After escaping from the alien planet, Ellen Ripley's ship crashes into a prison planet. Ripley soon realises her ship crashed because of the alien stowaway on-board. As the alien matures and begins to kill off the inhabitants, Ripley is unaware that her true enemy is more than just the killer alien.
This retread puts its foot wrong during the credits, as awkward exposition brings Ripley (Weaver) and a handy alien egg to a prison planet populated by religious fanatics who think they’re either in Porridge or Lock-Up, killing off all the other left-over characters from Aliens in computer read-out asides.
The film never recovers, and busily hurries towards its absurd “transcendent” finale — which owes more than a little to James Cameron’s T2 ending — by having interchangable characters run around dark corridors while a fish-eye lens monster chases them. The shaven head theme allows Weaver to look striking and do Joan of Arc poses, but also serves to render the rest of the cast, in contrast with the well-fleshed monster munchies of the earlier films, totally anonymous, so that by the time the death-filled finale arrives it is impossible to tell who is still alive and who has just been killed.
Write in and tell us when Paul McGann dies. On second thoughts, don’t. What few attempts at character there are — Charles Dance gets one emotional speech to lull you into a false sense of security before the thingie drops on his head — come off as unfortunately gigglesome, and even Weaver, who took the two-dimensional character from Alien and gave her real depth for the sequel, is just going over old ground with a new haircut, being required by an idiotic script not to tell anyone that she thinks there’s a monster on the loose until well after heads have been crunched to pulp and acid-blood dripped all over the show.
Originally conceived by Vincent Ward (one of many writers and directors to have come and gone on the project), as a mediaeval space epic, the story has been scaled down so it can be shot in a familiar disused ironworks of the future and filmed, by rock video grad Fincher, with a grainy brown sludginess that tries for atmosphere but comes off as simply murky.
Alien 3 — which looks as if it’s really called Alien Cubed — would probably not be so disappointing if it were Alien 2. After all, if it were judged alongside Robocop 2, Another 48 HRs, Jaws 2 or Beverly Hills Cop 2, it would seem no better nor worse than the usual sequel. However, it’s stuck with being the follow-up not only to Ridley Scott’s Alien, one of the most-imitated and rememered s-f films of the last 15 years, but also to James Cameron’s Aliens, that rare sequel that expands and improves upon the original. With the raising of the stakes between the first two films and coming after Cameron’s all-out war with hundreds of monsters, it is now hard to get too scared by the spectacle of one lone dog-shaped alien on the loose, especially since the beast seems to have come not from the finale of the last film but from some script conference in the development hell that has been going since Renny Harlin was going to direct from a script by William Gibson.
In a back-hander of spectacular grumpiness we finally get to meet someone from the Head Office of that evil company which has been casually wasting human life for three films and incarnating all the rapacious monstrousness of corporate scumminess, and — guess what? — he’s Japanese.
If there's an Alien 4, it will be a TV movie.