As much as people dislike Alien 3, there are actually some very good ideas in there! The film tries a lot to be like the original and in some ways, achieves that much more than Aliens does. The main problem Alien 3 seems to have is that it doesn’t seem to commit to one great, key idea and instead tries to do too much with poor results.
It’s a shame because the setting seems perfect. To set the film in a futuristic, completely male space prison is a great idea. It is a lot closer to the dark, enclosed and potentially claustrophobic setting of the first film. Except, it’s not claustrophobic. It doesn’t even seem like a prison. It seems more like a place where these men just wander around, aimlessly doing what they want. It’s a missed opportunity.
It could also have been a good chance to develop some new, interesting characters. A prison needs inmates who could be in this prison for all sorts of crimes, with some great backgrounds. This is never explored though. Even worst, the men all have shaved heads and wear the same clothes, meaning the characters are not just under-developed but they seem exactly the same. In fact, in the frantic finale, you can’t really tell which characters are being killed off or who is surviving.
Another great addition, which to some extent does pay-off, is the introduction of a new kind of alien. The idea that the alien takes on the genetics and evolution of whatever it uses to incubate the egg is a stroke of genius (and has done wonders for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus) and Aliens based on different animals has great potential. The film also takes the series back to its roots, having a single alien terrorising the prison rather than a whole group of them, something I think the series benefits from.
Unfortunately, the mistakes the film makes overshadows any positives. You can see that the film was going to struggle from the moment they killed one of the best additions to Aliens, the young girl Newt. She would have added an interesting dimension to the prison setting and always helps increase the tension.
Ripley actually seems out of place in the film. It’s like they are struggling to justify her inclusion. They also give her a twist in the middle of the film that also seemed out of place and made little sense. It gave the impression of being “bolted-on” to add depth to Ripley, almost to give Sigourney Weaver something to do.
The final frustration is when an old character finally shows up for a weird, unconvincing twist. This character could have been much better used in the film as a whole, giving this more of an original Alien feel rather than another, slightly random film in the worsening series.
Overall, there are some great ideas in Alien 3 but they overshadowed by the mistakes and poor execution. A great setting, loads of potentially memorable characters and a move towards the features that made the original film so brilliant are all wasted by confusing plot direction and a poor use of the prison location. Such a shame because I love the original so much!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)