Recently, Sigourney Weaver said that Neill Blomkamp’s still-in-the-ether Alien movie be a new sequel to Aliens, meaning, it would render the series’ existing third and fourth films redundant. Alien 3 may be the most maligned film in the franchise, but it would be a shame to erase Ripley’s adventure on Fury 161, and here’s why.
Let me clear: Alien 3 is not a great movie. It certainly doesn’t measure up to Alien or Aliens, and there’s a reason director David Fincher has disowned it, even though it was his debut film (it didn’t help that the film’s production was famously troubled). But it has some solid points in its favor.
Really, it does. Here’s one of them:
Charles S. Dutton’s performance as Dillon—the spiritual leader of the grimy men doing time on Fury 161, where Ripley’s escape pod crashes—is formidable. It’s capped by this corny and profanity-laced (yet awesome) speech before the big final fight, convincing the prisoners to unite and take down the alien in their midst.
Alien 3 may kill off Newt and Hicks, smash the android Bishop to bits, and eventually send Ripley into a pit of hellfire, but Dillon is still a great character. Despite introducing himself as a rapist and murderer, he ends up becoming Ripley’s solid ally. It’d be a shame to overwrite him and the important role he plays in helping her make sure the Weyland-Yutani Corporation doesn’t get its greedy mitts on any part of the alien.
Speaking of intriguing characters, how are we going to write off prison doctor Clemens, played with rueful elan by Charles “Tywin Lannister” Dance? A former inmate and recovering drug addict, Clemens forges a connection with Ripley when she arrives. They’re both lonely, and dammit, they have needs.
Ripley—forever getting beaten up, targeted by sexist assholes, running from monsters, shouldering weapons, etc.—never gets to have a good time, and in Alien 3, she does. With a shaved head, no less. Are we really going to take that away?
Alien 3 also doesn’t skimp on the horror. It’s got plenty of gross-out moments, but setting it in a prison colony—specifically, a prison colony that’s actually been shut down and is populated with people weird enough to want to stay—only adds to the creepy factor. Who needs an alien when you’ve got guys like this following your every move?
But, yeah. You do need an alien, duh. And it might as well be this crafty creature, who hitches a ride on the escape pod and infiltrates the prison, picking off anyone who gets in its way (or who might make a nice snack).
This is the image you always see from Alien 3, and it’s a powerful one.
Ripley is certain, and maybe a little relieved, that she’s finally about to get got by the thing that’s been chasing her around outer space. When it lets her go, she’s faced with the even more terrifying question of why—and soon realizes it’s because of the bundle of joy that she didn’t realize she was carrying inside of her. That complicates the plot immensely, because it’s no longer about survival, but sacrifice.
Also, and just because it’s such a startling moment, let’s not forget when the human version of Bishop (wearing sunglasses for some reason, which he quicky removes) swans into act three, adding an even more intense dose of WTF-ness to Ripley’s final minutes onscreen.
Look, we all know that Aliens 3 isn’t a perfect movie, and it’s certainly not in the same league as the two films that came before. It battled through disorganization and script rewrites and studio interference and editing changes (see: the extended-version “Assembly Cut,” which is practically a different film) to make it to the screen. But for all its bleakness, it’s still entertaining, and Weaver’s turn as her most iconic character is just as powerful here as it is in every Alien movie.
If Blomkamp’s film is made and is a hit (Aliens director James Cameron, no fan of Alien 3, has read the script and thinks it’s great), that could mean one of two things. Best case, Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, already the least-popular Alien movies that don’t contain any Predators, would be relegated to permanent cult-curiosity status. Worst case, they’ll become forgotten cinematic footnotes—and that would be a shame,
Obviously we’re dying for more Ripley, which means we hope Blomkamp’s movie does get made. But that doesn’t mean Alien 3 deserves to be scrubbed from the series and forgotten.