The third and penultimate installment of the Alien franchise is the movie that we are watching today! You can watch James Rolfe’s review of the film here, and you could also watch his review of the NES game in his site, look for it, it’s funny as hell! Onto the review!
The third episode in the story of Lt. Ripley and her encounters with the aliens is maybe one of the most divissive out there, some people absolutely love this movie, while others are out there to tear it to pieces, while a big majority doesn’t care about it one way or the other. On my behalf, what do I think after seeing the Assembly Cut of this movie? It’s good, but it pales in comparison to what was done in ‘Alien’ (1979) and even to what was masterfully achieved in ‘Aliens’ (1986), besides the fact that even the sequel pales in comparison to the original movie. Here we have another thing that can be linked in all three films, in most cases it was mostly novice filmmakers that would go out to make big careers and be nominated for Oscars and stuff like that, they all started with this series, this was either their first or second film in their personal filmography, and in the particular case of this movie, it was the feature film debut of David Fincher, directing a big budget movie from one of the most beloved franchises and for one of the biggest movie companies out there, the 20th Century Fox. What did David Fincher do to achieve such a big kind of trust from all the people around him, either be from the performers, the producers, the screenwriters and all, and the answer to all that was… he didn’t… he didn’t have the trust from anyone, and that’s the main reason for this movie to be the beautiful mess that it ends up being, because it was severely compromised in practically every little detail that Fincher wanted to do, like the religious subtext (that barely survives in this movie, as much as an analysis I want to do on it), or even the producers blocking essential shots because they were fundamented as unusable or pointless. It was a hard shoot, there was close to a thousand script drafts for this movie, even your mom and uncle made a draft of their prefered way of how the Alien franchise would continue (because this is the point in which Alien turned into a franchise and stopped being a series).
The schematic and beautiful scenery as well as the clean and crisp, yet immediatly depresing cinematography is a sure sign that we are seeing Fincher in his most outlandish, sophomorish and at the same time auteurish that he could get. The art direction of this movie is maybe the most extravagant of the series so far, with big sets and sequences that would make anyone scratch their head, for some reason it reminded me of the big sets and places used in the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels that would end up finally making New Line Cinema scrap the sequels in the future. The movie itself is interesting in the way that it presents itself, it’s a shame that the starting point of it actually consists of severing all ties to the previous movie and use a serial logic, by putting stuff that we didn’t see in the last film and that there was no way of checking beforehand… so it turns out not only that there was a facehugger in the ship all along, but it also manages to make the ship catch on fire and then make it crash in a faraway planet, where Ripley turns out to be the only survivor, so practically we’re talking preboot territory if it wasn’t for the knowledge and presence of Ripley in the story, making it like the expert of the movie, and at the same time making her kind of obnoxious, at how she privilegizes her knowledge and wisdom in behalf of the rest of the people, as if she wanted to really make sure she was safe before all the YY prisoners that she is living with right now have a chance to act. Obviously, the alien pops out and here we are on 1979 territory with a stalking game that also combines with elements of action, due to chases and POV shots, but it mostly feels weak.
Yet, for some reason, I can’t be too down on this film, it tries a lot of things, and achieves almost none, but when it matters, it manages to get a reaction out of your body, the visual language here is really impressive for a first time director, he’s not showing off (well, maybe the art direction is a bit, but I find it so great that it doesn’t really matter), he’s just making the kind of film that they want him to do, under his own appreciations and trying to dodge whatever the production company was trying to do with him. In the end, after reading so many reports about the amount of problems that this movie had, it’s a marvel that we have what we have here, a gorgeous film that has no real editing failures, but at the same time lacks a tighter story and a true sense of character. It’s also no wonder why David Fincher shun away from genre work for the rest of his career, and he also didn’t want nothing to do with reissues of this film, only being able to get the Assembly Cut out without his permission. Right now, the film turns out to be the most beautiful mess, but I love when films try hard and fail, it’s so much better than playing safe.