How could I not choose one of the Alien movies as my first Sci-fi review - the franchise if beyond iconic. The story of Ripley, and her fight against the monsters with acid for blood have been a staple for all Sci-fi and Horror movie buffs, myself included. Yes, I tend to laugh when the Alien's burst out of people's chests, but I'm a tad macabre. The challenge came in which Alien movie do I review first? I've always liked #3 - to find out that Ripley has paid the ultimate price was so sad, and we had five years of feeling that way before she was resurrected. I hope I do her justice.
In 1992 #1 Hubby and I, along with our great buddy Flash, rocked up late to see the premiere of Alien 3 . The only seats left were in the front row, at the very end to the left. We spent all movie sunk down in our chairs with our heads twisted to the side, trying to catch all the action! My neck needed physio for a month!!
At that stage, I hadn't seen Alien 1 (1979), and had only seen Aliens (1986) on video. Let's be honest - there are some films that really HAVE to be seen on a big screen. The Alien franchise of films qualify. Firstly - terror begets terror:
- If the person sitting beside you shrieks - you will shriek.
- If the person beside you jumps out of their seat - you will jump out of your seat.
Secondly, the special effects people go to a lot of trouble to make the 'Alien' truly petrifying. That's one of the things about Alien 1 and 2 - you never really get a good look at that sucker - straight out of the Hitchcock book on how to scare without actually showing you anything… just a lot of sticky drooly shit everywhere, and a mean looking head.
Thirdly, we get to see Sigourney Weaver kick some more Alien butt on a nice.big.screen. Have I told you how much I love going to the movies?
So, let's talk Alien 3. Set on a desolate planet, in a maximum-security penal colony populated by religious male convicts: rapists, murders, child molesters - you get the idea - who haven't seen a woman in years. The ship carrying our heroine - Ripley - crash lands, killing the hero character Corporal Hicks and the young girl Newt, two pivotal characters in Aliens, who obviously didn't make the cut for David Fincher.
Fun Fact: Alien 3 was David Fincher's directorial feature film debut.
Let's make some introductions:
- Ripley - the awesome, iconic and powerful Ripley played by the equally awesome, iconic and powerful Sigourney Weaver. She needs no further introduction - shame on you if you don't know who she is.
- Dillon - played by Charles S Dutton. You know you're acting royalty when there's a middle initial involved. Dillon is the spiritual and de facto leader of the inmates, who likes to use iron bars to keep the peace.
- Clemens - played by Charles Dance, dare I say best known for his role as Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones. Looking very young for the short period of time he's on film, as the doctor who was also an inmate at one time. A bit tricky.
- The Warden - played by Brian Glover, an esteemed English actor. The Warden of 25 prisoners who stayed on to maintain a defunct lead smelter after it was closed.
- Bishop the android - the character, played by Lance Henriksen, first appeared in Aliens and got all smashed up at the start of this film. Would have been a rather lean pay packet.
- Pete Postlethwaite - the brilliant English actor - plays a convict named David. Now Wikipedia say's the character's name is David Postlethwaite - I nearly fell for it! But because I fact check (ha!), I can assure you that that's not true. I've added him here because I think he's awesome. And I love saying Postlethwaite. Postlethwaite.
It helps to know what happened at the end of Aliens - or Alien 2 - for the uninitiated. After a spectacular fight between Ripley and the Alien Queen, with one of the all-time great catch-cry's:
Ripley: Get away from her, you bitch!
Ripley, believing she has beaten the Alien, places the injured Hicks, Newt and then herself in cryogenic stasis with the ship on its way back to earth.
It also helps to know just how the Alien reproduces. There is a Queen - who lays poddy-things. Out of the poddy-things come these face-sucky-things that look like spindly hands that clamp onto your face and stick a tube down your throat, which impregnates you… Along comes Junior, who is born by bursting his way out of your chest. Junior then grows up to become the wonderful Alien who rips people apart for sport.
Remember, whilst classified as a Sci-fi film, this is also under the Horror movie banner. It is going to get gruesome people!
