1992 Fan Response to Alien³

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Alien 3 may as well have been dead on arrival. Despite encouraging box office results outside of the US, the film received a lashing not only from professional critics but from fans as well, precipitating a particularly nasty brand of bad feeling that continues to this day. The subsequent articles and documentaries covering its troubled production often feel like an autopsy, as the film’s crew and cast try to deduce which of the film’s various wounds finally killed it.

Starlog issues #182-184 were deluged with letters from fans who felt let down and outright insulted by the film. The magazine had maintained secrecy over the film’s plot and many readers went into the theater not knowing what they were in for.

Passionate letters ensued, pretty much all of which appeared under the telling header: ‘Alienated’.

Issue 182 (September 1992)

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There was only one letter of complaint in this issue, though the fanpage comic strips were already beginning to mock the decision-making processes of Fox executives.

…Watching sequels is an experience that constantly changes – there are sequels that work (Aliens), the sequels that don’t (Robocop 2), and the ones that fall somewhere in the middle, ambitious attempts at improving on the concepts of their predecessors but lacking a certain something that makes them ultimately unsatisfying. Such is the case with Alien 3, a misconceived and often choppy third installment. Director David Fincher starts off the movie well, using unusual camera angles and stunning production design to establish the set-up of the picture, with Ripley crashlanding on a prison planet filled with rapists, murderers and other assorted stock characters who have become involved in their own religious cult. This leads to numerous undeveloped subplots (one needless scene of ‘sexual tension’, ties with religion never fully established) most likely attributed to the film’s well-reported script rewrites.

After 30 minutes of sequences that both provide plot for this film and a funeral for the dead characters left over from Aliens, Alien 3 goes very wrong very quickly. Fincher goes from a lengthy introduction to the prison and one particular character (Charles Dance) to Dance’s demise to lots of running around in the dark with flashlights attempting to destroy the Alien in the prison’s furnace. In the middle of all of this is a laughable subplot with Ripley becoming ‘pregnant’ with the next Queen Alien, leading to one unforgettable, unintentionally funny sequence with Sigourney Weaver going down into the prison’s basement to get killed by the Alien, spouting out lines like ‘Come on!!… after all, I’m one of the family.’ This brings up numerous logistical problems inconsistent with the other Alien films. How can Ripley get infected  by the Alien and still be able to live for such a long period of time, especially when the dog in the movie gets infected and dies from its Alien in a matter of hours?

There’s no need to go on, for the movie has other problems that have nothing to do with the previous picture. Fincher seems to have gone from point A to point B to point D — there’s no pacing in this picture at all, and no character development of any of the prisoners, which is a big problem in that the final chase scene depends on the audience’s knowledge of who all these convicts are. The audience that I saw the movie with thought the final climatic scene, with the prisoners running from the Alien trying to cut it off, was much more enjoyable for unintended laughs rather than suspense. And those well-reported six seconds of added FX at the end really improved the picture overall — couldn’t the producers have used that money for the script, which is a muddled mess of a hundred ideas from countless writers who worked on this picture?

One interesting problem is the editing — an early NY Times piece running time for the movie was 135 minutes, yet the final cut was under two hours. There was scenes talked about (Weaver’s sex scene, the bugs running through her hair) and scenes from the trailer (a prisoner walking outside the colony during daylight) that weren’t in the movie — all of which adds up to pre-release cutting. But whatever material was cut couldn’t save one factor in Alien 3, which is suspense, or in this case, lack of it. Fincher’s music-video style (complete with occasionally rock-synthesised music by Elliot Goldenthal) sure is flashy, but it doesn’t deliver the scares. The whole project seems to have been misguided and tired, for the Alien in this picture seems to have been inspired by the rip-offs of the Alien movies and not by its actual predecessors. And that’s the bottom line of Alien 3. Another sequel that not only doesn’t measure up to its predecessors, but fails in its own right to deliver the kind of surprise that a film like this so desperately needs.
Andy Dursin,
Glocester, RI.

Issue 183 (October 1992)

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The next issue saw a deluge of reader mail, with Alien 3 occupying the entirety of the letters pages – all four of them.

Common complaints included the swift killing of Aliens’ surviving characters, the bleak tone, the splatterhouse approach to gore, plot holes and retcons -some perceived, some legitimate-, the underdeveloped characters, and even David Fincher’s direction.

…I just saw Alien 3, and I would like to say that I was deeply saddened and very disappointed. I love SF because it is an escape from everyday troubles. There is enough pain and misery in this world. Why put it on film? Movies should be entertaining and at least leave you with the hope that the characters you have grown to love through the years don’t end up dead in a horrible fashion.

The scenes that troubled me the most in the film were Newt’s autopsy, Hicks’ death and Bishop’s sad remains joking with Ripley and then begging her to unplug him. And finally, Ripley’s death. I wish I could say that it didn’t bother me, but it did,  and I think it will affect many people. As a true SF fan, I was saddened by such a hard and sobering view of life in the last of the Alien trilogy.
Mark A. Kaufman,
Address Withheld.

…I could not believe my eyes! After watching the first two minutes, I was so mad I almost stood up and walked out of the theater. How could they take the amazing story of Aliens and destroy it? Right now, I’m just pretending I never saw the movie, and Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop are still in hypersleep on their way to Earth, instead of all dead!!!

It is so infuriating that the surviving cast from Aliens, who fought against unstoppable creatures and won, who escaped death in their darkest hour, who, by the exceptional direction of James Cameron, were living, breathing characters, are just plain dead! What a useless excuse for a plotline! Kill off Newt, Hicks and Bishop, just like that. And impregnate Ripley with a Queen Alien. Perfect. How much worse could the movie’s plot be? Not much. I’m sure James Cameron is laughing right now, laughing at the fact his movie is a thousand times better than Alien 3. The only thing I kind of liked about Alien 3 was the Alien P.O.V. shots. But even that has a plot hole right through it, as Aliens don’t have eyes! They use a type of radar sense!

