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Entry updated 24 September 2021. Tagged: Film.

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Film (1992). A Brandywine Production/Twentieth Century Fox. Directed by David Fincher. Written by David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson, based on a story by Vincent Ward. Cast includes Charles Dance, Charles S Dutton, Brian Glover, Lance Henriksen, Paul McGann and Sigourney Weaver. 110 minutes. Colour.

One of Hollywood's occasional, strange films so unmitigatedly uncommercial that it is impossible to work out why they were ever made. The film had an unusually troubled development history, previous screenwriters having included William Gibson and Eric Red, and previous directors Renny Harlin and Vincent Ward (director of The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey [1988]); some of Ward's story ideas were retained, and the final script was reworked by producers Hill and Giler. The latter has said that he sees a subtext about the AIDS virus in this film, and the film itself supports this. The final director, Fincher, had previously been known primarily for his inventive rock videos.

Ripley (Weaver, who also has a credit as producer), having twice survived alien apocalypse (see Alien; Aliens) crashlands on a Prison planet occupied by a displeasing men-only group of double-Y-chromosomed mass murderers and rapists, who have now adopted a form of Christian fundamentalism, as well as three variously psychopathic minders. Her companions on the ship are dead, but she brings (unknown to her) an alien parasite within her and an external larva hiding in her ship. The latter grows, kills, grows again, lurks, and wipes out most of the base (as before). But the – again female – alien seems somehow unimportant this time; the film's twin centres are the awfulness of the prison, explicitly and repeatedly compared to a cosmic anus, and the pared-to-the-bone Ripley, head shaven, face anguished, torso skinny, sister and mirror image of Alien herself: her sole function is as victim. Even the ongoing feminist joke (Ripley is as ever the one with metaphoric balls) is submerged in the bewildering, monochrome intensity of pain and dereliction, photographed in claustrophobic close-up throughout, that is the whole of this film. All else – including narrative tension and indeed the very idea of story – is subjugated to this grim motif. This (probably bad) film is almost admirable in its refusal to give the audience any solace or entertainment at all. At the end, Ripley immolates herself for the greater good, falling out of life as an alien bursts from her chest; she cradles it like a blood-covered baby as she falls away and away into the fires of purgatory. The novelization is Alien³ (1992) by Alan Dean Foster; in addition, William Gibson's unused draft script was eventually novelized by Pat Cadigan as Alien³ (2021). [PN]

further reading

  • David Thomson. The Alien Quartet (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998) [nonfiction: #4 in the publisher's Bloomsbury Movie Guide series: pb/photographic]


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