Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Lance Henriksen
Directors and studios battling over creative decisions occur every day in Hollywood, as the constant battle of art vs. commerce wages on. It occurs when directors try to implement something artistically moving and resonant while the studio seeks a decent return on their money. In the best cases, the directorial vision aligns with what the studio believes will be marketable and attract moviegoers. Alien 3 serves as the directorial debut of David Fincher, but with everything that took place in the creation of this film, it became no surprise that the narrative turned into a mess and became the lowest point in this franchise.
After her battles with the queen xenomorph, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the rest of the survivors end up on Fiorina 161, which mostly houses delinquent men. As Ripley tries to navigate this facility, she soon discovers that the xenomorphs have found their way there and weapons are not in surplus.
There can be no discussion of this film without speaking on the troubled production that led to its dreadful final product. Executives at 20th Century Fox were very divided on what they wanted this next film to be. After the overwhelming success of Alien and Aliens, they sought to take the franchise in a different direction and enlisted a young David Fincher, mostly known for his music videos at the time. It quickly proved to be a situation where the studio wanted to have a young fresh perspective but would ensure that they would manipulate the young director to follow all of their notes and eliminate any autonomy. It makes these young directors be nothing but a vessel for the large studios without any real voice. I hesitate to call this Fincher’s debut, as he barely got to actually helm much of the story, but it will forever be in his filmography. The uncertainty in the storytelling made itself quite clear as the narrative unfolded.
It resulted in a story so incoherent and an ending meant to be incredibly symbolic but lacked any real resonance. It just felt so bland down to the color palette that surrounded Ripley. Through its story, Alien 3 did go back to the roots of the original Alien by focusing on fewer xenomorphs. By having everyone go after just one xenomorph, it made every move and procedure to go after it has weight. With the facility lacking any real weapons, it made the fight against the xenomorph all the more difficult, if only there were other characters outside of Ripley that added anything to the story. It’s really unfortunate because the two preceding films created great side characters instantly that followed Ripley in her survival missions. They all instantly left their mark on the plot, but the inmates of this facility felt basic and lacked any real depth.
Sigourney Weaver truly tries her best to lift up the story as her character develops a love interest, actually experiences grief, and discovers some shocking news. All of it seems like it would look good on paper but the final execution of it all felt incredibly underwhelming. It shows the lack of control Fincher had on the story. He would later display his directorial brilliance with a masterpiece in Se7en and the difference in quality feels vast. It shows that with a smaller budget, he created something more intriguing and horrifying than when he inherited an already bankable monster and a successful franchise. The studios got in his way, and it painfully shows how disjointed the story becomes by the end.
At the very least, Alien 3 can serve as a case study of studio interference not trusting filmmakers. It resulted in a complete mess of a story and a true Frankenstein’s monster of a production. No one looked good coming out of this film and it could easily be forgotten in the canon of the famous xenomorph. Fincher refused to let himself be treated by the studios again after this experience and with good reason.