Alien 3 is a film that is closer in tone to the first Alien film than the second was, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good one. It takes place in one location, only features one of the titular aliens, and once again stars Sigourney Weaver as the lead character, Ripley. It also isn’t an action film, containing far less action than Aliens, but a slight bit more than Alien.
The plot involves Ripley’s ship from the last film crashing into another planet. The other three passengers on the ship died though, which is a shame because I would have liked to see the relationship between her and Newt from the previous film develop more. She’s rescued by group of bald men, who we learn are all murderers, rapists, and otherwise not very nice people, and the planet she lands on is a maximum security prison. But there are no weapons on it, save for a couple of fire axes.
Unbeknownst to Ripley, there was an egg aboard her ship. It hatched, and out popped one of those parasites that lays an egg inside people, and then the real danger begins. It does this with an animal, attaching itself to the animal’s face and then having that animal give birth. Now there’s an alien in the prison, and a lot of potential victims. Nobody believes Ripley when she tells them that there is a creature on the planet, and that it will begin murdering them. It starts its tirade by sending a man into a rotating fan, and follows that up by impaling the doctor. Still, nobody believes her until it shows itself during a meeting.
And so begins a the group making a plan in an attempt to kill the alien. That’s what happens for most of the film, as they figure out how to trap it, how to kill it, and then execute this plan. All the while, a rescue team is coming for Ripley, but she believes that they only want to rescue her so that she can be studied, and so that they can capture the alien currently stalking the prisoners, because companies are still bad and only want the money that can come from using the alien for their own personal goals.
There’s an offhand mention about how the alien in this film isn’t the same species as the ones from the previous films, although it seemed similar enough to me, and if that comment wasn’t there, I would have just assumed that it was the same. It still has multiple mouths, it still wants to kill a bunch of people, and it still crawls around in air vents. But unlike the first film, this isn’t a slasher, it’s simply about making a plan and executing it. People are picked off, sure, but they are often characters we don’t even know, and aren’t meant to affect us emotional. Instead, they’re just there to reinforce and remind us that some deadly creature is on the prowl.
There’s also one twist close to the end of Alien 3 which didn’t surprise me in the least. I don’t think many people will have trouble figuring it out, and even if you don’t, it’s not that big of a twist. All it does is allow you to figure out that the film can only possibly end in one of two ways, and you’ll likely be pretty sure which of those two directions it will take.
There are a lot of characters, just like in Aliens, but there are only a couple of them that we actually get to see and learn about. The first is one of the doctors in the prison, played by Charles Dance, who gets a back story but it doesn’t really matter or ever come into play. There is also a prisoner named Dillon (Charles S. Dutton), who saves Ripley from being assaulted by some other inmates, and seems like a good person, but that’s about as deep as his character gets.
Then there’s Ripley, whose only characterization has happened in the previous films. At least she stays consistent here, instead of acting irrationally. But there was something that was developing near the end of Aliens — her relationship with her surrogate daughter — that is completely scrapped here. She cries for maybe 10 seconds, and then she has overcome her grief and moves on. We know she’s strong, but with the lengths she went to in the last film to save this child, I’m surprised that this didn’t get more time.
In the end though, the plot is as basic as they come, the characters are paper-thin and there is only one alien who only actually shows up when the characters want him to. That’s not how you make a suspenseful film, especially since this came after the first two Alien films. Oh, the special effects still look good, and Weaver still turns in a good performance, but there just isn’t all that much there to hold your interest.
Oh, and people who get motion sickness easily will want to avoid this for more than the reasons I’ve already stated. There are a lot of shots from the alien’s point of view, and since they all take place during a chase sequence with a lot of corners being turned, it is enough to make someone sick. And then some shots are flipped upside down, and with a lot of twists and turns where characters run through what’s essentially a maze, it becomes overwhelming to the senses quite quickly.
Alien 3 is a mediocre film taken on its own merits, and a bad one when thought of as a sequel to Aliens and the first Alien. The plot is too simple, the characters too lifeless and the point nonexistent. And if you get sick from riding roller coasters, you’ll likely want to avoid this regardless or not if it sounds appealing, because it will likely make you sick. At least you have an excuse other that “it looks and sounds bad” to not watch it.