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Redeeming The Dragon: Examining The Alien Legacy Part III

Our Savior’s Resurrection

Yep. You read that right – Ripley survives her escape pod’s crash onto the planet Fioria “Fury” 171, a prison planet occupied and maintained by a cabal of reformed rapists and murderers turned Christian monks. After retrieving the eviscerated droid body of Bishop, she learns that a facehugger was smuggled onto the Sulaco by the Queen fought in Aliens. After euthanizing the android, she investigates the possibility of an outbreak on the planet, only to find that the stray ‘hugger has impregnated a Rottweiler and she herself may be harboring the fetus of a Queen. With Weyland-Yutani closing in on the prison planet, she reluctantly leads the prisoners against the Xenomorph and prepares herself to make the ultimate sacrifice to eradicate the species once and for all.

The Alien universe was a pretty bleak one to begin with – the crew of the Nostromo learn this when answering a distress call from a carrier ship formerly run by God-monsters (the “Space Jockey” species) that has been webbed, cocooned, and turned into a breeding hive for a different biomechanical God-monster (the Xenomorph). One of these hitches a ride on the ship with a little help from The Company that employs the crew. It kills everyone but Ripley, who jettisons the offending monster and is rescued while in deep sleep over half a century later.

Upon recovery, she is asked to return to the planet to help rescue a mining colony with the help of a crew of tough-as-nails space marines… most of whom are dispensed in gruesome ways upon arriving to the colony. With the remaining crew, Ripley rescues the sole colony survivor – a little girl named Newt – and leads and evacuation from the planet, one that is nearly thwarted by a company man (Burke, played by Paul Reiser). Everyone but Ripley and Newt are killed or maimed (including the ship’s android). Luckily, Ripley manages to jettison the Queen as well. The survivors go into stasis sleep and, well…

Alien 3 happens, extinguishing any flicker of hope one might have for the characters occupying this universe. It is a bleak, apocalyptic affair for everyone involved, from Ripley to the prisoners to the Xenomorph itself. Nobody gets off easy in this film, but nobody gives in either. It’s a gripping tale of apocalypse and redemption set at the ass end of the galaxy among the scum, unlikely savior, and ultimate adversary of the universe.

Opposing Alien Visions

Though the trio reportedly quarreled throughout the film’s production, Fincher’s visual style is very suited for the film’s overall approach, which could be likened to a Sam Peckinpah and Stanley Kubrick lovechild remake of the original. And you know what? The end results are pretty goddamned cool. It’s a bold statement to make, but I’m going to go ahead and throw it out there. With the much fawned over early script drafts, false advertising, and crushing deaths of two well-loved Aliens characters aside, there isn’t a single thing I would change about Alien 3.

Some movies come together easily. Directors, writers, actors, and crew act as a hive mind to take a great idea and turn it into lightning in a bottle. Alien was this way and, remarkably, Aliens was too. This isn’t to say their productions weren’t checkered with troubles – Dan O’Bannon more or less got himself kicked off the set of the former, and rumor has it James Cameron had his hands full with the British crew working with him on the latter (apparently they weren’t keen about a Yank taking reigns of the franchise). Still, these troubles worked themselves out and the films that resulted feel like the fresh vision of a few individuals enriched and expanded upon by the support of a crew of many. Alien 3 is exactly the opposite. It is a film that is enriched by its troubled history, if only because it’s a deeply troubling movie. Where Alien horrifies and Aliens exhilarates, Alien 3 haunts.

The Toughest Woman in the Universe

The prison planet Fury may be a monastic penal colony, but to the Alien universe it’s little more than hell itself. It is a place for rapists, murderers, thieves, and addicts. This prison setting would make a compelling film without a brain-chomping extraterrestrial, as the inmates of Fury are a tightly coiled lot. When the status quo is interrupted, their faith is weakened, and they start becoming “over stimulated” at the prospects of being incarcerated with Sigourney Weaver. Even the most benevolent of inmates – Dillon, played by Charles S. Dutton – warns her of their temptation: “You don’t want to know me, lady. I’m a murderer and rapist of women.”

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Yet, it is Ripley’s response that sums up her evolution across the three films, giving a nonchalant answer of, “Oh. Well, then I guess I must make you nervous.” After facing off with the scariest, most indestructible species in the galaxy, a group of 25 rapists and killers do not make the woman flinch. Alien 3 is Ellen Ripley at her most feminist badass. James Cameron gets a lot of credit for this after saddling the lady with a pulse rifle and power loader, but anyone’s bravery would go up with those weapons in their arsenal. Ripley has no such weapons in Alien 3, she is stripped right down to her scalp (shaven to control lice) and is constantly vulnerable to Xenomorph, rapist, or company attack.

Yet she continues with her mission, one she learns that will ultimately make her a martyr for the human race. This raises the stakes a bit, wouldn’t you say? The films before created two major goals for the character – destroy the Xenomorphs and keep the company from getting access to them. Fincher’s take on the franchise doesn’t alter this goal, but heightens it by forcing her to make the ultimate sacrifice to achieve it. In the process, she redeems most, if not all, of the prisoners that take her up on her endeavor.

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Why the flawed characters of Alien 3 works…

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