In Defense Of: “Alien 3” (1992)

Throughout the film, Ripley is nearly raped by inmates, watches the one person she starts to get close to in the colony get brutally murdered and then discovers that she’s carrying a Queen inside her. This is the end of Ripley’s journey, and as a finale of sorts for the character – before she was cloned in Resurrection, of course – it’s an oppressive one. If you can accept that, though, you’ll be rewarded, as Sigourney Weaver really sells Ripley’s exhaustion over the fact that her fate is forever linked to an infernal creature she’ll never escape.

When a prisoner suggests they shove Ripley’s head through a wall, her response of “It sounds good to me” is delivered with a genuine honesty informed by her experiences, and her self-awareness inherent with lines like “Where are you when I need you?” is both darkly funny and depressing in their own way. Whether she’s begging Charles S. Dutton’s spiritually-inclined inmate Dillon to kill her or actively searching to meet face to face with the alien or discovering that she’s host to the very thing that’s ruined her life, it’s hard not to sympathize with her, especially when a bitter end is inevitable.

Over the course of the initial trilogy, Ripley went from being amongst a group of average Joes to hardened soldiers to convicts no one else in the universe cares about, and that movement mirrors her own personal journey. Embedded within the mythology of the films, of course, is the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, and in their eyes, Ripley has gone from being expendable in Alien to an asset in Aliens to nothing more than a means to an end in Alien 3 once they discover she’s carrying one of the creatures. Like the convicts around her, she’s got no one left out there in the universe, and for a character who has done her best to keep the Xenomorphs from falling into the hands of Weyland-Yutani, it’s actually fitting that her last hurrah would serve as a middle finger to the shady company.

Before I get further into the end of the film, though, let’s talk about the creative sides of Alien 3, starting, of course, with the titular creature. Referred to as the Runner, the Beast and the Dragon on and off screen, this film’s Xenomorph is interesting in that it’s birthed from an animal instead of a human – a dog in the theatrical cut of the film and an ox in the Assembly Cut – which gives it a whole different feel than any of the aliens that came before it. Not only does it look different, but it’s incredibly fast and racks up a pretty hefty body count.

Unfortunately, though, while the practical effects work still holds up in spades, there are a number of moments where the creature appears that have bizarrely dated the film. Moments where the alien is running along the ceiling or crawling towards Ripley in the infirmary were done by superimposing shots of, say, a puppet onto the image, but it’s so jarringly done that it comes off looking like terrible CGI work. It does the film no favors in 2017, but thankfully occurrences like that are brief (though deserve to be brought up nonetheless).

And, unsurprisingly, the creature is at the heart of some of the film’s best, most memorable sequences, particularly in the Assembly Cut. One of my personal favorite moments is the sequence juxtaposing the cremation of Hicks and Newt with the birth of the alien as it bursts out of the ox, but again, that’s just one of many great alien-related sequences. From the fan scene where an inmate ends up diced after seeing the Dragon to the creature’s brutal assault on Boggs and Rains to the surprise death of Clemens in front of Ripley to the extended sequence in which the group struggles to trap the creature – a sequence that even gives one of the scummiest inmates a moment of redemption (of sorts) missing from the theatrical cut – the alien really gets the chance to shine throughout.