Alien 3 is a disappointing sequel because it lacks the suspense and action of the previous two films. Instead what remains is a needlessly dark story that succeeds at character drama more than anything else. The acting is still top notch, but aside from that it is a mostly average film that doesn’t reach the cinematic heights of its predecessors.
The story is very gritty and far darker than the second film to the point of being faintly silly. Set inside a prison on the bleak planet Fiorina 161 our protagonist Ripley finds herself forced to live amongst the inmates until help arrives. What follows is a series of grim twists and gory death scenes which culminate with a sad ending. Unlike the immediate predecessor there is not an abundance of action mostly because there is only one Alien like in the first film. Problem is while the human drama comes out just right there is a lingering sense that Alien 3 has missed the mark when it comes to plot. The climax is the only really exciting bit, but it pales by comparison to the second film’s final battle with the Alien Queen.
When it comes to looks Alien 3 stops just short of being as good as it could have been. The Alien is reduced to a computer generated forgery in a number of shots which makes you wonder why they bothered having a guy in the suit at all. The CGI is just awful to look at and is not an improvement over the suits worn by the actors in the previous films. There is a rather excessive amount of blood in all of the death scenes and this lowers the film because it has not used the effect constructively. While it is too dark the interior of the prison is suitably grimy and is one of the few really good things about Alien 3. Downside is having good sets does not automatically redeem a visually stunted film.
The acting is one of the positive aspects of the film. Sigourney Weaver is as good as ever. It is just a shame that she no longer seems to be the action figure she became in the second film. Instead she is more like she was in the first film which is a bit of a slap in the face. The best performance after Weaver comes from Charles S. Dutton who portrays the inmate Dillon. This guy, as good as he is, feels like a plug for the three characters which were callously killed off between films. There is no arguing that the deaths of Newt, Hicks and Bishop were an obscene kick in the shins which can never be forgiven. Charles Dance is pretty good as Clemens, but he really isn’t that good compared to Michael Biehn. Lance Henrikson returns this time as a new character called Bishop 2. His performance in his one scene is captivating and at the same time not as good as in Aliens.
Disappointing is the best way to sum up this sequel which is inferior to its predecessors. While the acting is certainly good the visuals and story fall flat in their attempts to be half way decent. Despite its numerous flaws it is mildly forgivable in that it retained the dark tone and excellent acting of the previous films.