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‘Alien 3’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 22, 1992


David Fincher
Sigourney Weaver;
Charles S. Dutton;
Charles Dance;
Paul McGann;
Brian Glover
Under 17 restricted

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In space, the first "Alien" film told us, no one can hear you scream. That was 12 years and two films ago, and unless the laws of physics have changed, the statement still holds true. So scream all you like. Scream your head off. "Please! Not again! Uncle! I've had enough! Stop it, stop it! Please, stop it!!!" It's no use. No one will hear you.

If the first two "Alien" films didn't satisfy your appetite for the prolonged duel to the death between warrant officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her irrepressible foe, "Alien ," the third and most oppressive, most redundant movie in the series, will probably do the trick. This time out, the action is set on Fiorina 161, a maximum security penal planet reserved exclusively for the dregs of the known universe. (Didn't there used to be a cereal with the same name?) The inhabitants of this dank, medieval-looking burg all have an extra Y chromosome in common, which, if I've got my genetics straight, means that you do not work well with others.

Most of these Double-Y boys are either murderers or rapists or murderers and rapists. A troop of Boy Scouts they're not, even if they have found solace from their desperate circumstances in an apocalyptic form of Christianity. One thing's for sure, though: They don't like girls. So when Ripley's emergency evacuation capsule accidentally lands in their laps, they're not at all pleased to see her. And if they're unhappy with the mere presence of a woman, wait'll they get a load of her luggage.

After 12 years, you'd think that Ripley might catch a break. But no way. She's like one of those women on the afternoon soaps who are always getting kidnapped or stuffed in the trunk of somebody's car; if it weren't for bad luck, she'd have no luck at all. After Ripley is given the skinhead look to prevent an infestation of lice, she spends the first section of the film wondering if her old nemesis has tagged along. Unfortunately, there's very little suspense in this because if he didn't, well, there wouldn't be much of a movie.

As gruesomely unabsorbing as this early segment is, it's still the most interesting part of the film, primarily because once the creature makes its entrance, the movie simply becomes a grisly game of monster tag. In "Aliens," James Cameron, who also directed "The Abyss" and the "Terminator" films, followed Ridley Scott's original by digging into the maternal subtext of Ripley's character; by turning the movie into a mythic cat-fight between warring moms, he supplied a raison d'etre for the sequel.

In "Alien ," director David Fincher, who's best known as a music video Wunderkind, and screenwriters David Giler, Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson fail to come up with a comparable wrinkle. As a result, there's nothing new to discover in either Ripley or her dilemma. Basically, she's dinner; if she doesn't get it, it's going to get her.

The film's only original ingredient is its dark, disease-infested atmosphere; it looks as if it were shot in the Paris sewers. And the color-bled textures do cast a gloomy spell. But if you've seen Vincent Ward's "The Navigator," these details won't come as much of a revelation either. (Ward, who's credited with supplying the story, was listed early on as the picture's director.)

There are a few narrative twists, but not enough new ideas to keep us guessing. In the end, we're stuck running through air shafts and corridors again. Given this context, Weaver's shorn head could almost pass for a plot development, which is more than you can say for her brief and entirely pointless liaison with the prison's medical officer (Charles Dance). The Marine recruit buzz cut does emphasize the drama of Weaver's underbite -- which is slyly mirrored by the savage angle of the creature's own jawline -- but though from moment to moment she is entirely credible in her emotions, her performance holds no further surprises for us. Also, the butch glam queen she inaugurated in "Alien" has by now become a familiar type; like the Great Mother Alien in the second film, she has spawned a whole generation of Terminator dames.

But in "Alien ," the character seems rather old hat and, instead of staking her definitive claim on the archetype, the actress joins the ranks of her imitators. These days, she's just another girl with a gun.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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