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ALIEN 3

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Lance Henriksen
Director:  David Fincher
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  Four trailers, featurette
Length:  115 Minutes
Release Date:  June 1, 1999

Film **1/2

She's back. Ripley (Weaver), our favorite perpetual lone survivor returns to do battle again with the big ugly beast that seems to have it in for her.

Alien 3 seems to have reversed gears from its predecessor Aliens in a few ways. Once again, there is only one creature to deal with. And like the first film, there is a lot of time spent in build up before the terror really begins. Trouble is, there's nothing to build up to. Unlike the original, we already know what the creature looks like and what it will do, so the time spent leading up to the unveiling in this movie is a little less suspenseful and a little more patience wearing.

The story is intriguing, however. After a face hugger kills her companions, Ripley crash lands on a planet used as a high security prison for men with double Y chromosomes. They are the worst criminals, all murderers and rapists, driven by a rage created by too much testosterone. The only calming effect is a kind of religion they have adopted, under the leadership of Charles S. Dutton.

Problem is, an alien has come back with her, and she and the men are sitting ducks, especially with no weapons to fight with. The situation worsens when Ripley learns she is now a host to a queen. Can she be saved?

Once the action gets going, it's mostly satisfying. Director Fincher's cameras move at breakneck speed and often take on the point of view of the creature.

The creature itself, however, is a bit of a disappointment. It was created mostly by use of an intricate marionette against blue screen backgrounds, and it shows. Rarely ever does it look convincing, and this saps some of the action sequences of their potential power.

All in all, it's an OK movie, but a let down after the first two films in the series. There are things to like about it, though, particularly Weaver, who shines as always. It's easy to understand why she wanted to make this movie. Charles S. Dutton is a fine actor, and his presence is welcome, though his character is painfully underdeveloped.

If you loved the first two movies, you should give it a try. It's a worthy enough diversion for one evening's entertainment.

Video ****

This is a THX certified anamorphic transfer, and it is without a doubt the best looking of the Alien DVD's. Images are sharp and clear, color is always bright and natural, and there is no grain or compression evident, even in the darker scenes.

Audio ***1/2

This is also one of the better soundtracks, making better use of the Digital 5.1 sound than the first two.  Both front and rear stages open up with a much fuller ambient audio atmosphere, with strong effects and good dynamic range.

Features **1/2

The features are fewer on this disc, but they include trailers for all four movies, plus a lengthy and quality featurette on the making of the film, which includes interviews with casts and filmmakers from the first two movies as well.

Summary:

Alien 3 is not great, but pretty good, and certainly nothing to shy away from if you're a fan of the series. Despite the disappointments inherent, it mostly works, and is suitably entertaining.