And what a horrible way for Ripley to die. An Alien Queen bursts from her chest before she hits molten steel; hey, do I hear T2 bells chiming? What a complete rip-off of Terminator 2′s end sequence: Main character dies in orange-glowing molten steel. Give me a break!
Godfrey C. Pflugbeil
Toronto, Canada.

Alien 3 was a good movie, but at the same time, disappointing.  It just didn’t measure up to the lofty standards set by its predecessors. In Alien and Aliens, the Aliens attacked and killed their victims (when not using them as hosts) with lethal speed, inner jaw parts swiftly ending the doomed humans’ suffering. In Alien 3 however, the Alien often ‘chews’ on its prey while they’re still alive and screaming, rather than striking and ending their lives quickly. This is not because it is not strong enough to do so, because it kills Clemens and a few of the prisoners quickly, as in the previous films. But overall, most of Alien 3′s characters die kicking and hollering as the Alien eats them alive. Dillon was killed near the movie’s end, yelling at the creature to fight harder and asking it if that was ‘as hard as you can bite’. I suspect this was a cheap ploy thrown in by the filmmakers to add to the film’s horror. Actually, it detracts from the slick, deadly charisma surrounding the Alien.

Finally, the idea of the prisoners outrunning the Alien (when they use themselves as bait to lure the creature into the piston tunnel near the movie’s end) is ridiculous. As fast as that Alien moved, the convicts wouldn’t have a chance.

There were other minor problems, such as the Alien surviving the barrage of molten lead, and the evident fakery of the Alien Queen bursting from Ripley’s chest, but overall I enjoyed the movie the second time I watched it, my initial disappointment out of the way. There were some fantastic scenes as well, most notably the Alien chestburster’s birth from the dog, the prisoner falling into the gigantic fan and Clemens’ death. I also found Dillon, Charles S. Dutton’s character, to be intriguing and extremely well done. Sigourney Weaver, as usual, turns in a formidable performance as Ripley and first-time director David Fincher does a good job, creating a very dark and at times, genuinely scary feature debut.

Unfortunately, these good points do not prevent Alien 3 from joining the likes of Predator 2 and Robocop 2 as sequels unworthy of following their predecessors.
Matt Nunan,
Myrtle Point, OR.

Never have I seen a more thoroughly offensive motion picture than Alien 3. Not only is it fraught with glaring inconsistencies with the first two films, but we are deluged with endless scenes of screamed profanity and relentless gore that completely redefine ‘gratuitous’. While its predecessors left its audience with a creepy fascination that stayed with you long after leaving the theater, Alien 3 merely lingers like a bad virus.

Utterly missing is any of Ridley Scott’s meticulous craftmanship. Nor are we treated to anything resembling James Cameron’s  carefully orchestrated rollercoaster rides. What is dumped on us though are annoying confusing intercuts with inaudibly soft dialogue juxtaposed against a cacophony of yelling prisoners, thundering sound effects and loud music. We are carelessly thrown around this sludge-infested planet by David Fincher’s dizzying, awkward camera work, and splattered with bottomless buckets of blood. The close-ups of hypodermic needles puncturing skin, the ridiculously drawn-out autopsy scene, the sickening throes of an inmate’s beloved dog and the relentless series of gruesome murders overwhelmed even the teenage gore freaks which populated our audience.

Bad direction, however, might have been overlooked, since Fincher is completely inexperienced in filmmaking; but what is utterly inexcusable is the script! Character development was so badly lacking that only a pitiful few of the 20-odd people were given any individual personalities of their own (the rest were just a crowd of bald Brits); but just when a bit of insight was revealed about someone, he would be ripped to shreds and lose his meager importance anyway. Clever dialogue was jettisoned in favor of shouted vulgarities (and these guys were supposed to comprise a fundamental Christian cult?) And lest we forget Ripley herself…

She knew (or strongly suspected) her old nemesis was roaming about  the prison, but how did she react? By simply parking her bottom in the doctor’s office, afraid to tell him for fear of being labelled crazy? Come on, now! Is this the gal who ran through the Nostromo’s corridors and blew the monster out of an airlock? The same feisty lady who charged an armoured personel carrier through walls of metal to rescue Marines from an onslaught of creatures? The same beloved heroine who became a walking armoury to save one little girl from the clutches of a beast? No. This ‘new’ Ripley is a stranger.

No new insights on teh Aliens themselves were revealed to us, either. Instead, our scriptwriters convieneintly ignored what had been established in the earlier stories and went their own way. Since when did facehuggers leave marks on their victims?  And while there was seemingly one aboard the Sulaco, two impregnations resulted: Ripley’s and the dog’s; yet it had been concluded before that there could only be one per creature.

Also, Ripley apparently hosted an Alien for days on end while in other victims, this incubation period was considerably  shorter. Perhaps this was attributed to her infestation’s being a larval queen, but once more, no explanation was offered.

And how dare they kill off the gutsiest heroine in film history! They’ve earned the wrath of legions of loyal fans everywhere,. Ripley deserved much beter than to die an agonising death, and we don’t want to have to remember her this way. She is a survivor.

I have yet to meet anyone who liked this film, and I’ve already spoken with dozens of people. We are all thoroughly disgusted with it. Since the 20th Century Fox executives had a guranteed hit with another Alien movie, it seems they just didn’t bother with a good script or a capable director.

But the news is quickly getting around. Word of mouth is one of the most effective means of advertising a good film: conversely, it can send the box-office receipts plummeting on a bad flick such as this one. I nly hope word gets out fast enough.
B. F. Simon,
Address Withheld.

Issue 184 (November 1992)

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People were still not ready to move on: this issue’s front page header read ‘Why Readers Despised Alien 3’, which was, again, the main focus of the letters pages, and the letters themselves appeared under the rather exhausted tag ‘Still Alienated, Alas’.

