Three Things That Don’t Suck About ‘Alien 3’ (Thank God This List Doesn’t Go to Four)

Remember when this was the worst ‘Alien’ movie?
Three Things That Don’t Suck About ‘Alien 3’ (Thank God This List Doesn’t Go to Four)

Today, Alien 3 (Alien Cubed?) is just another crappy Alien movie, among several crappy Alien movies. After all, this is a franchise that would go on to feature scenes of clones playing basketball and float conspiracy theories that Jesus was a ripped 8-foot tall extraterrestrial

But when it first came out, 32 years ago this very week, Alien 3 was a huuuuge disappointment for many fans. After all, the original 1979 Alien is an absolute classic, a claustrophobic sci-fi nightmare that was perfect for the whole family in the ‘70s, apparently. 

Then came James Cameron’s Aliens, which was less of a haunted house story in space and more of a badass action movie fueled by maternal instincts and Vietnam symbolism. But the awesomeness of Aliens was immediately torpedoed by the opening scenes of Alien 3, in which Hicks and Newt, the beloved characters from the previous entry, are casually killed off as credits roll, thanks to faulty stasis pods. 

You had one job, stasis pods!

Ripley survives, but the little girl she triumphantly saved in Aliens is dead within like four minutes, which would be kind of like if Taken 2 opened with Liam Neeson’s daughter randomly getting run over by a bus. And unless you have some kind of fetish for rusted industrial-strength fans, the rest of the movie is pretty dreary and depressing.

Also, the hype around the movie didn’t help. In 1979, nobody knew what the Xenomorph looked like, so when it showed up on screen, it was absolutely terrifying. In 1992, it was a little harder to find the creature scary when it was in TV commercials stealing Pepsi cans from teenagers. 

Director David Fincher, who famously clashed with the studio during production, has said of Alien 3“No one hates it more than me.” So instead of trying to out-hate anyone, we’re going to try err on the side of positivity and shout out some of the praiseworthy elements of Alien 3, starting with how…

Charles Dance Is Awesome

Long before he was the villainous Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones, Dance played Alien 3’s Jonathan Clemens. When Ripley crash lands on the penal colony planet Fiorina 161, it’s Clemens, the facility’s doctor, who revives her. The two bond, and even hook up, before he finally confesses the tragic backstory that landed him in this grimy hellscape.

Then, because this summer blockbuster was a nonstop gauntlet of torment, moments after exposing his terrible secret to Ripley, Clemens is horrifically killed by the Xenomorph. Oh well.

Sigourney Weaver is always great, but Dance is a standout addition to the series, imbuing his thinly-drawn character with nuance and humanity that wasn’t necessarily on the page. He’s reserved and damaged but also suave and charming. It’s too bad he’s mostly known as the head of the evil incest family these days.  

The Soundtrack Is Killer

For all of its faults, Alien 3 has an absolutely fantastic score by composer Eliot Goldenthal, which really ratchets up the dread.

Goldenthal had some big shoes to fill, the scores for Alien (by Jerry Goldsmith) and Aliens (by James Horner) are undoubtedly iconic. 

But instead of trying to replicate musical elements from those earlier works, Goldenthal made his own uniquely haunting score that the movie may or may not have actually deserved. 

Ripley’s Death Scene Served as a Poignant Ending (Until ‘Alien Resurrection’ Came Out)

Not every sci-fi franchise would dare to end their movie with the hero taking an Olympics-esque backward dive into a giant furnace, but that’s exactly what happens to Ripley at the end of Alien 3. The ultimate villain of these movies isn’t the alien, it’s the corporation that keeps putting people in harm's way to acquire it. So Ripley’s ultimate act of heroism is to deny Weyland-Yutani access to the Xenomorph that is growing inside her body by sacrificing her life.

Admittedly, the chest-burster popping out as she’s falling is pretty goofy, a problem that was remedied in the so-called “Assembly Cut” of the movie. Ripley’s fall also parallels the cremation of Hicks and Newt earlier in the movie, visually implying that she’s, in a way, reuniting the friends she had lost. Which would have been a pretty emotional, oddly poignant ending for this franchise… had they not decided to bring Ripley back as a b-ball playing clone in Alien: Resurrection five years later. 

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