The Alien franchise has managed to do some impressive achievements over its lifespan. Turning a H. R. Giger painting into a sci-fi survival horror behemoth. With the critical and commercial praise of the series so far, a third instalment was a virtual guarantee. What the audience got was a film unafraid to take creative risks, what the audience got was Alien3.
After escaping the infested terraforming colony, Hadley’s Hope, the remnants of the Sulaco crew are dispatched in an escape pod to the prison planet, affectionately name Fury 161. Lt. Ripley is the sole survivor, crashed landed on the all-male prison colony. While the puritanical inmates and staff are cautious about her presence. Ripley and Co. have a lot more to be worried about when similar markings are found in the escape pod and around the prison base, it suggests that something a lot more sinister has survived alongside Ripley.
The crowning achievement of Alien3 and what it brings to the franchise is its look. It keeps up the evocative use of colour on the previous instalments, only, in this case, the distinctive blues and reds of Aliens are replaced with an amber-like hue for half of the sets and an almost sterilised whitish-blue for the others. The set and costume design, at least to me, really help to evoke a medieval feel to the proceedings. With the film’s focus on religion, mythical “Dragons” and the apocalypse, this is probably intentional. Given also the choice of colour mentioned earlier, (that make the space station look like a gothic dungeon) it’s almost definitely so. In doing so, the film that’s not only a treat to behold, but also effectively unsettling.
Regarding the acting, the cast is a collection of well-known and then rising stars. Charles Dance plays the prison’s doctor, Clemens, who has a dark past behind his pleasant demeanour. Paul McGann is unrecognisable from his previous roles as Marwood or the Eighth Doctor, as he portrays Golic. Sigourney Weaver is back along with Lance Henriksen who also makes a return, but apart from them, it’s entirely new characters, providing some new perspectives and face to face the onslaught of the alien.
The score by Elliot Goldenthal is a mixture of ambient (albeit depressing) soundscape, combined with the look really helps in establishing a creepy, uneasy atmosphere, that’s perfect for the Xenomorph’s blend of Sci-Fi horror. As all good horror soundtracks are, it is used sparingly and blends subtly into the background, much like the titular alien itself.
Alien3 is a continuation of the franchise’s best features, presented through the eyes of a director who would later go on to excite the world with films like Se7en and Fight Club. It’s a film that’s not afraid to try a little variation, both visually and thematically. Outside of the series impressive tenure, lies a film that’s rich in atmosphere, genuinely frightening, and shows sometimes the scariest thing about a prison, sometimes isn’t the prisoners.
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