…I have been a fan of Starlog since issue #1. Since Starlog covers my type of movie, I thought that this would be a good place to express an opinion. Since Alien, Ripley has been a survivor and a heroine. In Alien 3, they at least let her keep her heroine part of her persona. This is not true of Newt.

In Aliens, Newt is definitely a survivor, since she was able to stay alive for weeks against the bad guys. To just kill her off in the new movie makes it B quality. It reminded me of Friday the 13th movies where the heroine would survive the whole movie just to be killed off in the first few minutes of the next. I realise that the actress who played Newt, Carrie Henn, has probably grown up quite a bit, but this could have been dealt with by just placing the timeline up a few years. If Alien 3 had followed Alien, I could have accepted it as a fair sequel. Newt, in my opinion, made Aliens what it was – a fantastic movie with a great story.

Alien 3 is just one of those bad dreams Ripley had in hypersleep. Newt and Hicks are still alive and having a wonderful life. I think we all could have lived just fine without Alien 3.
Gregory Young,
Las Vegas.

Alien 3 is one of the worst pieces of trash I have ever seen. As a fan of the previous two Alien outings, I was downright offended by this insult to Ridley Scott and James Cameron’s visions and the blatant attempt on behalf of the film’s producers to capitalise on the success of the Alien series without any decent attempt to make a decent third chapter. There are so many things wrong with Alien 3 (what’s the deal with the raised 3 anyway? Is it supposed to be Alien Three or Alien Cubed?) that it could be shown in filmmaking 101 classes across the world as an example of how not to make a movie.

The screenplay is a garbled mess. However, this is no surprise, considering it went through 27 writers. I also didn’t like how Hicks and Newt were cheaply killed off at the film’s beginning. In Aliens, people grew to care about these two characters, and Ripley’s reaction to their deaths was dramatically unsatisfying. The rest of the movie’s plot is simply a weak repeat of the first movie. One by one, the characters are systematically stalked with surprisingly little suspense and only one extended action sequence.

Regarding music video director David Fincher, I have to question the intelligence in the decision to hire an unknown, first-time director to helm a $50 million-plus motion picture that is a sequel to two of the most popular films ever made. Fincher doesn’t seem to have a clue as to how to direct a feature film. His use of low-angle shots, extreme close-ups, and cross-cutting may work fine in music videos, but these techniques lost their impact very fast on screen. In addition Fincher doesn’t seem to support the theory of starting scenes off with an establishing shot. I was very confused as to what was happening and where things were taking place. Fincher is also ignorant of another basic filmmaking technique: how to build suspense. I knew exactly when the Alien would strike and was never scared or surprised.

The music by Elliot Goldenthal is also no improvement over the scores by Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. It is not only dull,  but at times completely innapropriate — namely in the scene where an attempted rape is made on Ripley and rock music is played in the background. Making a third sequel would be a mistake if it opted instead to repeat the formula of of the first two movies without adding anything new, as this one did.
Adam Kargan
Scottsdale, AZ.

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… Now let’s talk about Alien 3. I liked the story and the FX. The majority of the acting was solid especially Charles Dutton, who stole every scene he was in, including those with the mutant alien. I think that Charles Dance as the doc was killed off way too early. I mean, come on — we just find out about his character’s history, and one half-second later, the Alien breaks his arm, then yanks and rips the man’s head off his shoulders. Ripley discovered the Alien wouldn’t kill her because of her being impregnated, but why doesn’t the Alien kill the guy screaming his head off on the bed? And why didn’t Ripley figure out that the Alien was trying to protect the Queen inside her by offing the good doctor? Count the seconds from when the doctor injects Ripley with that ‘solution’ and how fast the Alien jumps down to the floor. Yes, no, maybe so?

[…]

While I liked the FX, I didn’t care for the endless P.O.V. shots. The old sneak-up gag has been a cliche, and as for the running Alien P.O.V. shots, I almost half-expected Bruce Campbell to come running out with a chainsaw for a hand from Evil Dead II.
Darren J. Seeley,
Address Withheld.

I’m a SF fan and I don’t mind a little dab of horror, but I’ve think I’ve ever seen so much unnecessary gore  in one film. And what the other Alien films left to the imagination, this one didn’t. The audience was even subjected to seeing the gory death of a dog! Was the autopsy scene with Newt really necessary? In a way, this movie is an imitation of the first one: one Alien against a bunch of people in a dark, desolate place. Of course, the prison was much bigger than the Nostromo, but it didn’t seem like it. The ending expressed the futility of the whole series. Everything Ripley tried to avoid happened anyway. She was impregnated thus signalling inevitable death and everybody died. This movie is a virtual opposite of Aliens. Where Aliens was hopeful, Alien 3 is just downright depressing.

I was very excited and open-minded about the film, thinking it would be a true sequel to Aliens, thanks to the false advertising (‘the bitch is back’). They should have had the courage to advertise the movie more for what it really was. The previews made it look a lot like Aliens. They even used the music from Aliens in the trailer. Michael Biehn, who played Hicks, was right when he said that they would never be able to top Aliens.
Eric Wemmer,
Miami, FL.

I would like to direct my comments towards the rotten Alien 3 story. From what I understand, there was a lot of money spent on this flop. My question is, where did it go?

Where James Cameron was meticulous in his sequel, matching every little detail, David Fincher’s effort doesn’t even bother. Anyone notice how different the hypersleep chambers were? They looked more like the original ones on the Nostromo. So, I guess we’re to believe that they just magically changed from Sulaco-type chambers to the Nostromo-type. Also, in Aliens, the lettering of Sulaco was in black. It was white in Alien 3. Who’s going to tell us that the Aliens Queen pulled out her magic paintbrush and repainted it? Fincher must think we’re stupid.

