Rewatched May 19, 2012
Marcin Wichary’s review:
Man, does Ripley have a streak of bad luck, or what. The universe had 60 years to figure things out; for us, it’s been thirteen in between the first movie and this. For Ripley, however, we’re talking just a few weeks during which her entire life turns into crap.
Perhaps the Alien universe could be some sort of a film school graduation project, a template for any director to imprint with their own ideas and style. I watched Alien³ marathon-style right after the first two movies, and it couldn’t be any more fascinating to have them juxtaposed this way. Cameron replaced horror elements with balls-to-the-wall action and almost caricatured protagonists; Fincher instead throws in his trademark explorations of despicable people, pseudo-metaphysical elements, and torrents of discomfort and borderline sadism towards the characters.
The problem is, this is his first movie, and he’s not very good at any of it yet.
So, what went wrong? Many things. To start with, all the sacrifice and heroism of the second movie are undone in the first few minutes in a huge middle-finger to both Cameron and the audience. To lash out on Cameron is fine – he deserves it – but us and our emotional involvement? Tsk tsk. Huge faux pas.
And that’s just the beginning. Watching Alien³ reminded me of what Richard Feynman called cargo culting: the movie is essentially trying to replicate the first two without understanding what made them good. We need an alien, of course. We need The Corporation too, so let’s shoehorn it in. The first two movies had arbitrary countdowns, and fake endings? I suppose we need to get all this in. And the icing on the cake is that we sit through a film that not only feels, but even looks like a fourth VHS copy of the original.
Just like Aliens served as almost a demo reel of ideas found in Cameron’s earlier and later movies, for a huge Fincher devotee like me, there are some fascinating moments here hinting at his future mastery, and harking forward to Seven, The game, The girl with the dragon tattoo. But that’s a Fincher fan talking; as a fan of Alien I still wish someone intercepted him before he got involved in this movie, and plain simply yelled: Get away from her, you bitch.