As I mentioned previously, I was once urged not to watch this film. That it was rubbish, a tarnish to the franchise, and not worth my time. I've never been one to take other people's opinions on fiction as the final word though. I love Van Helsing, after all. So while I wasn't expecting much, I went into this film with an open mind.
My guess is that the ire comes largely for two reasons. The first is that the characters we became so attached to by the end of Aliens, Corporal Hicks, Newt, and Bishop are killed off almost as soon as the story begins. We see an egg attached to the ceiling of the spaceship to justify this, but that really makes no sense. The alien queen never got anywhere near the ship in order to lay eggs. I suppose you could try to claim that a xenomorph carried an egg in there and left it, but it's just not very believable.
The other thing that I imagine pisses people off, because it certainly bothers me, is that there is no real explanation for how Ripley could have been impregnated with the queen egg. There's just no point where it could have happened in Aliens, and there's no where in that opening scene where it happens either. It's just a chosen plot device that we have to accept for the movie to keep going.
The development of Alien 3 is actually a pretty fascinating story, as there were multiple scripts created and then rejected: Some starring Corporal Hicks with Ripley having a minor to nonexistent role, and others where no original characters but the aliens remained. With time running out before the movie was to be made, the producers took bits and pieces from existing scripts to make their own, and Fincher also added additional details while shooting with the help of writer Rex Pickett. (I'm no doubt leaving out some details here. I highly recommend doing the research yourself.)
What they ended up with is not what I would call a good film. The pacing is a bit drawn out at times, while Ripley clashes with the all male "Y chromo" residents of the prison, and slowly realizes that she has the queen inside her. What I assumed was a CGI alien was apparently a puppet on blue screen, but regardless it doesn't work. The movements of the creature in this form are far too springy and just plain fake looking. As such any real scares are gone. A lot of the kills rely on slasher cliches that we've seen too many times before. With the exception of Dillon and Clemens, none of the prisoners are likeable characters and we really don't care if they live or die. Dillon's sacrifice is supposed to be noble, but makes absolutely no sense and is only there so that Ripley can last until the end of the film.
However, I do think there are some good moments here. While I'm not happy to see the dog used as fodder early on, I do think it's interesting to see a slightly different xenomorph based on the fact that it had a different species as host. I wish it would have been a little more different, but I'm glad they at least tried. I also think Ripley's journey as she realizes the sacrifice she has to make is worth watching. I also like the way they bring in another Bishop to try to gain her trust, and that Ripley is having absolutely none of it. While it's sad to see her plunge to her death, I also feel a swell of pride as she wraps her hands around the chest burster's throat, guaranteeing it will die with her.
While getting the disc out of my Alien Anthology set, I had to shake my head at the movie tagline: "3 Times the Terror." However, I do think that if you're a fan of Ripley as a character, it's worth giving a try. It's really more mediocre than bad, in my opinion.
Tomorrow I will talk about Alien Resurrection.
Also, I own the NES adaptation of this film, so I did a quick video review of the game. Check it out here!