And what about the Alien 3 xenomorph? How did it get so stupid? These are very intelligent creatures. So intelligent that this one knew Ripley had a Queen inside her. But it wasn’t smart enough to trap the prisoners for hosts. Nor did it have sense enough to cocoon Ripley and wait for the queen to emerge. If it was one of Cameron’s Aliens, it would have waited and then attacked. Anyone remember that Ripley said, ‘They don’t kill you’?

They were worried that Alien 3 would be a tired rehash of the previous films, yet they didn’t mind copying dozens of other horror movies. If I wanted to see Jason or Freddy, then I’ll go see their movies. But when I go to an Alien movie, I expect to see something more creative than a monster running around killing anything that moves. I would have preferred a rehash to Aliens than to sit through that ‘slasher in space’ garbage.

To Sigourney Weaver: Your acting was terrific, but why did you accept this role? You had this ‘creative input’, but what did you do with it? Looks like you did (as Private Hudson would say) ‘zippo’. You could have at least relented to get a decent story that would have done justice to Ripley. I guess if you give a person $5.5 million, she’ll do anything, right?
Greg George,
Babson Park, FL.

 

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48 Comments

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48 responses to “1992 Fan Response to Alien³

  1. Morse

    The reaction to Alien 3 would provide an endless supply of material for a psychologist to examine. How upset people become when the story doesn’t end with a “Happily Ever After”. Was it upsetting to see Hicks and Newt offed in such a fashion? Yes, of course. But these things happen in real life, much less in a horror movie. People seem to forget that the 90s were the times of AIDS, Desert Storm, police beatings, riots etc. Bad things were happening all around us, why is that so taboo to place into a movie. Do people feel they are entitled to rosier outlooks and good feelings from the movies they watch? If so, why pick a horror movie?
    As for the complaints regarding the script granted, there are a number of plot related issues in the original version. But the majority of which were nixed with the release of the assembly cut. Those that remain would have most likely been resolved by Fincher if he was not pushed out in the final process
    What no one can take away from the movie is its beautiful, artistic aura which is highlighted and accentuated by it’s gloomy, morose, and dark undertones. This movie is a true celebration of the heart of Giger’s beast. It’s not sun and roses, its death and misery. That was the life blood of Giger and the legacy of his creation. To criticize a movie for the very elements that make up both the creature and the designer belies an inability to grasp and understand the true heart of the creation.

  2. well, most of the reactions are quite stupid. they complain about things like the futility of their emotional investment into characters – well that was the point! Americans really like their happy endings, where they can stand in the theatre with raised fists and yell YEAH! WE WON! Not happening in this movie, this is a slap to the face and a wake up call to reality. As their coments on the majority of cahracters being “bald Brits” speaks volumes.

  3. anonymous

    What is shocking is the sense of entitlement that the fans feel, even back then (this feeling is now one of the four pillars of the internet unfortunately, we SHOULD have things for free, the movie studios should GIVE us the stories we want, I’ll torrent things because I WANT them NOW, etc). What they actually seem to be asking for is Eric Red’s treatment of Alien 3, with its gratuitous miltary/conspiracy/T&A/gung-ho let’s kick some alien ass content that… eh… would have dumbed down to exactly the level that people wanted, rather than create a more challenging and thoughtful experience that the audience had to work to engage with. And of course they got that the next time around and hated it even more. These are of course the same people who claimed George Lucas had destroyed their childhoods with the prequels and that level of hyperbole (another intenet pillar) makes great copy for the letters page.
    Had it been made now, the studio would have been so much more on board with some of the original concept and the result would have been a lot more interesting. It remains a massive shame that Fincher couldn’t be tempted back to do a cut of what he originally wanted but that makes Neil Bloomkamp’s new effort all the more intriguing.

    • The film does suck though and I’ve watched it numerous times and every time, much like Prometheus it just doesn’t stand up as credible, legible film making….much as I would dearly like either of them to do.

      • @Neil

        Could you elaborate?

        • Not to speak for Neil, or go as over the top – it’s a very flawed film. Killing survivors from the previous was going to put the audience off side, which means to need to compensate in other ways and they didn’t. The prisoners are largely faceless and exist solely to run down dark corridors and shout ‘fuck’ a lot before they get killed by a badly composited Alien. And we wouldn’t really care for a bunch of rapists and murderers even if we could tell them apart.

          The Assembly Cut that everyone raves about doesn’t correct any of the theatrical versions problems, and creates more in terms of the endlessly redundant roundabout of ‘Will the Company kill the Alien or do they want it?’ which is dealt with more succinctly in the theatrical cut.

          And I say all this as someone who loved Alien3 since 1992 and after studying for nearly 25 years – still love it.

  4. John Stephen Walsh

    Killing Newt, Hicks and Bishop was a slap in the face, which jerked the Alien universe back from Cameron’s “Wheee! Shoot ’em up!” comic book sequel back into the world Scott and O’Bannon created–a more adult SF world. The idea that killing off likable characters in a HORROR movie is somehow out of bounds has always baffled me. Hicks and Newt, let’s be honest, were cardboard characters, and the treatment of the characters in ALIENS was conventional (the ‘nuclear family’ surviving, even though in such a situation the kid would be one of the first to die, and a forklift operator wouldn’t take command when supposedly well-equipped and well-trained experts crack and fail in their duties).

    Fincher tried to create an art film using the materials he had, but remember that that’s what Vincent Ward tried to do, too. It seems that Giler-Hill and company always saw this as junk, and maybe that’s why there was such a tough time dealing with Fincher. He was rather naive, I think, and didn’t know that some elements–like a fairly large cast that’s mostly bald being problematic when it comes to audience identification–just had to be fixed. But he never had time, he was shoved into the job when it was underway.

