Directed by David Fincher
Based on characters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Story by Vincent Ward
Screenplay by David Giler, Larry Ferguson, Walter Hill
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Lance Henriksen, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Pete Postlethwaite
This film is the third installment of the Alien franchise, following the success of Alien and Aliens. This time the film was directed by David Fincher (Gone Girl), using a story developed by Vincent Ward (Map of the Human Heart). The screenplay uses characters created by Dan O’Bannon (Alien) and Ronald Shusett (Total Recall); and it was written by David Giler (Aliens), Larry Ferguson (Highlander), and Walter Hill (Another 48 Hours). Like the previous films, this one stars Sigourney Weaver (Avatar). Her work on 1986’s Aliens had earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. The cast also includes the return of Lance Henriksen (The Terminator). Charles S. Dutton (Rudy), Charles Dance (The Imitation Game), and Pete Postlethwaite (The Last of the Mohicans) are also featured in this one.
There are a couple of notes that need to be made right away. This film marked the directorial debut of David Fincher. He was brought on at the last-minute, taking on a problem-filled production that didn’t even have a script. During pre-production multiple drafts were written and rejected. The film would officially have three screenwriters (David Giler, Larry Ferguson, and Walter Hill) work on the screenplay. Most of the writers and David Fincher have since disowned or distanced themselves from this film.
This story reflects a lot of the chaos and disorganization of the production. The premise feels forced and never becomes completely developed. The story plays on dystopian imagery built into a science fiction movie. There is seemingly little effort put into the twists and turns which become increasingly predictable as the film moves forward. The dialogue is campy and sometimes annoyingly on-the-nose, leaving little room for tension to build or any sense of mystery. What this one lacks the most is any real success in bridging the horror-science fiction genres. The elements of horror which works so well in the first two films seem to be entirely missing from this one. There is little to nothing in this story that works, and the overall experience is disappointing.
The actors never really had a chance to make anything special happen in this one. Even the strongest of the performances are undercut by the weakness of the writing. The hardest performance to watch might also be the best in the film. While Weaver certainly knows her character, there just wasn’t anything to work with in the script. The rest of the cast fell into similar circumstances. Simple moments feel overblown, and important scenes feel silly and melodramatic. It’s hard to hold any of the talented actors in this film responsible for the failings in the movie. The writing let them down, and no one seemed to find ways to elevate the material.
If there is anything good to talk about, it might be the visuals. While the CGI has aged poorly, there is some unique camera work that really fits into the Fincher filmography. Cineamtographer Alex Thomson (Excalibur) did a great job creating some dynamic visuals that are too good for this story. Some of the action sequences are poorly written, but improved by the way they’re shot. The unfortunate side of this is that the visuals further the divide between this film and the previous two. The camera work starts off working with similar visuals to the previous movies, and then takes a hard turn and brings on a whole new tone. Despite all of the criticisms listed, this one did receive recognition in the form of an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects.
As an isolated film, this one fails at almost every turn. The story is weak, and the lack of commitment to the core genres is painful. The actors had little to work with, and the performances are uninspiring throughout the movie. As a sequel, this is a movie I’d like to overlook. The central creatives behind this movie have disowned it for a number of reasons, and it’s easy to see why. Fans of the first two films might not have much love for this one. If you’re new to the series, just start with the first two films. (Alien and Aliens) I give this one 1 out of 5 stars.