Sunday, July 1, 2012

Movie Review: Alien 3

While Aliens is arguably even better film than the original Alien, the second sequel, Alien 3, is when things start to go downhill.  The reason for this decline in quality could possibly be connected to the fact that the script wasn’t even finished when they started filming.  I’m not quite sure why they felt like they couldn’t wait until they had a finalized story at hand before they started shooting, but I cannot think of a good enough reason to excuse this, especially when this is what was produced.

    Like all the other movies, we open in space, where Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Bishop are still in stasis aboard The Sulaco after their ordeal at Hadley’s Hope, the terriforming colony on LV-426.  Almost immediately, it’s revealed to the audience that there’s a Xenomorph egg on board.  Now, this is where the first problem sprouts up, and I think it goes without saying that if you notice problems within the first five minutes of a movie, then it’s usually a safe bet that the rest of the film will be even more disappointing.  Seriously, how did the egg get on The Sulaco in the first place?  The only Xenomorph who could have laid that egg would have been the Queen, as no other Xenomorph was able to reach the spaceship.  But as you might remember from the last movie, the Queen didn’t have much of an opportunity to lay that egg in Aliens, as the majority of her time on The Sulaco was spent trying to kill Newt and fighting with Ripley in the Power Loader.

    Questionable time constraints aside, the Xenomoph egg hatches while Ripley and company are in stasis, and the facehugger emerges, proceeding to attack the stasis tubes.  The attack triggers a fire on the ship, and as a result, Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Bishop are automatically placed in an escape pod and jettisoned off into space.  While all this goes on, we see a brief image on a computer console, which reveals that the facehugger has attached itself to one of the survivors, but it’s not indicated who this unfortunate person is.
    The escape pod eventually crashes on a prison planet called Fiorina 161 where a group of men discover the crashed pod.  Afterwards, we’re shown the results of the crash through the use of some data computer readout.  While Ripley survived the crash, poor Newt is pronounced dead, as so is Hicks.  As for Biship, he’s declared to have negative capability.  And I gotta say, this bites in the worst possible way.  You mean to tell me that after everything those three went through in Aliens, you kill them all off in the first scene of this movie?  Thanks a bunch, you creepoid script writers .
Anyway, because this will be important later: After we get the depressing news about poor Newt, Hicks and Bishop, we see the dog belonging to one of the men who found the crashed escape pod standing in the pod’s doorway, barking like crazy, followed by a quick shot of a facehugger moving around on the crashed pod.  But now, we cut to what I gather is the next day.  Andrews, the warden on the prison planet is informing all the inmates about the crashed escape pod, and how only Ripley survived the crash.  The inmates seem to be irritated by the presence of a woman, since they all apparently have taken a vow of celibacy, and believe that any outsider risks breaking their spiritual unity.  (So, it’s an extremely religious prison?)  Andrews assures the inmates that he has called for a rescue team that should arrive within the week to take Ripley away, and instructs them to simply go about their everyday tasks.
Inside the infirmary, Ripley is still unconscious, but when a doctor called Clemens starts to inject some kind of homemade cocktail into her body, she snaps awake.  Clemens informs Ripley about her whereabouts, and fills her in on how the escape pod crashed.  He also has to tell Ripley about how the others all perished in the crash.  At Ripley’s insistence, Clemens brings Ripley to the recovered escape pod, where Ripley learns how each one of her friends perished.  Bishop was broken beyond repair in the crash and was promptly disconnected and brought to the prison planet’s rubbish heap. Hicks was impaled by a fallen safety support, and finally, Newt drowned in the cryochamber.  As Ripley starts to mourn, she notices a burn mark on Newt’s cryochamber.  Seeing a resemblance to the burn of a Xenomorph’s acidic blood, Ripley insists on seeing Newt’s remains for herself.  Elsewhere, one of the prison inmates finds the dog we saw earlier.  Judging by how the inmate states that he was looking everywhere for the dog, I guess the dog was missing for a while.  The inmate approaches the dog and finds some suspiciously situated wounds on his face.
In the morgue, Ripley is shown Newt’s corpse, and the sight of the little girl’s body visibly affects her.  However Ripley is able to push aside her sorrow in order to keep her head in the game.  Due to her worries that there might be a baby Xenomorph inside Newt, Ripley tells Clemens to perform an autopsy, and when Clemens requests to know why Ripley is so insistent about the autopsy, she tells him that Newt may be infected with cholera.  