    I’ll always remember that Weaver or someone said the producers and Fincher talked about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of dying, which Ripley goes through–that’s just not the sort of thing people cranking out a scifi shoot-em-up think about. But look at those Starlog covers–people were getting excited about crap like Tek War and Universal Soldier. In that commercial landscape, ALIEN 3 just didn’t have a chance if the makers had more ambition than another shoot-em-up with a little kid surviving what are supposedly the deadliest things in the universe.

    • Whilst I agree that Hicks and Newt have no development and are mostly catalysts to heal Ripley, the audience connected with them. Hudson was a one trick pony as the ‘hysteric’ but the audience loved him too.

      I find the argument of ‘it’s a horror movie and people die’ to be a cop-out because it dodges the main issue. It’s not the fact that Hicks and Newt are killed; it’s the manner in which they’re bumped off during the opening titles. There’s no feeling of sorrow or loss from the audience – just anger at the filmmakers for kicking them in the balls.

      I applaud Giler and Hill for not going the obvious route and making Aliens Part 2, but if you say to your audience ‘We know you want Aliens Part 2 and we’re not going to give it to you’ you have give them something better that they didn’t even know they wanted. In that regard, it fell over.

      • John Stephen Walsh

        I don’t think it’s a cop-out; it is entirely in keeping with the aims of the genre. Is having cast members in a disaster movie die a cop-out? The main issue is that people were upset that the characters in a horror movie died. You don’t have to LIKE the choice, but being mad because of something horrific happening to characters in a horror movie is as far from a cop-out as one can get in a horror movie. Trying to fit characters into a horror movie sequel not because the story demands it but because the audience likes those characters is the cop-out, or at least pandering. “There’s no feeling of sorrow or loss from the audience'”–I would love to know how you know this. (I think the sense of loss is powerful, esp. in the mortuary and cremation scenes.)

        In my opinion, ALIENS isn’t a horror movie. ALIEN and ALIEN 3 are. The “Aliens 2” was ALIEN REUSRRECTION.

        • The angry responses to the cheap loss of Hicks and Newt is how I know this. It’s born out in the above article. Dark Horse get letters from fans annoyed at Hicks and Newt being despatched to cheaply too. And this is the point once again; it’s not the fact they’re killed off – it’s the cheap manner in which they’re killed off. In their sleep while the credits are still rolling.

          If you want to do something that bold – you better do something to earn it back.

          • John Stephen Walsh

            The handful of responses doesn’t take into account the tens of millions who haven’t responded–who cares if one article says so? They get letters on anything. And yet, for all this, ALIEN 3 made more money worldwide than did ALIENS, and was successful enough that ALIEN RESURRECTION was greenlit. Subsequently, it has acquired a much better reputation. I’m not saying YOU didn’t feel this was a bad move or that others did, but you can’t possibly say that as if it’s anything more than a subjective opinion, and it’s demonstrably one not shared by everyone. (See Worldwide) http://www.boxofficemojo.com/franchises/chart/?id=alien.htm

            You say again it’s a ‘cheap manner’–that’s your subjective view. MY subjective view is it’s done in a HORROR movie manner. Having them go out heroic is a comic book/shoot-em-up way. ALIEN 3 shows the characters by and large dying for no reason–Hicks and Newt’s deaths are perfectly consistent with the majority of deaths in ALIEN 3, which I argue is a more adult HORROR movie, as opposed to the cliched action of ALIENS, in which everyone dies in a blaze of glory–which is a lot more Hollywood than being wasted for no purpose except to give Ripley a heroic way out–and the evil company is still standing, still running the show, and later even gets what they want (in AR).

            You don’t have to like how it was done–that’s not of any interest to anyone but those experiencing those same feelings. But just slapping the “cheap” label on it doesn’t elevate it to anything more than an opinion like anyone else’s, and it’s not set in stone because some comic book readers didn’t like it–the response from comic book readers tells me Fincher did just what he meant to do, in that case at least.

            • I’m talking about a general consensus of overall reaction amongst fans and critics. It wasn’t positive. Of course some people liked it. I liked it. But the negative reactions were the majority, and it tanked domestically, despite doing well in the foreign markets. Weaver had a similar conversation with Rothman years later when trying to stave off budget cuts (Rothman – Alien3 flopped at the box office; Weaver – Not overseas). And it’s telling that they didn’t immediately start working on Resurrection after Alien3.

              Hicks & Newts deaths aren’t consistent with any other deaths in Alien3, since they were well known characters from a previous film who died in their sleep. As opposed to the bald guys you could barely tell apart actually dying on screen, who died in much the same way as characters in the previous two movies – being ambushed and/or cornered by an Alien. The only characters who went out in a ‘blaze of glory’ in Aliens were Gorman and Vasquez. Dietrich, Frost, Crowe, Wierzbowksi, Apone, Drake, Ferro, Spunkmeyer, Hudson, Burke – even Bishop – all effectively got sucker punched.

              No one’s saying Hicks and Newt had to have “heroic” deaths. Heroic deaths in an Alien film aren’t the norm. Just something vaguely satisfying would suffice. As it stands it’s kinda like the girl who survived Friday the 13th, getting bumped off in the first scene of Friday the 13th Part 2.

  5. Sevastopol_Conduit

    Alien 3 epitomes the overarching theme of the Original Trilogy, which is that the Alien will always win, and Homo Sapiens will always lose against nature. One of the prevalent entities in every one of the films is the illusive Weyland Yutani, which will always try to exploit the Alien, and always ultimately fail catastrophically. The Alien is exploitable. Alien is the better survivor, and will always have the edge over the soft, fleshy humans. It is the perfect Darwinian creature, that can survive anything you throw at it, whether it is marines, space captains or prison inmates. Individual Aliens are destructible, requiring either pulse-rifles or fast thinking to be taken down, but the species always lingers, a survivor, and the only way to defeat it is for Ripley to sacrifice herself to take it down with her; jumping into a furnace with the creature incubating in her chest. Ripley has to sacrifice something of herself every time to hold the alien back, and this time finally giving her life to take it with her.

