“You’re all going to die – the only question is how you check out.”

That line, uttered by Dillon (Charles S Dutton) to the rabble of prisoners on Fiorina 161, pretty much sums up the ethos of Alien 3.

Grim, dour, depressing and with a sizeable void where the thought of optimism should be, the film is comfortably the darkest in the xenomorph franchise.

Which is probably why I love it.

In fact, love is probably downplaying it a bit, considering the fact I watched the whole thing through again on TV last night until the wee small hours, despite owning multiple versions on both video and DVD.

Now I am not about to tell you that David Fincher’s movie is the best in the series, because it isn’t.

But for me Alien 3 is easily the second best – after the original of course.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Aliens as much as the next fanboy, but for me this third outing has an edge which the wise-cracking Colonial Marines can never attain.

Even more bizarre I suppose when you consider the various hatchet jobs that went on in the production of this offering, from butchered scripts, to dismantled sets and high-profile fall-outs over the editing process.

My love for Alien 3 goes right back to the cinema release in summer 1992 – having lapped up the first two entries at some house parties with fellow schoolkids, I had a real sense of excitement on my trek to Cardiff’s Queen Street.

A gang came along with me, and my first taste of just what a divisive movie this is came when we emerged blinking into the sunlight at the conclusion.

Whereas I was raving about how good it was, the others were practically foaming at the mouth with rage.

And that process has pretty much continued to this day I feel, with every Alien 3 lover drowned out by a catcall of people who really, and I mean really, had a problem with it.

Back in the day, the most coherent argument that I could get out of my fellow attendees was that their vitriol was down to the fact that ‘it wasn’t like Aliens’ – in other words they simply expected another shoot-em-up.

But surely that is a good thing?

Setting the action on a dismal prison planet, with a host of pretty unlikeable characters was a bold choice no doubt, but it takes the legacy in a different direction, rather than being a mere retread.

The other issue most people have with it, obviously, is the offscreen demise of both Newt and Corporal Hicks from the earlier film, meeting a sticky end of sorts in their hypersleep chambers.

Again, I have no issue with this, as ditching those characters allows Alien 3 to streamline things down to what it should be – Ripley versus the creature.

Now if they had failed to mention either Newt or Hicks at all that would be a very different matter, but killing them off like that is certainly not the ‘slap in the face’ that James Cameron insisted it was.

We also get Bishop thrown into the mix in a number of capacities, as well as the villainous Weyland-Yutani corporation up to their usual tricks – all good stuff.

And at the centre of it all is a stunning performance from Sigourney Weaver as Ripley herself.

Drained, gaunt and very much xenomorph-weary, Weaver is on top form here and really drives the whole thing along.

Add some well-known British faces to a script that has a lot more realism than the macho posturings of its predecessor and you have a winner of a cast.

As if all that wasn’t enough, you also get a tremendously ominous score from Jerry Goldsmith, and the closing scenes are extremely powerful.

Even better is the assembly cut housed on the DVD box set, offering up another 30 minutes of religious overtones and character development.

Yes, there are gripes – the final 20-minutes or so does resemble a slasher movie in space, and there are some truly awful effects throughout, but these are very minor quibbles.

To survey the film criticism landscape, it does appear that with each passing year, more and more people are begrudgingly admitting that Alien 3 is not the disaster they first thought – a feeling which looms heavily into view when you consider Alien: Resurrection and Prometheus.

I don’t think the day will ever come when that is the common thought, but if it ever does, it will be about bloody time.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.

  • A fan

    Having watched the franchise numerous times, I also agree that this is the second best in the series. I love this film. Although I should point that no CGI was used in the movie, that’s a common misconception: it was actually puppetry over the move frames. CGI wasn’t used until Alien Resurrection.

  • Kell

    I absolutely agree with you! I saw the assembly cut again last night and I firmly believe that it is the second best movie of the franchise. So depressing and dark, which is realistic given the nature of the alien and the trials that Ripley went through.
    The older I get the more I realise that Aliens is really just a gung-ho action movie, and I prefer the suspense and horror that was prevalent through the first movie.
    Sigourney was amazing in Alien 3, and it is sad to think that it is very unlikely that we will see another heroine in dirty dodgy fitting clothes, no make-up and emotionally bare to the bones.
    I love this film and I hope more and more people watch the assembly cut.