Released 30 years ago today, Alien 3 is not the worst movie in the franchise
In fact, it is arguably the most interesting entry in the franchise.
Released in cinemas on 22 May 1992, a full six years after James Cameron's action-horror classic, Alien 3 was immediately facing an uphill battle.
Originally offered to Ridley Scott to come back to direct, the project then passed to Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger), David Twohy (Pitch Black) and Vincent Ward (What Dreams May Come), before landing on the lap of newbie director David Fincher, who had got the studios the attention thanks to his music video work with Madonna ('Vogue') and George Michael ('Freedom').
While studio interference, a strict release deadline and the miasma of different scripts from different writers made sure that this was never going to be Fincher's purest vision, and to this day, the director has completely disowned the movie.
However, there is actually a lot to like from the Alien threequel, and it is far from the worst movie in the franchise.
Right from the opening credits, the movie lets you know that things aren't going to be what you'd expect...
The prison planet setting made sure that this wasn't just a rehash of the first two movies, while the visuals and aesthetic fully drove home the HIV metaphor that is coursing through its DNA.
Weaver is great (as always), with a fantastic supporting cast, including a special shout out to Charles Dance as Ripley's love interest, one half of modern cinema's oddest romances... their first "date" is the autopsy of the body of Newt, the child survivor of the previous movie. Yikes.
Alex Thomson's sickly cinematography and Elliot Goldenthal pounding orchestral score all add to serve up a specific mood, which is at least unique and interesting, as from this point on in the series, the Alien franchise couldn't help but keep looking back at its own origins.
1997's Alien: Resurrection essentially felt like a mash-up of Alien and Aliens, with a too-quippy script by Joss Whedon and some pointless, goes-nowhere weirdness by direction Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie).
Whedon had written a script for Alien 5 that would've been set on Earth, but Weaver had no interest in this idea. Ridley Scott was then being called back, to direct a script written by James Cameron, but this was ditched at the last minute following the success of 2003's Freddy vs. Jason.
Yep, that head-to-head horror film was the reason why 20th Century Fox decided to move away from the Scott/Cameron collaboration, and instead give us 2004's Alien vs. Predator, from the director of Event Horizon and Resident Evil. Despite being only a mild box office success, it still managed to land its own sequel, 2007's Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. With 12% on Rotten Tomatoes, the less said about that cinematic dumpster fire, the better.
It would be another five years before anyone would touch the franchise again, with Ridley Scott giving us Prometheus in 2012. A gorgeous movie, with some interesting ideas, but so wrapped up in answering questions nobody was really asking, Scott was still looking back to 1979 for inspiration for the future of these movies. Another five years on, 2017's Alien: Covenant tried to bridge the gap - both in story and in tone - between Prometheus and Alien. But aside from Fassbender making out with himself, there was absolutely nothing new here.
To this day, Alien 3 stands out from the crowd, being the last time one of these movies felt like its own thing, and not just a megamix of other, better Alien movies. But that could be all about to change...
Fede Álvarez (Don't Breathe) is currently working on a new Alien movie that will be completely unrelated to the previous movies, while Noah Hawley (Fargo) is creating a new TV series set within the Alien universe, but taking place hundreds of years before the first Alien movie.
While the third Alien movie is far from perfect, the real lesson that can be taken away from it is if you've got a talented filmmaker working on the project, just let them do their thing. Even if it's bad, at least it will be interesting.
Alien 3 (and all of the other Alien movies) are available to watch on Disney+ right now.