    The christian/religious undertones of salvation/sacrifice fit so well for science fiction picture. She feels saddened by the deaths of Newt and Hicks, a spine chilling “Forgive me,” before the autopsy. We see a new side of Ripley that we never saw before. This whole theme is in a way voiced out by Ripley herself, when she tries to find the Alien, either to kill it or get it to kill her: “You’ve been in my life so long I can’t remember anything else.”

    Sigorney Weaver, I think, does her best acting in this film as well, as she has to navigate some very difficult terrain. Finding that the plot’s taken a serious turn towards unpleasant while she was in hypersleep, losing everyone she spent all the damn time saving in Aliens, dealing with the uncertainty of whether the Alien is still among them.

    It’s a perfect, grim sci-fi plot that maintains the atmosphere of the previous films and ends with the noble sacrifice of a true heroine.

    • the Alien will always win, and Homo Sapiens will always lose

      This doesn’t feel right, considering Alien 3 ends with Ripley annihilating the species and saving the universe: I’d say it is even more of a victory than the ending of Aliens, which was a very personal victory but doesn’t hinge on the fate of humanity.

      And of course, the Alien in the original movie lost its battle as well. If a theme of the series became clear by this point it was that Ripley would always win, even unto death.

      • Agreed. The Aliens don’t win. Ripley wins. It cost her her life, but she ultimately defeated both the Alien and the Company.

        Also agree that Weaver was better in this than when she got an Oscar nod for Aliens.

  6. John Stephen Walsh

    What I like about ALIEN 3’s ending is that it shows that at best humanity may scratch out a temporary win. In ALIEN, the final tally was Humans 1, Alien 6. In ALIEN 3 it was even more lop-sided, in the nature of 15 to 1. In both movies, ONE alien opponent almost took out all the humans involved. In ALIENS, on the other hand, the aliens were easily shot and ever crushed under tires like some slasher.

    • On the other hand, the Alien in the third movie behaves as though it were in a slasher movie, abandoning the modus operandi of the creatures from the second movie and even the mystique of the first Alien. The ‘Runner’ is reduced to goring and chewing on throwaway characters, most of whom are not compelling in themselves (and hard to care or muster suspense for). I think, despite the body count, humanity won that war overall, with the entire species eliminated after the third film (even the fourth movie concedes this, moving to clone them instead.) If you were to count and compare the number of explosions in Aliens and Alien 3, the third movie trumps the second — there are four explosions throughout Aliens, two in the Ops Room, one in the ducts, and the final Atmospheric Explosion (I coud be wrong; correct me if I am!) In comparison, there are around fifteen explosions in the sequence where the prisoners try to trap the ‘Runner’ — and yet we would not argue that Alien 3 is more of an action movie than Aliens because of it. So I don’t tend to count each kill as a win when, in the overall picture, the Aliens consistently ‘lose’.

      What I find admirable about Aliens is that despite the Aliens themselves being caught in the line of fire the feeling that this immoveable object is still crashing against you is sustained throughout, with the Marines constantly on the backfoot, their area of free movement constantly dwindling. Alien 3, for all I love about it, is not a suspenseful film; it is however an excellent mood piece, or tone poem.

      • The explosion thing is arguable. There’s also the ammo bag in the AP Station, the dropship crash and Ripley going bonkers with grenades. On the other hand, the explosion in Alien3 is a series of explosions all instigated in the once scene.

        Not sure I agree with a ‘temporary win’. Ripley wiped them out. To the extent that even 200 years later, the only way the USM could get one was to clone Ripley.

        If you’re keeping score where the ‘win condition’ for Aliens is to breed and humanities is to not die – thanks to Ripley humanity won that by a pretty big margin.

        (Of course there are more Aliens out there – it’s just neither the Company or USM were able to properly exploit them. Possibly not even able to find them.)

  7. Balaji Imperial

    Being too young to see Alien 3 at the cinema, I had the experience of reading Alan Dean Foster’s novelisation before viewing the film itself on home video as soon as it became available to rent.

    Despite the fact that I was already very familiar with the plot (give or take a few deviations) I was still full of incredible anticipation. Like many of the letter writers quoted in the article above though, I found myself disappointed – not because of any of the controversial story elements per se, but more experiencing a sense that it felt insubstantial somehow.

    There were lots of things I loved about it at the time however, and still appreciate today: particularly the grungy production design and bleak aesthetic Fincher brought. The premise I think is good also: Ripley crashing in an off-world prison colony, single alien threat, no real weapons to fight it with, etc…

    Its pretty obvious to see that the film’s story has many flaws though. I’m no doubt retreading old ground here, but for me the worst example is the ‘magic’ appearance of alien eggs aboard the Sulaco. The idea that the alien queen somehow laid these eggs seems unsupportable, as Aliens clearly shows her ovums as being yoke-like and unformed during the beginning stages of their journey through the egg sac towards the ovipositor.

    With this in mind, are we to believe that the queen actually had a couple of developed ones ready within her thin abdomen, or that she physically carried some from her lair while pursuing Ripley & Newt through the atmosphere processor, stowing away with them aboard the dropship? I guess maybe such things don’t really matter when there’s space-beastie thrills to be had, but for me it all smacks of lazy writing.

    As for the deaths of Newt and Hicks which divides fan opinion so dramatically, the truth is I personally never find my self thinking ‘and then they all died’ while watching the final moments of Aliens. Is this a denial of canonical reality? Maybe, but then I’m not really bothered about that kind of stuff anyway, particularly in light of how things go from Resurrection onwards…

    Although my feelings for Alien 3 today are ones of deep ambivalence, the fact remains that I find it fascinating, especially the Assembly Cut, and I am often drawn to watch it again. Perhaps though, in any discussion here of the relative merits of that film and its immediate predecessor, we should take into account David Fincher’s apparent disownment of his creation, coupled with his statement quoted on this blog: “Jim’s movie is one of the twenty best movies ever made.”

