Alien 3 (1992)
In 1979, we discovered in space no one can hear you scream. In 1992, we will discover, on Earth, EVERYONE can hear you scream.
At first, we saw the horror. Next, we saw the war. Now, we see the faith? Well, to say the least this movie is generally the one in the franchise everyone tags as the "downward spiral" of the series and any who have seen it will have their own opinion on that. Certainly it's hard to live up to such an action packed and likable sequel as Aliens, but it couldn't really be as bad as some of the horror stories imply, right? Strap in and let's find out if this is just a big acid-spit to the face.
Taking off after the last movie, somehow (as though magic) an alien managed to lay an egg on the main ship (that never touched ground-side) that hatches while the survivors are in cryosleep. Not content with waiting to get it's hugs, a seemingly persistent little facehugger manages to break it's way through the cryopod and accidentally bleed on the floor which causes an electrical fire. The fire prompts the ejection of the in-use freezers in an emergency pod that then proceeds to crash land on the nearby planet nick-named "Fury." Turns out the escape pod wasn't as safe as it would appear, as every person inside it except returning heroine Ripley dies from either direct-mushing from structural parts or just plain drowning from breaches in their pod. To be honest, for a fan of the second movie this feels a bit like a big middle finger, and from a general plot standpoint it feels like some suit somewhere really pushed for cashing in on a good series.
Anyways, the planet happens to be a prison colony that also is a lead refinery crewed by a graveyard shift of all-male inmates and two actual security-like staff. The resident medic stumbles upon Ripley washed up on the beach and brings her back for attention, while sending out some of the inmates to go to the beach and look for more survivors - of which they find none that they really wanted. Seems a sneaky little alien happened to survive and find one of their animals (an ox if you watch the special edition, or pooch normally), but more on that later. For now, the inmates are getting all riled up at the presence of a woman on their little planet, as through their faith they have got a good thing going - which considering some are murderers, rapists, and other mean-types the presence of a woman around them when they haven't so much heard a woman in years is pretty sensibly not the best thing. Of course, none of that is made easier by the fact that ever head-strong Ripley pretty much refuses to stay confined away from the inmates, causing tensions and even leading to an attempted rape - and yet, they all have much bigger problems to worry about then that.
As mentioned, it seems our little facehugger friend had more than one use this go-around, and we get introduced to our new breed of alien for the movie: the runner (or also known as dog alien, thanks to the theatrical release's use of a dog as the host), and the runner is both mean and hungry. Body count starts to escalate quickly, with the only inmate witness being thought to be insane when he comes back covered in his 'brothers' blood spouting nonsense about a dragon, until the proof of it's existence drags the warden into the ceiling and eats him in front of the entire population of the planet. A plan is quickly put together to drive the creature out of the air vents through fire and into a vault-which backfires and costs many inmates lives, but through the sacrifice of one more inmate the creature is in fact caught in the vault. You'd almost think it was over, until the crazy inmate gets loose and sets the thing free as though he's auditioning for the part of Dracula's bug-eating loony. Without weapons and only with a prayer, what can the surviving inmates and Ripley manage to pull off?
The story behind this movie ends up by far being a much more interesting one than the plot given to us on screen. Originally, there was even talks of Monastery planet, filled with monks and made largely of wood that would certainly have set it apart in setting than the others. Still, that was abandoned in favor of the prisoners being tasked with running a barely-functioning lead refinery who still keep the religious tones the monks probably would have had. This does lead to some rather silly things that are even stated at one point by Ripley herself - a maximum security penitentiary that doesn't even have weapons or means of defense for it's warden staff to keep inmates in line. Of course, there's by far worse plot elements than that - such as the ever-increasing lifespan of facehugger victims, an issue that started with Aliens and then is just compounded by this one, as well as the fact that an egg magically made it's way to the marine's main ship, and that an emergency capsule designed to protect cryopods is only large enough for four and apparently made out of tissue paper. There was any manner of ways this could have been handled better, but alas the movie that is made is made.
It might sound like I'm spitting all over this movie right now, but in reality it's just the plot. The flow of the movie works well - even in the extended cut with all it's added in talking scenes that actually do flesh out a character or two better - and the acting is still pretty decent. The set, despite still feeling a bit like "yet another claustrophobic space place" felt real and gritty and in disrepair, and the effects work is usually pretty good stuff. They did do this thing with the alien though, that happens pretty much every single time you see the full-body shot of the alien in which the puppet they used was shot separately and movie-magic added in, which almost makes it look like some cheap CG or even at times like it was 'drawn' in due to issues with the lighting and it. On the other hand, whenever you get a close up shot - be it head or upper body - that uses a guy in a suit, things go back to being that excellent bit of detailed lubricated fetish-horror that the xenomorphs are so well associated with. There are a few gory shot's here or there - a man falling into a fan creates a chunky display, or a man getting little-mouth punched through his head - but a lot of the violence tends to be either "low detail" or off-screen with "leaking" details. It's well handled, and feels much more akin to trying to take the movie series back to it's scary roots.
Now, the version I watched for this was the extended cut - because I've already seen the normal cut many a time before, and felt like a splash of something different. The largest downside to this version is that they couldn't touch up the audio in all the scenes they added, so you'll find yourself suddenly questioning why subtitles have appeared on screen and the audio has a strange hissing sound in the background - but to be fair, they at least warned of this at the start of it in a white title shot explaining just why it's that way. That being said, one could easily just watch the original theatrical cut and enjoy it just as much - you'll miss a few things and the ox will change to a dog, but the general movie flow and plot is the same. If you have the extra half hour and can deal with the audio issues, it might be worth picking the special cut, just to get that little bit more out of the characters though. Outside of that, music can come in strong and loud, sometimes overpowering the actors, but the music that plays does fit the movie well enough.
Now look, the movie is certainly the start of the downward trend of the Alien franchise in my opinion, but it's not really all that bad of a movie. It does something new with the alien (which is great), gives us a new setting and mostly new cast of disposable characters, and focuses on a new aspect (that of the inmates faith) the others didn't. Heck, it's not even really stirring too far from the mold - just increase the size of the original movie's crew to twenty or thirty, replace the ship with a smelting plant, and boom there you go. It doesn't surpass the first two as far as being a favorite goes, and does some things that feel a little insulting within the first ten minutes of the movie to people who do have their favorite being the second movie, but I've seen far worse movies than this - such as the fourth movie in the franchise, which I'll probably pass on doing for a while if you don't mind.