The version of Alien 3 looked at will be Fincher’s Director’s cut. Any thought for the theatrical version will be for another occasion…
Alien 3 (1992)
So after having watched Prometheus, I decided to return to the earlier Alien films and see what minerals could be found. I first started with Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). I had the bug. I next turned over to Cameron’s Aliens (1986); after viewing I felt some disappointment; perhaps because I was comparing one with another. I made a comparison to a friend saying, “Ridley is to Kubrick as Cameron is to Spielberg.” My ego was boosted by an assent of agreement at my little logical paradigm. I now wanted to watch Alien 3.
Before watching Fincher’s first major film I looked up reviews and found the following headers:
“An abomination of near epic proportions.”
“One of the most disappointing sequels of all time!”
“Kill me! Please!”
“Absolutely bloody terrible!”
The opening of Alien 3 is terrifying. It is a terror of the unknown and the material. The editing and the music weave in such a way that he viewer is stunned. The splicing of genre is working to deeply unsettle. The screen flickers, flinches, and cracks, juxtaposing the cryostasis horror with the dark void above – cold, frozen, lost. The music is bone chilling and the lack of dialogue furthers a growing terror.
The crashing into the ocean is epic and visually mesmerizing. The screen has a mystical silvery pastel feel to it; also an earthy feel. I think this works to create and build for the viewer the illusion of realism. The silence continues to build the horror and we become more involved in this world due to a sense of perspective that we have been handed. The tension builds. The human voice is still silent; perhaps this is the world where the elastic band has finally snapped.
Fincher masterfully weaves ellipsis throughout Alien 3. The viewer is stunned at such subtle film making. The opening is the clue to the elliptical nature of the film. It is like a game of ‘now you see me and now you don’t’. Fincher is working with psychology as device – and it is one that strikes our unconscious…long after the film’s credits have rolled.
At content level such ellipsis is explicit. We see a monk like person – Clemens (Charles Dance)-and we want to know the nature of this person. Who is he? Ripley is all the time asking the same question: Clemens is asking the same question of Ripley. Even after their intimate encounter they do not really know and neither do we. We are slightly stunned when we eventually learn more about Clemens; and this psychological device is the keystone for the film’s impact.
Here is the archetypal cat and mouse game. It is not just the alien that becomes the threat. It is an archetypal game, and one that runs the full concourse of the film.
In a sense the drive is for information and for power and for control. Emblematically this is played out in Andrew’s office with the pass the parcel of the mug of tea. Eventually ‘85’ will be handed the cup. The mode of existence is survival and to drink from the cup is perhaps to undo one’s power. In the face of murder and brutality one stays alive by playing the game.
There are moments throughout the film that allude to earth- the home planet. Such thoughts are strewn with icy disdain that earth becomes a place to detest. Who wants to go back? Seemingly no one; or it could be the inverse of this that the souls have become so black that such beauty (of a beautiful earth) could only be but foul to those souls lost in the darkness. There is a duality of sorts taking place here. Some characters, although away from earth, are psychologically still on earth. 85 is a clear representation of this thinking – wife, kids, home, money. Dillon represents something else, his is a reaching for value beyond material gain – God, redemption, freedom.
In Alien 3 the Xenomorphe is more metaphor than alien. The alien becomes the mirror of evil; the hidden hand of a malevolent universe. The interesting line is where Ripley will refer to the Xenomorphe as “the beast”. Hold on a moment, what did she say? The beast? The theme of Good vs Evil has now taken on another darker hue. The line further cements the earlier incantations to God and Religion. There is a hidden power that wants to decimate, to corrupt, and to deceive; and with such medieval and religious subtext we have what could only be described as a Miltonian Paradise Lost.
Alien 3 becomes a study in human psychology. All along the line we think ‘85’ is weak, perhaps android, certainly a sheep. Dillon is a rapist and a self-confessed killer. He speaks words that become universal for the outcast that does not want society and that lives for other values; like Braveheard, Gladiator, Henry V, his words are powerful and rising in the face of battle – but they become even more large and rousing; Dillon is outcast; without title; without name; knowing death is close at hand. Even when the chips are down, even when defeat is staring us in the face, Dillon symbolizes a victory in the face of defeat.
I am still finding it tough to come to terms with “Golic”. At first we learn that he is a despised member of the smaller expedition groups – he smells and he is crazy. Golic is perhaps the archetypal Shaman; the character that is the visible warning sign of evil to come – perhaps that is one reading. The lock-up scene where Golic cuts the guard’s throat is shocking. He says, “I’m sorry!” before bringing out his blade. Golic has now turned killer. But what type of killer? And why does he enter the Lock-Up and release “The Dragon”? In Western mythology, like “the beast” the dragon is always something represented as evil/wicked; it is for this reason that there is the expression, “to slay the dragon.” I would speculate at this time that “the beast” and “the dragon” represent the hidden recesses of our dark natures and that Golic is that force allowing the archetypal fight to commence: without Golic we fight each other, and even in winning, we lose.
For Fincher’s first film, this is a massive triumph.