The autopsy is performed, but Clemens finds absolutely nothing, not even in Newt’s chest.  While Ripley’s fears have been alleviated, watching the autopsy of the girl she’s come to love was clearly difficulty for her.  Clemens, who is obviously suspicious, asks Ripley once again what it was he was supposed to be looking for, but before Ripley can reply, Andrews the warden enters the room.  Andrews demands to know why Clemens has performed an autopsy without his stamp of approval and also scolds the doctor for allowing Ripley to leave the infirmary and show her presence to the prison inmates.  Ripley, still slightly worried about the possibility of another Xenomorph, requests that the bodies of Hicks and Newt to be cremated.  While Andrews initially refuses, stating that the bodies will remain on ice, Clemens backs Ripley up, announcing that while he hasn’t found any indication of a cholera infection in Newt’s body, he cannot be completely sure that there’s no possibly of a communicable infection without a proper laboratory test.  Andrews then agrees to allow the cremation, instructing them to use the ginormous furnace that’s located within the prison compound.  The cremation of Newt and Hicks commences, with all of the prison inmates in attendance and Andrews giving the last rites.  During this scene, one of the inmates, a man called Dillon, gives a rather deep speech about death and new beginnings.
Overlapping with this speech, we see the dog from earlier, who is elsewhere inside the prison.  The dog begins to act strangely, pacing back and forth and barking at nothing.  He then starts to convulse and whine before a baby Xenomorph bursts out of the dog’s chest.  And I must admit, the new design of the Xenomorph is interesting.  While the Xenomorphs of the past walked upright like humans, this new alien has some distinctive canine qualities and walks on all fours.  The explanation within the fan base is that Xenomorphs end up incorporating the DNA of their hosts into their own.  In other words, the Xenomorphs of the past all had a humanoid shape because they’re hosts were human, while this Xenomporph has a canine quality because its host was a dog.  While this kinda makes sense, it does make you wonder if there are any limitations to this.  I mean, what if a facehugger attached itself to a dolphin?  A part of me wants to see what that kind of Xenomorph would look like.
Getting back to the story, Ripley, after she shaves her head, (there was an earlier scene when Clemens told her to do it because of some kind of lice problem that exists on the prison planet) she enters the prison’s cafeteria to get some food.  While she’s there, she notices Dillon and thanks him for his speech at the cremation.  Dillon dismisses her thanks, but they still let her sit down and eat with them, amidst a conversation about religion.  Later on, Clemens fills Ripley in on the history about the prison, and how they became a religious group.  Once again, he asks Ripley about what it was she was looking for during Newt’s autopsy.  Ripley deflects the question, and it’s heavily implied that she and Clemens sleep together.  Meanwhile, some hapless inmate who is later identified as Murphy is cleaning out this very large air duct, and ends up stumbling across the Canine Xenomorph.  The Canine Xenomorph promptly sprays Murphy with some kind of acid spit, and as a result, Murphy writhes about in pain, rolling straight into a large vent fan, with obvious results.  When the ‘accident’ is investigated, Clemens notices a large hole in the floor, which appears to have been created by a corrosive acid.
Elsewhere, Ripley has returned to the remains of the escape pod to check the flight recorder.  While there, she bumps into Clemens.  He tells Ripley about the burn hole he found at the accident site.  Now on alert, Ripley asks Clemens where Bishop the android can be found.  On Clemens’ instructions, she proceeds to the junkyard to fetch Bishop’s remains, but when she tries to leave, she is cornered and attacked by a gang of the inmates, who attempt to rape her.  Before they go too far, Ripley is saved by Dillon.
In another part of the prison, three inmates are walking around for some unexplained reason.  Noticing that some of the candles that have been arranged on the floor are being blown out, they try to see what’s causing this.  Two of the inmates are then attacked by the Canine Xenomorph, leaving the third one, Golic, to run away in sheer terror.
Back with Ripley, she has managed to reactivate Bishop, and asks him to access the data on the flight recorder.  With Bishop’s help, Ripley learns about how an electrical fire started in the The Sulacco, which was why they were ejected in the escape pod.  In addition, Bishop reveals that there was a Xenomorph on board, and that Weyland Corp knows about this.  Bishop then asks Ripley to disconnect him, as he’d rather be nothing than the wreck he’s become.  
Ripley complies, but moments later, Andrews, Dillon and Clemens enter the infirmary with Golic, who is screaming about a dragon.  They try asking him about the whereabouts of Bogs and Rains, the two inmates who were killed in the above-mentioned scene with the candles.  Andrews decides that Golic may have murdered the missing pair and is using the dragon story to cover his tracks, but Dillon defends Golic, stating that while Golic is many things, he is not a liar.  Ripley, who is has overheard everything, steps in and tells Andrews all about the Xenomorphs, but Andrews and his personal assistant, Aaron, are highly skeptical.  Ripley is then shocked to learn that there are absolutely no weapons of any kind on the planet.  Andrews sentences Ripley to be confined to the infirmary until the rescue team arrives to take her away.
In the infirmary, Ripley is kept company by Clemens and Golic.  When Ripley admits to having a sore throat, Clemens prepares a cocktail to help her, and he then decides to open up to Ripley about his sordid past, about how he once got drunk during his residency and ended up killing 11 men by prescribing the wrong pain killer dosage.  The moment he’s done telling his story, the Canine Xenomorph appears in the infirmary and kills Clemens.  It goes for Ripley, but for some reason, it spares her life and vanishes. 
