US, 1992, 115 minutes, Colour.
Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul Mc Gann, Lance Henriksen.
Directed by David Fincher.
Aliens 3 is not an essential sequel, rather a grim rerun of the previous films. Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) was a breakthrough in space horror, contrasting with the trend set by Star Wars and the Superman films. It used the old story of the old dark house, with disappearing victims - this time in space and an alien monster destroying the crew of a spaceship. Sigourney Weaver was introduced as Ripley, the strong heroine. In 1986 James Cameron (immediately after his success with The Terminator) made a sequel which was a vigorous and action horror film rather than an atmospheric horror film like the first. Something of both elements are here in the third film, directed by David Fincher, who came from music video directing. Fincher went on to make some very distinctive films, Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room. Once again Sigourney Weaver is the strong heroine - this time giving herself a Christ-figure role in the culmination.
The setting is a harsh men's maximum security prison in the backblocks of space - all greys, browns, metallic and grimy sets and darkness. The prisoners are fundamentalist Christians, born again. However, their impact and language is very much that of the men's prison.
The film is probably of interest (and intelligibility) only to those who know the series and offering something new only in the ending with the self-sacrifice of Ripley. (The story is by Vincent Ward, writer of the medieval odyssey The Navigator.) Amongst the supporting cast are British character actors led by Charles Dance.
1. The popularity of the series? Science fiction, science fantasy? Horror?
2. The series, the title - space, horror? The series becoming a cult series?
3. The special effects and atmosphere for space, the remote planet, the pods, explosions in space? The prison planet? The grotty atmosphere, colours, darkness? The corridors? The importance of special lenses for the viewpoint of the alien for the rabidity of the movement of the alien around the planet? The musical score?
4. The plot reprising elements of the previous films? The prison, the eccentric male and religious community? The background of their crimes? Expiation? The alien attacking them, the possibility of infection, massacres? The military background and the exploiting of the alien for military purposes? The androids - and the military commander with an android made in his likeness? The ending of the series with Ripley's Christlike self-sacrifice?
5. The prologue, the pods, hibernation? The accident, the dislodging of the pods, their crashing to the prison planet? The deaths - especially of the young girl? The infection brought to the planet, Ripley infected?
6. The atmosphere of the prison, the commander and his attitudes, his domination and authority? His assistant and the men's jokes about his IQ? The range of men, the violence of their crimes, penalties? The isolation, the supply ship every six months? The military intruding? Controlling the regime? The doctor, his presence, background? The visual ugliness and griminess of the prison?
7. Ripley and Sigourney Weaver as heroine, the past films, surviving the crash, her grief, examining the bodies, wary about infection? The clashes with the commander? Interactions with the doctor, understanding, his helping her to health? Persuading him to the autopsy of the victim? The interaction with the men, sex-starved? Her being restricted? Her cutting her hair, transforming herself to look like a man? The build-up to the confrontation with the alien? Lack of weapons, ingenuity, using the lead processing? The deaths of the men, her support? The death of the doctor? Her final self-sacrifice?
8. The doctor and his story, his background, prison, staying on the planet? His interactions with the authorities, the hold over him? Treating Ripley, the relationship with her? The suddenness of his death?
9. The criminals and their brutality, with each other, fighting? Banding together to survive - and their being killed one by one?
10. The governor, his antagonism, handling the situation? His death? The assistant, the IQ jokes, his family, leadership, his death?
11. The visuals of the monster, its presence, violence? The x-rays and the alien within Ripley? Her decisions? Chasing the men, killing them? The ultimate destruction?
12. The delineation of the characters of the men, personalities, occupations, search, menaced by the alien, their deaths?
13. The theme of the hero, the woman as hero? The self-sacrifice - and the crucifixion emblems? A film of the '90s - and contributing to the horror space genre?