    • While it’s entirely possible that the Queen brought an egg with her from the planet; yes, it’s still lazy writing. 🙂

      I’m wondering if you thought it was insubstantial because the book has so much content that was cut from the theatrical version?

      • Balaji Imperial

        Hello, that’s an interesting question.

        I think the lack of those extra scenes certainly contributed, but the main feeling I had was more that it simply seemed a lesser film than the previous ones. Purely a subjective response, of course…

        As for the alien queen bringing eggs onboard the Sulaco, I totally agree that it’s possible, but it seems like such an incredible plot-contortion, particularly in light of the fact that all her arms are visible when she menaces Ripley & Newt in front of the freight elevator, and there’s patently no eggs being carried there.

        The countdown escape sequence from the atmosphere processor appears to be timed to the second, so it’s hard to see how the queen might have any opportunity to pop back into her entirely decimated, now exploding egg chamber and search for two intact eggs that would be needed to incubate Ripleys queen chestburster along with the dog/ox-burster, before then making her way back to the lift and riding it all the way to the surface in time to stowaway on the dropship.

        And of course, she’s seen eyeing the open elevator that she presumably takes without pause, just moments after Ripley & Newt depart in theirs…

        I guess my objections listed here could be classed as spoil-sport pedantry though, so perhaps I’ll take the opportunity to ask this far more important question instead: isn’t the visual image of the alien queen hefting two eggs about like footballs just a little bit ridiculous?

        • Indeed it is ridiculous. Though it’d be pretty sweet if she used them as facehugger launchers. 🙂

          However, I came up with a theory ages ago that all she had to do was grab one egg that wasn’t on fire, after detaching from the egg sac, then stick it in between her dorsal spines (thus using her body as a shield against the nasty lady with the big gun; and explaining why we never see it while she’s escaping the AP, since we never see her from the back).

          Once the dropship docks on Sulaco, she excretes some acid (spit maybe) into the landing gear well, creates a hole, puts the egg into the dropship, and it’s the remnants of this acid that land near Bishops shoe.

          Of course it’s only a theory and undoubtedly has holes (ahem), but I think it’s pretty decent when conforming to the source material.

          • Balaji Imperial

            Compliments on an excellently constructed theory. However it’s kind of telling that we the audience have to come up with such things to explain away shoddy film making…

            Until a definitive cut scene surfaces from a David Fincher yard sale, I’m gonna stick to my original belief: that the man on the grassy knoll put those eggs there! (It is two eggs isn’t it, for two facehuggers? Or can the mama lay double-yolkers?)

            • The Alien on the Sulaco is only ever referred to in the singular ‘was there AN Alien on board?’, ‘IT was with us all the way’. And we only ever see one egg. Which kinda conforms to the original concept of the super/ Queen facehugger which might be able to lay more than one egg. Less so to the non-super hugger in the final film.

              What was that about shoddy film-making? 😉

              • ‘lay more than one embryo’ rather.

                • Balaji Imperial

                  A lot of this sort of confusion must stem from the chaos of the production. From all reports, it sounds like Fincher was having to battle the whole time just to deliver some sort of legible film. In many ways, it’s truly remarkable how well it actually came together in the end, all things considered…

  8. John Stephen Walsh

    I always thought the egg on the Sulaco was done by Burke or even Bishop–he could easily be programmed to put one on there as a back-up in case Burke’s methods failed. Bishop’s saying “It was with us all along” or all the time–how did he know this? He accessed the computer, but his response sure seems less than exact.

    If you like the movie, this sort of thing is easily ignored–it got on, that’s why it’s there. If you don’t, it’s part of the piling-on.

    • Burke has no opportunity to get an egg to the Sulaco (hence the reason he tried to effectively murder Ripley and Newt).

      There’s no evidence Bishop could be ‘easily programmed’. Burke simply told him that he wanted to take the live specimens back and Bishop then gave up that info to Ripley.

      His comment in Alien3 – “It was with us all the way” – is in direct response to the question about whether the hugger was still on the Sulaco or came down in the EEV, while he was accessing the flight recorder.

  9. John Stephen Walsh

    The idea that the aliens are there to war on humanity is all retro-fitting due to Prometheus, and wasn’t on the minds of those who made the earlier films. With that in mind, the aliens might sleep in the derelict forever, untouched. Just one getting out resulted in all that followed, with great loss in terms of human numbers in 1-4, and the threat of humanity being wiped out if even one got to earth. So, yes, when you calculate all the humans who got killed in 1-4 as a result of the Nostromo’s carrying ONE on board–humanity just barely scraped by.

    Also, there are so many illogical moments in all the films–heck, in all FILMS–that the explanation of how the egg got on the Sulaco seems unimportant. How do we know the Nostromo was sent to the alien world by the company, really–when Ripley brings all this out, it’s 57 years later. We never get that aspect nailed down for sure. Same thing with many issues in the movies. You either go with it, or you battle it, depending on how you like to watch movies, and why.

    • Ash’s Special Order 937 that Ripley finds in Mother in the first film is how we know the Company sent them there.

    • Balaji Imperial

      “You either go with it, or you battle it, depending on how you like to watch movies, and why.”

      Hi John, I totally agree with this statement. Nit picking can be a drag, so I apologise for being a continuity bore.

      I still think the first two movies are actually pretty tight story wise though. In particular, Aliens followed the first in a manner that shows James Cameron approached his script with a great deal of thought.

      In comparison, the unexplained eggs at the start of Alien 3 suggest a ‘that’ll do’ sloppiness at work, one that I feel serves to impair the viewer’s ability to suspend disbelief.