Ripley runs out of the infirmary and makes a beeline for the mess hall, where Andrews is busy telling the inmates about how Murphy was killed in the ventilation shaft due to his own carelessness and how Bogs and Rain are missing and have most likely been murdered by Golic.  When Ripley enters the mess hall, she tries to warn Andrews about the Canine Xenomorph, but her warnings fall on deaf ears, and Andrews simply orders Aaron to escort Ripley back to the infirmary.  At that very second, the Canine Xenomorph pops out of one of the air ducts in the ceiling and grabs Andrews, dragging him up into the roof, where he is immediately killed.
The inmates are now spooked and on edge as they try and figure out what to do now.  They have quite a lot of discussion, about who will be in charge now, as well as an inventory of what they have to work with in order to defend themselves.  Ripley eventually comes up with a plan that will force the Canine Xenomorph into the toxic waste chamber, where apparently nothing can ever get out of.  As they work to set up their plan, the Canine Xenomoph attacks one of the inmates, which results in the trap being prematurely triggered, and a fire breaks out.  Dillon eventually manages to trip the sprinkler system, but many of the inmates are killed regardless.  Ripley, noticing the pain in her chest is not going away, decides to undergo a scan of her bio-functions.  The scan reveals the horrifying truth: there is a baby Xenomorph inside her.
Now, here, we run into a series of issues I have with this movie.  We’ve already established that somehow, the Alien Queen found the time to lay an egg inside The Sulaco.  Even if we can buy that, we’ve already seen that a facehugger attached itself to the dog, which resulted in the Canine Xenomorph that’s now running around.  Now, back in Alien, the facehugger that impregnated Kane dropped dead immediately afterwards.  Therefore, since more than one host was impregnated by facehuggers this time around, there must have been two facehuggers on the ship.  One that impregnated Ripley and the other impregnated the dog.  This would suggest that the Alien Queen laid more than one egg before she attacked Ripley and Newt at the end of Aliens.  However, since I have difficulty believing that the Alien Queen managed to lay even one egg, I’m left with the possibility that the facehugger in this movie can impregnate more than one host before dropping dead.  So why do the facehuggers have a better longevity now?  Well, since it’s later revealed that the embryo inside Ripley is another Queen, maybe this facehugger is a Queen Facehugger?  This might also explain why it’s apparently taking longer for the alien inside Ripley to gestate, since the baby Xenomorph we saw in Alien burst out of Kane’s chest only a few hours after he regained consciousness.  However, if we can buy all that, then there’s one question that remains: If the facehugger that impregnated Ripley is a Super Queen Facehugger who implants new Alien Queens, wouldn’t that make the Cainine Xenomorph a Queen as well?  Or is the dog DNA overriding the Queen gene somehow?  Ugh, this movie.  No, ugh me for putting more thought into this than the people who wrote the script.
ANYWAY, Ripley, now knowing that there’s a baby Xenomorph inside her, instructs Aaron to send word to the rescue team that’s already en route that the entire prison planet is now gone toxic, knowing that this would make them stay away.  Aaron, however, refuses to send the message, stating that his only concern is getting off the planet and returning home to his wife and child.  Realizing that Aaron is not going to help, Ripley leaves to try and find the Xenomorph herself, just as Aaron receives word that the rescue team will arrive in two hours, along with instructions that Ripley must be kept safely quarantined until they arrive.
Ripley continues to search for the Canine Xenomorph in the bowels of the prison compound.  She eventually finds it, but once again, Ripley is spared, since it can somehow sense that Ripley is the host to a Queen Xenomorph.  Ripley then approaches Dillon to tell him about how she was impregnated with a Queen Xenomorph.  She begs Dillon to kill her, as it’s the best way to ensure the baby Queen will be killed as well.  Dillon, after a tense moment, refuses, on the grounds that he needs Ripley to help kill the Canine Xenomorph that’s still on the loose.  However, Dillon gives Ripley his word that he will kill her once the Canine Xenomorph is out of the picture.
In an emergency meeting, Dillon tries to rally together the surviving inmates in order to try and kill the Canine Xenomorph once again.  When the inmates start trashing Weyland Corp for not leaving them any weapons, Ripley speaks up, informing everyone that  the company will not do anything to kill the Canine Xenomorph, as they are focused on obtaining a Xenomorph organism for their bioweapons division.  She tells them how Weyland Corp viewed the entire crew of The Nostormo and even an entire squadron of soldiers as expendable in their attempts to achieve their goal.  Thus, there’s no chance that they would ever show a lick of compassion to a bunch of convicted criminals, even if they have found religion.  Dillon announces his plan to lure the Canine Xenomorph into a mold and drown it in hot lead.  (So now we got a lead works on prison premises?  Do they have a room with a swimming pool and hot tub too?)
Click to view full size image