Alien 3 begins with a view of the three sleeping beauties, and an empty poddy-thing hanging over their stasis pods. The spindly fingers of the face-sucky-thing taps its way up the glass of Newts pod before it CRACKS!! it open. An X-ray shows the creature wrapped around its victim's face. But the creature has injured itself - its green blood is pure acid and starts to dissolve the floor below, and the floor below it, and the next one…
Over the loud-speaker, we can hear that stasis has been interrupted - there is a fire!! All pods are moved to the Escape Module which has been ejected and is hurtling towards the planet below. After crash landing - which just so happens to be right next to the penal colony... the only life on the entire planet! - the prisoners open the hatch to find that only Ripley has survived - I mean honestly, you'd think they would design these Escape Module's better so you'd survive the landing.
So, there's a dog. And like all good dogs, when something's up they make a fuss. This dog - lets' call him dog - will not shut up. Dog is at the door to the Escape Module, and as he looks in, we see one of those face-sucky-things crawling along the roof… it reminds me of a giant Huntsman spider crossed with a massive crab. The dog stops barking. Ominous.
**Edit: Ok we have to stop here - my cousin Paul won't know what ominous means. It means that something threatening or alarming is afoot. He should get that. Though I might have to explain afoot.**
The Warden: This is rumour control - here are the facts!
Our warden loves to provide the facts! He updates his prisoners who are none too happy to learn that there is a woman on their happy little planet. They have taken vows of celibacy people! The prisoners want Ripley off the planet asap - she will upset the harmony of their little community. A rescue team has been called for and is on its way.
Ripley is to be confined to the infirmary and can only leave if she has an escort.
Clemens tends to a battered and bruised Ripley who, upon hearing that everyone else has died, wants to see the Escape Module. Clemens describes how Hicks was impaled by a safety beam; Newt drowned in her cryogenic tube; and Bishop, the android, was in pieces and is now at the tip. As Ripley surveys the damage, she sees the tell-tale signs of the Alien acid-burn-marks on Newts cryogenic tube and demands to see the bodies - could it be that the Alien attacked Newt and caused the fire??
Well fuck me, of course it is! We know that - come on Ripley I know you have a head injury but catch up!
As Ripley asks for a moment alone with Newt, she starts to feel around her throat and chest, searching inside her mouth - looking for any signs of a face-sucky-thing. She pressures Clemens into doing an autopsy - suggesting that cholera was the cause of death. Cholera - a disease that hasn't been around for more than 200yrs. For some bizarro, Clemens concedes. As he cracks open Newts chest - and as the music swells, ominously - Ripley cautions Clemens to be careful. But there's no need - there is no Junior currently in residence in the little girl's chest. Only fluid… she drowned.
**Edit: Come on now Paul, we've already been through this. Ominously means that there is something disturbing or distressing going. That should be clear enough**
The Warden blusters in, full of warnings for Ripley about the quality of the men in his facility - they will fuck her over given the opportunity. He will however allow her to cremate the bodies of Newt and Hicks - there is that pesky possibility of cholera after-all!
As the men gather for the funeral, with the Warden reading a passage from the bible - the old 'ashes to ashes' - and Dillon saying a few words from the heart, we see that Dog is sick. His face has laceration marks on it, like something clamped down real hard on it. He paces, back and forth - in pain. And as the bodies of Newt and Hicks are thrust into the furnace, new life bursts from Dog's chest, killing him instantly.
This creature - this Alien - is different from the ones we've seen before. This Alien looks more like the dog who birthed it… oh ok - so now the fuckers take on the characteristics of their hosts. Well that's just fantastic.
It's a new day. It must be cause Ripley's bloodied and swollen eye has mysteriously cleared up. My guess is Sigourney Weaver got sick of wearing the great big red contact lens that was so obviously making her eye look all swollen and she was like - yeah, nup - I'm not wearing that fucker anymore. She's also shaved her head - the only way people in the future can deal with lice - and I might add is completely authentic, so well done Sigourney Weaver, well done.
And then Ripley does the one thing she was asked not to do - she leaves the infirmary unaccompanied, for the mess hall - where she seeks out Dillon.
