'll discover that on Earth, everyone can hear you scream."  What would you glean from that ad?  Maybe that the aliens make it to fucking EARTH??  I was beyond stoked when that teaser was released, thinking we'd be getting a proper sequel to Aliens, a la Earth War.  Instead the film was not at all that.  Absolute crap-o-rama.  20th Century Fox should be ashamed of themselves for that teaser.



Seriously guys, fuck you for that.....




Nitpicks

-Look, I've watched Aliens literally dozens of times.  At no point in that movie is the alien queen carrying an egg to leave on the Sulaco.  Where'd the goddamn egg come from??  The inciting incident in this film is what you call Grade-A, tacked-on bullshit.

-So the EEV unit gets ejected from the Sulaco due to a fire, apparently caused by a bit of alien blood corroding one of the wires - not sure exactly how that creates combustion, but whatever - and then the EEV unit just crash-lands on Fiorina, killing two of the three hybernating passengers.  If you're going to have a "safety feature" like that, shouldn't it have its own propulsion system so the EEV isn't either floating out in space forever or crashing into a planet and killing said passengers?  Ya know, like an escape pod or a shuttle?  Doesn't ejecting the EEV just so it can crash into a planet sorta defeat the purpose of the safety feature?  Does the Sulaco seriously not have a goddamn sprinkler system??

-I was always under the impression that facehuggers die once their seed is planted in the victim.  That's what happened with Kane in the first movie anyway.  So how does Ripley's facehugger detach and then go after the dog (or ox in the Assembly Cut)?

-At the end when they trap the alien in the foundry mold, Dillon insists Ripley climb out to safety while he stays behind to distract the alien long enough for them to pour molten metal on it.  Except earlier the two of them had made a deal that after they killed the alien, Dillon would kill Ripley to prevent the alien inside her from being "born."  So why don't both of them just stay in the mold together at that point?  Dillon wants to sacrifice himself and Ripley wants to die.  Two birds with one stone as they say.  Why is Dillon all like "No way, you climb to safety because the alien isn't dead yet?"

-Why does 85 attack the Bishop guy?  He's like ten minutes away from finally going home to his wife and kids but decides now is the time to stand by the one surviving inmate who never gave a shit about him?  And what happens next?  They ED-209 the bejeezus out of him.  Dead.  I guess that's what an 85 IQ'll do for ya.....

-Why at the end of the film does the EEV from the Sulaco start playing the final flight recorder entry from the Nostromo?  Those two ships are unrelated and were separated by 57 years.  Are we to believe that flight recorder entries follow the person who recorded them to every ship they serve on?

-The movie title is pronounced "Alien Three," but the logo reads as "Alien Cubed."  Which is it, guys?  It was my understanding that there would be no math involved in seeing this movie.....




Conclusion

So yeah, Alien 3 is not my kinda sequel.  Like, at all.  I hated how flat and unoriginal the central plot was, I hated that it was back to a single alien when we'd already seen that before, and I goddamn fuckin' sonofawhorin' HATED that they killed Newt and Hicks right at the outset for no reason.  It felt like a complete slap in the face to everyone involved with, and every fan that loved, Aliens, simply because the studio was either too lazy or too cheap to make a proper continuation of that film.  But Alien 3 does have a few things going for it from a technical and craftsmanship standpoint, so for that I have to give it a prop or two.


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