Dillon’s plan is put into action, and while it does eventually work, most of the inmates end up giving their lives, until only Dillon, Morse and Ripley are all that’s left of the final army.  (Aaron is still around, too, but he’s off doing his own thing in waiting to greet the rescue team at this point, so he’s no longer relevant.)  In the end, Dillon sacrifices himself to keep the Xenomorph in position long enough for Morse to pour the hot lead into the mold, effectively drowning it.
 So, now the Canine Xenomoph is gone, and Morse and Ripley can celebra…. OH, CRAP!  The Canine Xenomoph survived and jumps out of the hot lead!  Thankfully, Morse comes up with a Plan B and shouts to Ripley to turn on the sprinkler system, since the canine Xenomoph is burning hot because of the lead.  Because of the sudden decline in temperature, the Canine Xenomoph explodes within seconds.
Meanwhile, the rescue team has arrived on Fiorina 161.  They appear on the scene mere moments after the victory.  Ripley is shocked when she sees Bishop among the rescue team.  Knowing her Biship android is deactivated, Ripley concludes that this Bishop is just another version of that model.  This Bishop insists that he is the genuine article, and that all Bishop-androids were modeled after him.  The human Bishop tells Ripley that he’s here to help her and that he wants to remove the baby Xenomorph inside her, with the intention of killing it.  For a few minutes, Ripley appears to consider his honestly, but she quickly decides not to trust him in the end.  Her instincts prove to be correct, as the human Bishop gives himself away by calling the Xenomorph a ‘magnificent specimen,’ and that she has to let him have it.  His words fall on deaf ears, and as Aaron is shot and killed by the rescue team for attacking the human Bishop, Ripley, determined to destroy the Xenomorph race once and for all, willingly throws herself into the fiery furnace.  As she falls, the baby Queen Xenomorph bursts from her chest, but Ripley uses the last of her strength to hold onto it, ensuring that it will also be destroyed.