Ripley: I just wanted to say thanks for what you said at the funeral, my friends would have appreciated…
Dillon: Yeah well, you don't want to know me lady. I'm a murderer and rapist of women.
Ripley: Really! Well I guess I must make you nervous.
It's about time we see our Alien and our first death. As per the SOP for death by Alien, victim #1 steps in the sticky gooey substance our Alien likes to leave behind - and in this instance, a nice chunk of skin to show that it's growing. Fast. Victim #1 thinks he sees his dog, hiding away in a dark crevice of the tunnel that he's working in. And as he reaches in to grab for Dog, the Alien uncurls and attacks him! Victim #1 recoils - his face has been messed up - and loses his footing, falling down the tunnel, towards the fan. The fan that's still on.
HOLY SHIT!! The fan dices victim #1 into a chopped salad. OMFG!! Call WorkCover!
Let's change it up. Ripley has seduced Clemens - not really sure why. She's either really horny - it's possible - or she doesn't want to tell him she's worried an Alien might have attacked and killed Newt, so she seduced him in an attempt to shut him up. Did it work Ripley?
Clemens: I really appreciate your affections… but I am aware that they deflected my question. In the nicest possible way, of course.
Obviously not. So, Ripley lies - she had a bad dream in hyper-sleep. Yep. But hang on - why does Clemens have a bar-code tattoo on the back of his head, like a prisoner? It's his turn to deflect.
Upon hearing that a man has died Ripley returns to the Escape Module, continuing to ignore all 'advice' about wandering around alone. She's looking for the black-box but needs the android in order to access the info. Clemens tells her where to find Bishop - he's at the tip remember dear reader - but not before confronting her. Clemens found burn marks similar to the ones that Ripley found on Newts cryogenic tube. What the fuck is going on?? Come on Ripley, you're pissing me off!!
Whilst Clemens meets with the Warden, Ripley goes to the tip in search for Bishop. He's pretty easy to find but then again, so is Ripley. A group of prisoners have found her and they're hell-bent on raping her. Until Dillon shows up with a metal pipe and beats the crap out of them.
Dillon: Take off! I gotta re-educate some of the brothers. We gotta discuss some matters of the spirit.
It's about time the death count increases. Victims #2, #3 and #4 are doing some sort of shit in the tunnels with candles - fucked if I know what it is - but victim #2 retraces their steps to check that the candles remain lit. He finds the gooey stuff dripping off the ceiling, before the Alien rears up in front of him - holy shit has it grown!! It towers over its victim - lifting victim #2 off the floor as he is RIPPED!! apart. Victims #3 and #4 catch a glimpse of the carnage and bolt - and, not knowing where the tunnels are taking them - they end up back where they started.
As they look upon the bloodied corpse of victim #2, victim #3 looks up - as the Alien grabs and SHREDS!! him in front of victim #4, who becomes drenched in blood. You know what - this fucker escapes!! A round of applause for victim #4!
He is brought into the infirmary, covered in blood and babbling that his friends were killed by a dragon. In a straight-jacket, the Warden accuses victim #4 of killing his fellow prisoners. Dillon is trying to be the voice of reason - this prisoner has never lied to him before.
In the next cubicle, Ripley has hooked up Bishop and wants to know what caused the emergency on the ship. Ripley hears what we heard at the start of the movie - there was a fire. But she wants more - she wants to know if there was an Alien on board. Bishop confirms that there was and worse - it came down to the planet with them in the Escape Module.
And the company knows it all and wants the Alien caught alive. Motherfuckers!!
Ripley finally tells the Warden what she knows, describing the Alien in detail. Ripley learns that there are no guns or weapons - not like Aliens where they blew the shit out of them! - and they can't escape... they're in a fucking prison!! Come on Ripley, haven't we had this conversation already?? Use your bloody brain.
Ripley: This is a maximum-security prison, and you have no weapons of any kind?
The Warden: We have some carving knives in the abattoir, a few more in the mess hall…
Ripley: That's all?
The Warden: We're on the honour system.
Ripley:Then we're fucked!