  10. BillTed

    It just wasn’t very good.
    In any way.
    It was visually, narratively and creatively unattractive.

    And Fincher is still vastly over-rated IMO.
    A3 is as good as anything he’s ever done.

  11. Still creating controversy and discussion after almost 25 years. Man, I love this film.

    As for using the fact that Fincher disavowed this film as evidence that it’s not good, did anyone ever hear of the Sistine Chapel? Michelangelo was extremely unhappy with his work, but it’s considered the greatest artistic masterpiece ever produced. Am I saying Alien 3 is equivalent to the Sistine Chapel? Of course not, but using the opinion of the creator as proof that the end product is flawed is clearly not a valid method of argument.

    • That’s true, and there’s also Fincher’s personal and emotive experience when making the film to consider: he was constantly undermined, spied on, and treated like rubbish. That experience will no doubt embitter any good that came out of it for him, and very little good came out of it for the guy — he was often shunted the blame for how the film turned out and it was never the film he wanted to make, commenting at the time he’d have loved it if the whole thing burned to the ground so he could start from scratch. If there’s any consolation for him it’s that some of the decisions in the film that he had very little to do with (the killing of Newt and Hicks) is often laid at his feet as a bold and brave move. And of course its tone and beauty has come to be more appreciated and more fans are willling to forgive its flaws than they were in 1992. Maybe one day he’ll sit down and talk about the film (with me, if he likes!) 😛

      • On the other hand I don’t think Fincher did himself any favours. There’s stories of him shooting endless takes of the most mundane scenes, and general confusion even surrounding the Alien design (ADI having to slap on sub-standard dorsal pipes with no notice when Fincher asked where they were).

        The studio created the environment for this sort of thing to occur however, and Fincher didn’t seem to have any on set producers to back him. Brandywine weren’t interested, Swerdlow seemed to have foot in both camps (but more Fox’s than Fincher’s). I know Weaver went to the studio to stop stuff getting cut from Resurrection when budget cuts threatened, but I’m not sure she was in a position to do the same on Alien3 (it helped that Resurrection was shot in LA).

    • Balaji Imperial

      Hi, I actually don’t think Alien 3 is no good.

      My comment was mainly in defence of Aliens, which I felt was being unfairly characterised in a few comments here as being little more than a shoot ’em up with a mawkishly happy ending, and thus inferior to the more ‘realistic’ Alien 3.

      In quoting Fincher, my intention was simply to point out that he appears to holds Cameron’s film in very high regard, while apparently finding Alien 3 a bit harder to love. This pretty much mirrors my own views on the films, though I claim no objective proof that either one is superior to the other…

      • It has become fashionable in certain quarters to bash Aliens, and deify Alien3. Maybe it’s the 80’s vibe, the guns, the boss battle – I don’t know. Objectively it’s still infinitely more competently made than Alien3. Especially the perennially over-rated Assembly Cut of Alien3.

        • Balaji Imperial

          After loving both Alien & Aliens as child, I went through a brief phase of being a slight slob about the latter, planting my flag firmly in the Alien camp.

          A later viewing made me realise that this was a ridiculous position to take, and that the sequel has a power and personality all of its own…

  12. The return of Fincher to his flawed masterpiece would be massive indeed. If you can make that happen you’ll forever have a place in the folklore of the franchise (and the eternal gratitude of this fan).

    • Who knows, maybe he’s a lurker here 😀

      The story of Alien 3 will never be told definitively until Fincher speaks. A massive shame for fans of the series and especially for those who love his film in particular..

  13. Michal

    Well, in my opinion Alien 3 is not only the best of Alien sequels, but almost on par with the original. It’s an emotional punch in the gut that makes the Alien an invincible monster again, a nightmare you can’t escape.

    People getting upset about it are the same people who attend test screenings and make producers change endings because they’re not happy endings. I get that they want just a simple entertainment, but Alien is much more than that. And I’m thankful Fox didn’t make an obvious choise when it came to this movie. Sure, the production was a mess, but nothing great comes easy.

    • At the very least Alien 3 tried something different, how many times can you blow a bug out of an airlock?

      Its unfairly criticised the same way as Terminator Salvation is, simply for wanting to branch out on it’s own. For bugs out of airlocks, see how many times can you send robots back from the future, and more reprogrammed robots to beat that one up?

      Alien 3 should be lauded as a lost classic. It certainly is by me. So there.

  14. Alex

    LTTP as per usual. Reading some of those fan letters was cringe-worthy. That is the most ultra nit-picky shit I’ve ever read in regards to Alien 3. First thing that came to my mind:

    But anyway, I like Alien 3 and as an aside I also like Robocop 2. I appreciate the aesthetics of Alien 3 and I like the downbeat nihilistic atmosphere. I will always say that Alien 3 was a good cap to Ripley’s story. Not everyone can get a happy ending. I thought that was a brave choice that worked. There’s plenty of opportunities for more movies that explore different aspects of the Alien universe as the comics and to an extant Prometheus has shown us without relying on Ripley or a clone thereof.

    Is Alien 3 perfect? No. But Aliens has some flaws. Some people don’t like Newt. I’ve read a lot of comments from people who hate Hudson which blew my mind. And the plot of Aliens is essentially the same exact plot of Alien especially in the 3rd act. I think the pros outweigh the cons with Alien 3.

    Yeah, I’m not a big fan of 85 (I tolerate the character at best), where the egg came from is a bit of a head-scratcher, a couple of the inmates are not totally well-defined characters, and in the superior Assembly Cut it does drag a little after they temporarily capture the Alien. But the pros are the fantastic cinematography, sets, Charles S. Dutton as Dillon, Charles Dance as Clemens, Sigourney Weaver does a great job, some fantastic Alien moments with some great gore, amazing soundtrack that might be the best score in an Alien film, and a great ending too that sticks with you.

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