Film Corner: Alien 3

Alien 3

We'll go Special Edition again, because we can.

An egg on the Sulaco. A facehugger climbs up Ripley's sleeping tube. We see a skeletal imaging of a face wrapped with a facehugger, then acid starts a fire in the sleeping compartment. Honestly the alien was really lucky the ship crash-landed somewhere habitable and didn't just explode in space.

A pretty man walks on a planet which is pretty in, like, a dirty way. I guess he's pretty in a dirty way too. He finds Ripley by a body of water and carries her back home. Men stare at Ripley in her underwear while he barks at them to get down to the beach and look for other survivors. Pretty sure this is all added footage for the director's cut.

Hicks and Newt are dead, slain by an inability to re-sign the same actors. We learn that this is a prison planet which is honestly FASCINATING to me: it suggests that there are so many habitable planets that humanity can afford to waste one on housing, like, 60 men. Anyway, the men are worried that Ripley will upset their religious chastity and honestly bite my ass.

Back in the medical bay, Ripley wakes up and Clemens (the pretty boy who found her) explains she's at a "Weyland-Yutani work prison". Ripley's face when she learns she's the only survivor is just pure pain. Sigourney Weaver is an amazing actress. It used to be a 5,000 convict facility but it's been reduced to a custodial staff of 25. They make iron sheets for toxic waste containers. I don't know how this can be profitable but...Capitalism?

Alien 3 is grim because of all the deaths but I like it because it's honestly a natural continuation of a theme: Ripley tries to save people but they die. She can't triumph over death except temporarily. She saved Hicks and Newt for a little while, but their time came. And we see her increasing nihilism in her decreased concern for social niceties. (We'll see even more of that in Resurrection.) Like, love the series or hate it, I believe Weaver put a tremendous amount of effort into portraying a cogent character who realistically changes over a series of devastating disappointments.

Anyway, she sees an acid burn and realizes there was an alien on the ship. She demands to see the bodies and starts examining Newt for a chestburster. I don't think she thinks they're in danger; I think her sole concern is that the company NOT get an alien to play with. So Ripley is now trying to protect all of earth. Ripley demands an autopsy because she says Newt may have had cholera. "There hasn't been a case of cholera in 200 years." I like this because she's been asleep for most of that time and genuinely doesn't know.

Newt has no alien in her. The nice medical officer asks Ripley what they're really looking for, but they're interrupted by the head guy. Clemens covers for Ripley, saying he had to autopsy for cholera. Ripley demands a cremation and Clemens backs her again because he is an Ally, dammit.

Elsewhere on Planet Grimy, two prisoners mull over the mystery of a cow that died suddenly and the weird dead facehugger thing they've found. (The theatrical version had a dog, not a cow. The cow was a better choice.) The cremation service occurs, during which the cow erupts with an alien. Ripley cries and her nose bleeds. The eulogy is lovely. The alien baby is very CGI, but not in a bad way.

Sigourney Weaver showers over the sound of men grumbling about the corruptive power of her sexuality and it feels almost too on the nose for 2019. Ripley thanks the prisoners for their eulogy and she gets a crash course on their apocalyptic religion. Then she takes Clemens to bed so he'll stop asking why she wanted an autopsy. Again, I feel like this fits with her character arc: she's becoming more cynical in her attempts to eradicate the aliens. If that means fucking a cute boy, well, life is short and the last one died before she got to spend any time with him. Carpe diem.

Clemens is called away because of a dead prisoner. It looks like an industrial accident but...there's an acid spot. And now I pause for the night. While Clemens does official medical officer stuff, Ripley goes dumpster diving for the broken android (Bishop).

I'm informed by @liminalfruitbat that an early draft had this planet as a monastery / cult retreat, which fits the religion stuff much better. I'm not sure why they changed it to a prison, but I suspect they did so for the rape scene which now occurs. Which... sigh. Ripley is grabbed by 4 men and is about to be raped when the cult leader saves her. Again, we have a scene of sexual violence in which Ripley is saved from white men by a Black man (the first scene being in Alien) which for 1993 was a pretty deliberate statement.

I didn't mind the Ash scene because it was in service to a deeper company goal: what appears to be sexual assault is instead a cover-up. I would have preferred something like that here, but no, it's just the rape attempt it appears to be. It feels unnecessary, I guess is the point I'm trying to make. It doesn't add to her characterization. If it adds anything, it's that the cult leader is a better guy than you thought (despite being a prisoner and, he claims, guilty) but...was this scene needed for that? Idk.

Ripley repairs Bishop and he confirms there was an alien on the ship. He begs her to disconnect him rather than let him be repaired. Continuing her arc of being an angel of mercy (theme: death can be a release), she 'kills' him. Ripley approaches a huddled conference in which a man is accused of murder but swears it was a dragon. Ripley says he's telling the truth, but the head jailer tells her to sod off.

She tells the jailer about aliens, the cat already being out of the bag as it were. (Bishop informs her that the flight recorder transmitted all data back home.) We get the wonderful "we have no weapons here -- we're on the honor system" line. The prisoners are kept in line largely through fear and isolation -- since they can't leave the planet, rebellion would just end with them cut off and dead. Mind you, I don't think that would stop a really dedicated separatist, but I guess they need supplies.

Ultimately, he doesn't believe her and confines her to the infirmary. Wearily, she tells Clemens she has a sore throat and pained stomach. FORESHADOWING. Clemens tells his tragic backstory and Ripley gives him an affectionate look, so yeah, he's done for. An alien skewers him. Ripley, cornered, prepares to die but the creature sniffs her and withdraws.

