directed by David Fincher
(20th Century Fox, 1992)

The third installment of the Alien film series is the weakest of the bunch. It begins with the unwise decision to kill off all survivors of the second movie, with the obvious exception of Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), and strands her on a lightly inhabited planet with about two dozen male prisoners ("rapists, murderers, child molesters -- all scum"), a skeleton staff, a foundry and a dog.

The prisoners are all bald, mostly British and uniformly religious, and none welcome the intrusion of a woman into their daily routine. As I'm sure you've guessed, their schedule is further disrupted by the appearance of an alien, a nasty breed (newly designed by H.R. Giger) whose embryonic host was a dog (you knew I mentioned the dog for a reason) instead of a human. It's slimy and nasty and bites people a lot.

Unfortunately, the film attempts to build on the first movie, which was structured on suspense, rather than the second, which was an all-out action-adventure. We've all seen too many aliens for the suspense schtick to work. And without that last hint of mystery, a single alien dog just isn't enough to sustain a movie.

The big climax is an endless series of bald men screaming as they run down dark hallways, which gets old pretty fast. There are some standout performances among the prisoners, particularly Charles Dutton, Daniel Webb and Pete Postlethwaite, and good moments with the medic (Charles Dance) and the company man (Lance Henriksen). But even the formidable Weaver, shorn of hair in a misguided effort to prevent lice, is hard-pressed to make much of this low-budget flick.

Alien3 might have made a pretty good first movie. It might even have worked as No. 2 in the series. But by No. 3, we expected more.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 4 January 2003

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