Dear Alien 3,
Surely, it is no secret how passionately I love thee. Our enduring love affair began when I was ten years old (Scandalous, I know), but my feelings for you have only deepened and grown during that time together. My loyalty has never wavered. I've defended you time and again from the haters and naysayers, and I dare say that, as the years pass, I've come to appreciate your nuances, layers, and uniqueness more than ever.
It may be impossible for me to put into words what exactly you mean to me, as a hardcore member of the Alien franchise fandom, but here are a few reasons why you definitively deserve our love:
Alien 3 is the perfect ending for the character and story of Ellen Ripley.
Alien 3 is a bold and admittedly divisive film that ignored audience expectations in service of its complex and compelling lead character, Ellen Ripley, who is superbly portrayed throughout the series by actress Sigourney Weaver.
While there are many who still lament the deaths of Hicks and Newt during the opening credits of the film, this shocking turn of events cleared the board, putting the focus directly on our lone heroine, challenging her in ways that hadn't been seen yet in the franchise, and saving the character from a paint-by-numbers sequel that saw her once again grabbing her flamethrower and gearing up for a battle with a xenomorph that she'd eventually chuck out the airlock. Ripley's final journey in the third film is a dark, nihilistic descent into a metaphorical (and many times literal) hell and, understandably, it’s a hard pill to swallow and not what audiences expected or wanted for the character that had been so triumphant and heroically successful in the previous film helmed by James Cameron. But that’s what makes Alien 3 rise above its status as a third film in a studio franchise. This is a film that asks what’s left when you have everything taken away from you. What will you do when you have every reason to give up on not only yourself, but the world (or even the entire universe) around you?
Alien 3 may be a nightmare for the cast of characters trapped on the prison planet of Fury 161, but it certainly proved a tour de force for its lead actress. Showcasing Ripley’s incredible strength, vulnerability, and nearly everything in between, Weaver’s performance is beautifully captured by director David Fincher’s moody and bleak visual style. Ripley’s final scene, where she heroically defies the devil’s bargain offered by Weyland-Yutani and metaphorically throws herself into the gears of the machine, is the perfect ending for the character, the movie, and the trilogy. Few iconic characters get such finality, let alone a conclusion that is so emotionally heartbreaking and stone cold badass at the same time.
Alien 3 is the fantastic ending for the xenomorph.
Not only did the third film in the franchise build off the already established mythology by developing a terrifying and thematically perfect link between Ripley and the xenomorph due to the Queen embryo she discovers she is carrying inside her, but Alien 3 also introduced the concept of the creature taking specific elements from its host, resulting in a streamlined and swift beast that Fincher apparently described as a locomotive mixed with a jaguar.
Fincher and his team also steered the franchise back toward its horror roots after Cameron’s infusion of action in the second film. In addition, Alien 3 really added to the legend of the outright deadliness of the xenomorph species, something that’s been lost in films that followed, like AvP and Alien: Covenant. The xenomorph is a force of nature in Alien 3, nothing escapes it, much like death. By the end of the film, every soul that stepped foot on LV-426 is dead as a result of the alien species found there, and the fear of one single xenomorph reaching a populated planet like Earth actually feels like a legitimate threat.
It's not a "safe" film by any means.
One thing Alien 3 cannot be accused of is being a safe, cookie-cutter franchise film. Unwilling to ride the fumes of Cameron’s creation, Alien 3 subverts every element of the previous film, featuring no guns, a cast of hardened convicts with no real “good guys,” and the merciless need to kill off beloved characters in an abundance that would make George R.R. Martin gasp in shock. Alien 3 is not afraid to be dark, complex, or weird, and the result is a film that feels more arthouse than blockbuster.
The film shouldn't be this good.
As many know, the story behind the making of this film is such a disaster that it’s now considered a textbook example of horrible productions at certain film schools. Due to a rush to meet a deadline despite the lack of a finished script, a studio lacking trust in its 28-year-old director, and much, much more, Alien 3 really has no reason to be half as good as the final product is. (For more details on the troubled production, I recommend checking out the Wreckage and Rage: Making Alien 3 documentary by Charles de Lauzirika).
While Fincher refuses to do a director’s cut (and walked off the film before even finishing editing the theatrical cut), there has been an alternate “assembly cut” released that features more of Fincher’s original footage, and many consider it even superior to theatrical release. No matter which cut you view, similar to Rogue One, Alien 3 is an impressive achievement with a troubled past.
Elliot Goldenthal's outstanding score.
Much like the gothic set pieces, the score for Alien 3 elevates the film in powerful ways. Goldenthal apparently recorded the music during the Los Angeles riots in 1992 and has stated that he believes that violent event added to the score’s disturbing and fatalistic nature. Goldenthal’s music is haunting, captivating, unsettling, and more. Instead of reading more of my written description, readers should probably just take a listen of the video below:
I love you, Alien 3. That’s never going to change.