Ripley breaks into the latest meeting to gasp "it's here!" The head jailer orders her sent back to the infirmary but then is dragged up into the ceiling by the alien--an effective piece of evidence for everyone to see. It's nice to see Ripley acknowledged as an expert for once. This is a high point in her own arc: she's gone from equally in the dark as everyone else (Alien), to an ignored expert (Aliens), to a veteran with people pleading for her knowledge.

The prisoners derisively call the junior jailer "85" and Ripley asks why; it's supposed to be his IQ. We're back to another theme from Alien with the lower-wage workers there: the company exploits the most vulnerable members of society, but Ripley works with them. (I still maintain that Gorman from Aliens fits into this category as well; he's played as not just inexperienced but genuinely the 1990s vision of someone neurodivergent.)

Ripley explains her "herd the alien into the smelter" plan and the cult leader asks "why should we put our ass on the line for you" so she can say "your ass is already on the line" like a badass. Shit gets fucked over, but they manage to trap the alien. Ripley and Junior Jailer phone Weyland-Yutani and she asks "permission to kill it", to see what they say. (They don't have the necessary weapons, regardless.) The computer spits back NO NO NO.

Then we undo all our good work with neurodivergence by having the most "crazy" prisoner assault his best friend because he wants to see the "dragon" again. Ugh.

While they try to decide what to do about the escaped alien, Ripley goes to the spaceship's medical pod scanner thingy. Junior Jailer offers to help her. There's an alien inside her chest. So we need to talk about this. A lot of fans dislike Alien 3 because it doesn't follow the "rules". Ripley doesn't die within hours of the facehugger coming off (like Kane did), and the alien from the cow/dog looks and behaves differently than the ones in Alien and Aliens.

But I actually like this because we're seeing the aliens' greatest strength which is their sheer adaptability. Aliens from human tissue look different from aliens which gestated in cow/dog tissue. It makes sense. Presumably they would look different from another species. Etc. And it makes sense that a queen might take longer to grow in a host than a drone would. OR that Ripley's body grew the queen more slowly than Kane did because of the very serious trauma she sustained in the crash.

We really don't even know whether Kane's chestburst was unusually fast or not; the colonists had been cocooned for a seemingly LONG time when the marines showed up, yet one was still alive to chestburst at them. (Hell, you could even speculate that Ash did something to speed up the process for Kane, but I don't think that's as plausible just because they knew so little about the species at the time.) In order for aliens to be the universe-spanning terror that they are, they would NEED to be able to adapt to whatever they could use as a host. That means a certain degree of flexibility. So honestly I like that the "rules" are broken here.

Ripley's scan is sent to the Company and the Junior Jailer is informed that it's of the absolute highest priority that she be quarantined. And, you know, I like this. Because it really is a mystery at this stage whether they mean that in a "good" way or "bad". Ripley suspects they want to capture an alien to study, but she really doesn't know that. She's cynical and nihilistic now, having lost everything she loved. Maybe they're really just trying to do the right thing and NOT have a queen running around killing people. All we've really seen of the Company wanting these creatures, after all, is Burke being a greedy shit. He might not be representative of the actual Company at large. It's a nice touch.

Ripley goes to hunt the creature, hoping it will kill her; it refuses, so she goes to find herself a killer to do the job for her. He refuses, too; he can't go back to what he was before. He really does an amazing job in this scene; his face shows so much emotion. He says she has to help him destroy the alien first. "If it won't kill you, maybe that helps us fight it."

Ripley gives a stirring speech about the way the Company declared both crew and marines expendable, and prisoners won't be worth more to them than that. After two movies of people being brutally picked off like popcorn, there's a certain catharsis in watching the prisoners go full olly-olly-oxen-free and just run around pell-mell trapping the alien in retro future corridors. Like, again, I can see why the movie isn't what the fanbase expected or wanted at the time--there's a certain silliness to it--but as the third installment in a movie marathon, it *works*. Humans can only live with abject terror for so long before, yeah, we tend to get a little silly about it. If I'm gonna die anyway, if I'm doomed, you bet your ass I'm going out Leroy Jenkins style.

God, it's really painful (in the right ways) to see Ripley have the occasional pain spasms. Something a lesser movie wouldn't remember to do with its "infected" hero. She's not able to herd it the way she wanted, which honestly makes sense -- it would be silly if the aliens were powerless in the face of an infected host. BUT, the cult leader picks her up and she screams and the alien reacts, which again *makes sense*. She can't magically herd it (because that would be a huge evolutionary disadvantage for this perfect species), but she CAN be used as bait. It follows to protect her. Ripley wants to stay but Dillon refuses to let her and he stays behind instead. He isn't the person he used to be. He holds the alien while they pour hot lead into the smelter onto them both.

Having "Bishop" show up at the end is so emotional. "The company sent me here to show you a friendly face." And there's so much contrast between the android who protected her and the human who can lie to her face. Sigourney Weaver's anguished face during the temptation is everything. She is an amazing actress. Bishop utterly fails to convince Ripley by yelling "IT'S A MAGNIFICENT SPECIMEN" at her, but I think it works here because he's human and irrational.

Ripley falls backwards, arms spread wide, jesus dying to save us all. The special edition doesn't have the chestburster coming out and her holding it in, which is a shame because I liked that scene, but it probably wasn't medically possible. The sun rises and the company men leave, shutting the facility behind them.

I'll do Resurrection in another thread; this one is getting long.


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