Ripley has been sent back to the infirmary - and she's feeling a bit off. Coughing… sick to the stomach. As Clemens administers his drug cocktail, he finally tells Ripley why he was prisoner. He did a 36hr shift, went out and got blotto, got called back in for a mass casualty and killed 11 people after prescribing the wrong dosage of meds. He stayed on with the guys here at the smelter out of guilt. He's a good guy. And that's where Clemens' journey ends…
The Alien grabs him from behind and POPS!! his head like a fucking melon!! Off to Game of Thrones!
Ripley shrinks away from the Alien - cowering up against a wall. As the Alien comes for her - slime dripping from its mouth - it slowly opens it jaws, a second set of chops slowly comes out - reaching for Ripley's face.
When I first saw this at the cinema, I could not believe that Ripley would be able to walk away from this. But she did - the Alien pulls away and escapes, up into the roof crawl-space.
What the fuck just happened?
Ripley has to warn everyone!! She starts to run towards the mess hall where the Warden has gathered all the prisoners.
The Warden: Once again this is rumour control. Here are the facts.
And as the Warden imparts 'the facts' as he believes them to be i.e. Victim #1 fell into a fan and victims #2 and #3 were murdered by victim #4 - who should really be called something else, but the reality is he's about to die so you-know… Ripley bursts in shouting:
Ripley: It's here!...
The Warden: Stop this raving at once…
Ripley: I'm telling you it's here!
The Warden: Mr Aaron get this foolish woman back to the infirmary!
And the Alien promptly grabs the Warden by the head and pulls him up through the roof. Blood and muck abound. Fucking awesome!!
Well that got everyone's attention! What the fuck are they going to do now? The Warden is dead - victim #5. The Doctor is dead - victim #6. And the next-in-charge is a dude who was the Warden's assistant - Aaron or '85' as the prisoners like to call him… a nickname based on his IQ points. A name he despises.
Nobody wants to lead! Dillon is the obvious choice - the prisoners listen to him. But Ripley understands the Alien so they need her help. Step up Ripley!!
Plan #1 - Trap the Alien in a chamber that is currently storing nuclear waste. To corral the creature towards the chamber, spread the highly flammable toxic waste and - when ready - ignite it using mining flares.
What could go wrong?
BTW, good to see Pete Postlethwaite make an appearance as a super-smart prisoner. Postlethwaite. Postlethwaite.
Victim #7 died when the Alien grabbed him by the head whilst he was going up an access ladder. Victims #8 through #17 died in the resulting explosion and fire-ball, after victim #7's bucket fell to the ground, followed closely by the mining flare. Yep.
Fun Fact: A fire needs three things to exist: Fuel, Oxygen and an Ignition Source or Heat. This is known as the Fire Triangle. You're welcome.
The prisoners are scared and floundering; Dillon calls for the rest of the prisoners to come down to the furnace - he's hatching up a plan. Ripley can't help - she's crook. She heads to the Escape Module to run a full-body scan - she's worried she has internal injuries. '85' follows her to help and as he looks on, the scan identifies a foreign body.
There's a Junior Alien growing in Ripley's chest. Holy Fuck!!
The only thing left to do is for Ripley to die before her foetal Alien is ready to hatch - it can't leave the planet. And with the rescue ship only two hours away and demanding that Ripley be quarantined, '85' is in a quandary - he just wants to go home to his wife and kids.
I have to say, the CGI of the rescue ship nearing the planet are a complete joke - not worthy of a movie from this era. Disappointing.
So Ripley goes hunting - in the basement - where all good monsters go to sleep.
Ripley: Don't be afraid… I'm part of the family.
Finding a metal bar, she strikes out at the Aliens head! And breaks open an old, rotted pipe full of cockroaches - yes people, cockroaches have survived on a completely different planet!
And then behind her, the Alien drops to the ground. And I'm expecting some kind of showdown but nuh, it won't kill her - she's carrying a fucking Queen! The next thing we see is Ripley asking Dillon to kill her. Where's my showdown??!!! Who cut this film - the continuity sucks!!
Ripley: … I need you to kill me.
Dillon: What the fuck are you talking about?!!
Ripley: I'm dead anyway! I can't survive it!! But the one inside of me can generate thousands more. It has to die… so somebody's gotta kill me. Are you up to it?
