Saturday, December 15, 2012

Alien 3

Directed by David Fincher and screenplay by David Giler, Walter Hill, and Larry Ferguson from a story by Vincent Ward, Alien 3 is the story of Ellen Ripley waking up after crash-landing on a refinery planet near a prison. There, she deals with her new surroundings as well as the fact that an alien had boarded her escape pod as she and various prisoners try to fight off the alien. With Sigourney Weaver playing the role of Ellen Ripley once again. The film also stars Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Paul McGann, Danny Webb, Pete Postlethwaite, and Lance Henriksen. Alien 3 is a thrilling yet messy film from David Fincher.

After crash-landing into a refinery planet that includes a maximum security prison nearby, Ellen Ripley wakes up to learn that she is the only survivor of the crash leaving everyone else dead while the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen) is damaged beyond repair. In the care of the prison’s doctor Clemens (Charles Dance), Ripley learns what has happened as she looks at the crashed pod where she believes something was on board. Ripley convinces Clemens to perform an autopsy on one of the bodies as Ripley realize nothing is there as she is given permission by the prison’s superintendent Harold Andrews (Brian Glover) to hold a funeral. After shaving her head and accepting the fact that she’s in a prison full of men who hadn’t seen a women in years, Ripley deals with her new surroundings only for something bad to happen when one of the prisoners is found dead.

Andrews leads the inspection as the outcast prisoner Golic (Paul McGann) returns feeling deranged as Ripley believes something isn’t right. Taking what was left of the android Bishop as well as the flight log, she learns that an alien did board the pod though Andrews doesn’t believe so but the prisoner Dillon (Charles S. Dutton) believes that Ripley is right. More incidents emerge as Dillon, Ripley, and the other prisoners realize that there is an alien in the prison that is killing everyone but Ripley. With Andrews’ assistant Aaron (Ralph Brown) reluctantly taking command and no weapons available, the situation becomes dire as everyone tries to make plans to trap the alien and kill it with toxic waste. Yet, more problems emerge where Ripley makes an unsettling discovery that would only bring more trouble. With Ripley, Dillon, Aaron, and the remaining survivors left to deal with the alien as a rescue team from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is coming. Ripley and the prisoners do whatever it takes to kill the alien.

The film is essentially a continuation of Ellen Ripley’s story and her encounter with an alien where she finds herself in an all-men’s maximum security prison where she’s surrounded by murders, rapists, and all sorts of things yet they’re not her problem. The problem is that there’s an alien that got attached to her pod and ended up getting its way into the prison. With no weapons on board and a bunch of scared prisoners who have also embraced a form of Christianity, it looks like there’s no sense of hope. Yet, there’s Ripley who has faced these aliens before yet she finds herself dealing with other problems that would make her a bigger liability.

The screenplay definitely plays to the element of suspense as well as its sense of horror and the stakes that these prisoners have to encounter. Yet, it plays too much into the formula of what happens where there isn’t a lot of surprises that occur while there’s very few characters that the audiences seem to care about. While the script’s lack of surprises in the way many characters are killed off is too as well as the involvement of the corporation that comes in late in the film. There is still something that is engaging in the way Ripley deals with the situation but there’s new stakes that emerges for her. Even as she makes a discovery in the film’s second half where it adds to the problems that emerge as she is aware that she is becoming more of a liability.

David Fincher’s direction is very stylish in terms of the presentation that is created with very fast and fluid camera work for the chase scenes along with more intimate moments involving the characters. Yet, there’s moments in the film where it definitely shows that Fincher definitely didn’t have a lot of control due to some very dodgy visual effects scenes and other moments that makes the film a bit silly. It’s also a major step-down from its predecessors considering that there’s not a lot of surprises and the suspense doesn’t carry much weight. Things get more clumsier in the third act not just in the final battle but the arrival of the corporation where it plays to things that are quite obvious as well as something that could’ve been a fitting finale. Overall, Fincher does a decent job with the film but it is hampered by the fact that the studio interfered too much to let him really give the story more bite.

Cinematographer Alex Thomson, with additional work by Jordan Cronenweth, does nice work with the film‘s photography with its sepia-drenched look to convey the dreary look of the prison. Editor Terry Rawlings does some excellent work with the editing to maintain the air of suspense as well as using dissolves and jump-cuts to help create some intense moments in the film. Production designers Norman Reynolds and Michael White, along with set decorator Belinda Edwards and supervising art director Fred Hole, does superb work with the look of the prison as well as the hallways and boiler rooms where it often takes place.

Costume designers David Perry and Bob Ringwood do fine work with the costumes as it‘s mostly ragged prison clothes and coats that the prisoners wear. Special effects supervisor George Gibbs and the visual effects of Philip Sharpe do some terrific work with some of the visual effects though some of the animation including the movement of the alien looks just downright silly. Sound editor Gary S. Gerlich and sound designer Harry E. Snodgrass do some excellent work with the sound to maintain that sense of terror that occurs throughout the film. The film’s music by Elliot Goldenthal is wonderful for the way it plays out the drama and the suspense with its orchestral bombast.

The film’s ensemble cast is brilliant as it does feature some nice small performances from Paul McGann, Pete Postlethwaite, Holt McCallany, and Danny Webb as prisoners who help out Ripley fight the alien as well as Ralph Brown as Andrews’ assistant Aaron and Lance Henriksen making a cameo as the damaged android Bishop and its creator. Brian Glover is terrific as the prison’s warden Harold Andrews who gets to chew up the scenery while Charles Dance is excellent in a more low-key yet subtle performance as Dr. Clemens who befriends Ripley. Charles S. Dutton is superb as the prisoner Dillon who helps Ripley out in fighting the alien while making sure that all of the prisoners know what they have to do in order to survive.

Finally, there’s Sigourney Weaver in a brilliant performance as Ellen Ripley where Weaver gets to display more leadership as well as internal conflict as a woman having to fight another alien while dealing with something that she realize that would impact everything else.

Alien 3 is a good though underwhelming film from David Fincher. While it features an excellent performance from Sigourney Weaver, the film is definitely among one of the weakest entries of the franchise due to its lack of surprises as well as some incomprehensive moments. For fans of David Fincher, this film isn’t the great debut that it wants to be as it doesn’t feature a lot of the visual traits that he’s known for in later films. In the end, Alien 3 is an engaging but somewhat lackluster film.

David Fincher Films: Se7en - The Game - Fight Club - Panic Room - Zodiac - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - The Social Network - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Gone Girl

The 15 Essential Videos of David Fincher - The Auteurs #61: David Fincher

Alien Films: Alien - Aliens - Alien: Resurrection

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