After Ripley’s sacrifice, the prison is closed down, and Morse is escorted off of Fiorina 161.  In the final moments, we return to the remains of the crashed escape pod from The Sulaco, enabling us to hear the haunting echo of Ripley’s final words from the original movie:
“….Ash, Captain Dallas are dead.  Cargo and ship destroyed.  I should reach the frontier within six weeks.  With a little luck, the network will pick me up.  This is Ripley, last survivor of The Nostromo, signing off.”

This movie… I honestly don’t know what to say about it.  I will admit that there are some pretty nifty elements in the movie, such as the design on the Canine Xenomorph.  The echoes of Ripley’s final words from Alien was also a nice touch, even though it’s not a word-for-word quote.

The original line from Alien:

“….Ash and Captain Dallas, are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”
Plus, at the risk of sounding horrible, I always get a kick of seeing Andrew’s death scene.  However, those points are not enough to make up for the overall plot and plot holes.  How did that Xenomorph egg get on The Sulaco?  How was the facehugger inside the egg able to impregnate more than one host?  And wouldn’t all the impregnated hosts carry Queen Xenomorphs?  I know good Sci-Fi isn’t supposed to answer all the questions, but I do expect them to maintain continuity.  You can’t just change the rules halfway into the game without explaining why they changed.
As for the plot, I still would like to know why they had to kill off Newt and Hicks like that.  Granted the actress who played Newt had aged six years in between movies, and it probably wouldn’t have been a comfortable experience to see her on a prison planet filled with convicted murders and rapists.  But couldn’t the writers have come up with another way to exclude Newt from the main action without resorting to killing her?  For example, let’s run this premise up a flag pole: Ripley, Hicks and Newt begin a life together on Earth after their ordeal in Aliens.  Six years later, Hicks gets orders to serve on an escort team, charged with bringing a prisoner to Fiorina 161.  But when Ripley looses contact with him, she leaves Newt in the care of a neighbor and goes to Fiorina 161 herself to see what’s wrong.  As for how the Xenomorph got on the prison planet?  Well, let’s look back to the Xenomorph in Alien, and the Queen Xenomorph in Aliens.  What if they didn’t die after being jettisoned off into space, and instead simply floated all the way to Fiorina 161?  Yes, I know this is far-fetched, but then again, so is the fact that the Queen Xenomorph managed to find time to lay an egg on The Sulaco!  And didn’t the robot Ash mention that the Xenomorphs have a ‘prolonged resistance to adverse environmental conditions’ way back when?
For all those reasons, I label Alien 3 the worst movie in the original trilogy and a pretty shoddy sendoff for Ripley.  And while I know of the existence of Alien Resurrection, I don’t have the energy to tackle that one just yet, so let’s just say I’ll get to that some other time.

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