Dillon: You don't have to worry about that.
And with an axe he found from somewhere Dillon strikes out at Ridley, who has lined herself up against the bars of his cell. But instead of killing Ripley, he hits the bars instead.
Dillon: … As long as it's alive sister you're not gonna save any universe.
Ripley: You fucking coward!!
Dillon: … I want to get this thing and I need you to do it. If it won't kill you then maybe that helps us fight it. Otherwise, fuck you!
Ripley: Dillon - we waste this thing; and then you take care of me.
Dillon: No problem. Quick! Easy and Painless!!
The surviving prisoners gather for a pow-wow, with Dillon taking charge. He - like Ripley - wants to go after the fucker. '85' and more than a few of the other prisoners want to wait until extra fire power comes with the rescue ship. Except that's not what the ship is coming for.
Whining prisoner #1: … Why do we have to go on some fucking suicide run?
Ripley: Because they won't kill it! They might kill you just for having seen it, but they're not going to kill it.
'85': That is crazy! That is horse shit! They will NOT kill us!!
Pete Postlethwaite: Have you got some sort of plan?
Dillon: This is a lead works isn't it? All we gotta do is lure the fucking beast into the mould! Shroud it in hot lead!
Whining prisoner #1: … So how do we do that?
Whining prisoner #2: Yeah, what are we gonna use for bait?
Well I think that would be fucking obvious, don't you??!!!
Whining prisoner #3: Ohhh fuck!!
Dillon: You're all gonna die. The only question is how you check out. Do you want it on your feet? Or on your fucking knees… begging? I ain't much for begging!! Nobody ever gave me nothing… So I say FUCK that thing! Let's fight it!!
Plan #2 - Each person has to act like bait, luring the Alien through their door and once the Alien is through, the door is closed behind it. The Alien's access gets more limited the closer it gets to the furnace. Once the Alien is in the corridor leading to the mould, the piston is to be activated, which will trap the Alien inside the mould. Once inside the mould, molten lead will be poured onto the beast.
Best plan yet!
It's been five or six years since the lead works was last used so there is no guarantee that every door will close as requested. The piston, once activated can't be stopped. Will it work? Nobody has a fucking clue!
Best plan yet!
Victim #18 was for lunch - I have no bloody clue what happened to him. I don't think anyone does.
But it means the chase has started.
Whining prisoner #4: Yoohoo, hey fuckface! Come and get me!!
This Alien is easily provoked. What a wanker. We see the chase from its perspective as it runs across the ceiling, down the walls - whichever way it wants.
I'm also disappointed with the optics of the Alien as we see it run - very ordinary. But I digress.
The plan is working - so far no one has died. No, wait - I spoke too soon. Victim #19 wasn't paying attention and walked straight into the Alien. Idiot. My good bud Pete Postlethwaite was also looking the wrong way and got sucker-punched by that second mouth thingy. He no longer has a head. Victim #20. See ya Pete. Postlethwaite. Postlethwaite.
Bye-bye victim #21. You should have looked up. But wait - Dillon comes across the scene and, dropping his axe, drags his fellow prisoner out of the Alien's clutches and along the tunnel into the corridor. Dillon - you shouldn't have bothered. Victim #21 died in your arms, the Alien poked his nose in - sussed it out and saw that it was a trap and said yeah, nup - and victim #22 panicked and flipped the switch for the piston. The plan looks to be ruined!
It's a race against time to close any remaining access doors and to lure the Alien back into the corridor before the piston seals in the mould. Victim #22 got sooo close - he was running flat-out and was right at the threshold. Jesus Christ! This Alien has worked its way through the prisoners exceptionally well!!
Ripley's not going too well - she's about ready to pop. Will she be able to keep that Alien foetus from ever being born?
Victim #23 and 'the last man standing' smash into each other, scaring the crap out of one another! And as they have a bit of a chuckle, the Alien just… BLASTS! through victim #23. He never stood a chance. Ripley comes across the scene, and with time running out she provokes the Alien with everything she has - at one point, even grabbing the beast by the tail. And he won't take the bait.
