A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, February 9, 2018

Alien 3 (David Fincher, 1992)

Charles Dance and Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3
Ripley: Sigourney Weaver
Dillon: Charles S. Dutton
Clemens: Charles Dance
Andrews: Brian Glover
Golic: Paul McGann
Aaron: Ralph Brown
Morse: Danny Webb
Bishop/Bishop II: Lance Henriksen
Junior: Hoyt McCallany
David: Pete Postlethwaite

Director: David Fincher
Screenplay: Vincent Ward, David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson
Cinematography: Alex Thomson
Production design: Norman Reynolds
Film editing: Terry Rawlings
Music: Elliot Goldenthal

Alien 3 may be the sourest sequel ever made, completely negating in its opening scenes what made Aliens (James Cameron, 1986) so exciting: Ripley's heroic efforts to save the lives of Newt and Hicks (as well as retrieve what remained of Bishop). When Alien 3 begins, Newt and Hicks have died, making Ripley's efforts meaningless. And as if to rub salt in her wounds, she is forced to watch an autopsy of the little girl, just to make sure the alien isn't incubating in her. Not that what follows is much more enjoyable. As I said in my comments on Aliens, what made that film and its predecessor, Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979), so entertaining was the interplay among its well-drawn characters. But there are hardly any characters besides Ripley in Alien 3. Charles S. Dutton and Charles Dance are fine actors, but Dance feels miscast as the brief potential romantic interest for Ripley, and Dutton is given little to do but deliver a homily at the cremation of Newt and Hicks and afterward to run and shout a lot as everyone fights the alien. Dutton's character, Dillon, is supposed to be the spiritual leader of a group of YY-chromosome inmates on the prison planet Ripley's escape pod crashes onto. The religious subplot feels superfluous -- it's apparently left over from an earlier version of the screenplay in which the prison was instead a monastery -- since the prisoners don't seem particularly devout; they mostly growl and leer at Ripley, the only woman on the planet, and a group of them try to rape her. This was the debut feature for David Fincher, who has since proved himself to be one of the more skilled and distinctive American directors, but making it was not a pleasant experience for him -- there were too many misfired attempts to get a workable screenplay, and the director who preceded him, Vincent Ward, was fired. It's mostly held together by Sigourney Weaver's performance and a few exciting action scenes -- though even these are marred by some confusing editing, especially the extended chase sequence through the corridors of the prison at the end. And Ripley's sacrifice -- which should have put an end to the series but didn't -- only adds to the general depression that permeates the movie.

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