Until Dillon turns up and grabs Ripley, dragging her back into the mould corridor. And because there is more food to be had, the Alien follows - it can't help itself. 'The last man standing' closes the last door behind the Alien and then rushes upstairs to the molten lead - someone has to pour it into the mould. The piston has done its job and closed the Alien inside the mould - along with Ripley and Dillon.
Ripley: I'm staying … I'm telling you I want to die!
Dillon: We had a deal - remember?!! It dies first, then you. I'm not gonna move without 'cha…
But the Alien wants to feast on Dillon… every time he starts to climb up the walls of the mould - so too does the Alien. And when he comes back down - so too does the Alien. Dillon's going to have to stay in the mould. Victim #24.
'The last man standing' pours the molten lead onto the Alien, to the accompaniment of a triumphant fanfare. They've done it!! Fuck yeah!!
And as 'the last man standing' shouts out something unintelligible, the Alien BURSTS!! out of the molten bath - that is one tough motherfucker!!
As Ripley clambers up, away from the Alien and the molten lead, chased by - one assumes - an INCENSED Alien - 'the last man standing' yells out for Ripley to go for the sprinklers.
Ripley jumps across to the chain and as she pulls it, a torrent of water rains down on the Alien - who EXPLODES!!! Chunks fall everywhere!! Outstanding!!!
You would think that this movie could easily end right there, but no - Ripley has a Junior Alien in her that is literally, moments away from exploding out of her chest. People - she looks like shit.
Whilst the prisoners of this forsaken planet took care of one Alien pest problem, the 'Rescue Ship' has arrived - with '85' standing by, waiting for them like a whiny little bitch. They've missed all the fun - but have turned up just as Ripley and 'the last man standing' are about to make their way off the crane.
The company pricks have Ripley and 'the last man standing' surrounded. To make matters worse, they've brought in a bloke who looks just like Bishop - can he be real? Or is he Bishop the android 2.0. The company sent him there to show Ripley a friendly face.
Ripley: You just want to take it back.
Bishop 2.0: We want to kill it and take you home.
Bishop 2.0: You're wrong, we want to help.
Ripley: What does that mean?
Bishop 2.0: We're going to take that out of you. We can't allow it to live! Everything we know would be in jeopardy.
Ripley: … What guarantee do I have, once you've taken it out that you'll destroy it?
Bishop 2.0: You'll have to trust me… please? Trust me?
Now, the entire time this exchange has been going on Bishop 2.0 was advancing whilst Ripley and 'the last man standing' were backing up onto the crane, until Ripley was able to - rather emphatically - close the gate to the crane, right in Bishop 2.0's face. They move the crane away from the platform towards the furnace - continuing on even after 'the last man standing' is shot in the leg.
And, for reasons I really can't figure out '85' decides to change sides and is now on team Ripley. He grabs a metal bar - really these things are everywhere - and clocks Bishop 2.0 around the head. Now, if Bishop 2.0 really was a man he'd be, at the very least, incapacitated somehow. Not Bishop. He jumps back up with his left ear hanging around his jaw and starts yelling at Ripley. I guess we now know that he's a droid. And '85' is shot for his troubles. Victim #25.
Bishop 2.0: Ripley - think of all we could learn from it. It's a chance of a lifetime! You MUST let me have it. It's a magnificent specimen.
With the crane positioned over the furnace Ripley, without a word, opens her arms out and falls backwards. As she plummets towards the flames, the Junior Alien BURSTS!! out of her chest and - with her very last ounce of energy - she grabs hold of the Alien, hugging it to her as the furnace flames envelope her.
A fitting end.
You can imagine the fans surprise when a fourth Alien instalment was announced in 1997 - fittingly called Resurrection - with Ripley well and truly in a starring role. How the hell did they manage that!
I think the Alien movies rock! They have a truly, truly evil guy - the creature can't be bribed or coerced in any way. The Alien is the ultimate bad guy, and ticks so many boxes - Sci-fi, Horror, Action. Is Alien 3 the best Alien movie - a lot of reviewers would say no. But I loved it - maybe because of the smelter setting!
Or maybe it's because I just like saying Postlethwaite. Postlethwaite.