40 Things You Didn’t Know About Alien 3

40 Things You Didn’t Know About Alien 3

  1. Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of Alien 3. It came out on May 22, 1992.

  2. Alien 3 was directed by David Fincher, who went on to make no fewer than three movies about serial killers: Seven, Zodiac, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The unstoppable killing machine of Alien 3 must have been good practice!

  3. Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of me going to see Alien 3 with my dad when I was eleven and a half.

  4. This sounds extremely inappropriate until I mention that he also took my little brother, who was eight and a half.

  5. Just six months or so before we all saw Alien 3, we all went to see An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. My dad didn’t complain, but there were signs that maybe he was looking to phase out his dutiful attendance of cartoons. “It’s hard to make a good sequel,” he noted on the drive home from Fievel, a tacit acknowledgment that none of us enjoyed it as much as the original American Tail.

  6. It is hard to make a good sequel, of course. Just ask the people who made Alien 3. Some of them, especially Fincher, do not want to talk about it.

  7. Whatever its flaws as an entry in the iconic horror series, Alien 3 is inarguably superior to Fievel Goes West, particularly in the field of making an eleven-year-old feel grown up.

  8. Early, discarded ideas for Alien 3 had the movie set in a futuristic mall, on a planet made mostly of wood, and/or in some kind of planetary monastery.

  9. Where the movie wound up set is a desolate, overheated, lice-infested prison planet, where an elaborate, enveloping doominess pervades every ruddy, smoggy, industrially grungy, Fincher-y frame. The movie feels sickly and foreboding. It’s the kind of movie that blends seamlessly into the dark of the theater that surrounds it.

  10. Alien 3 begins by killing two-thirds of the likable heroes who managed to survive its predecessor, James Cameron’s Aliens. Two hours later, it does not end happily.

  11. Some movies push at their audience by asking, under their breath: Can you handle this? The attitude of Alien 3, at least to an eleven-year-old, feels more like: Well, you’ll handle it or you won’t.

  12. You know numbers 3 and 4 above? They’re things you probably didn’t know about Alien 3, but maybe you already did, if you were at my dad’s memorial service, in 2012.

  13. If you weren’t at my dad’s memorial service in 2012: I talked about how cool it was that he took me to see Alien 3. And also Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction. He was a complicated guy with plenty of academic and professional accomplishments, and I think it’s because of him and my mom that I have always had an easy time stringing sentences together. Naturally, to celebrate this, I briefly turned his service into a playground where I got to brag to the other kids about seeing R-rated movies.

  14. I still process that loss – or, in my selfish terms, his absence – by thinking about what movies he did and didn’t get to see in his life.

  15. Even if you were at my dad’s memorial service in 2012, you might not know the very first movie he missed by dying.

  16. It was Anna Karenina.

  17. He died on a Friday, and had been planning to see the new Joe Wright version of Anna Karenina on Saturday, with his lady friend.

  18. So were my wife and I.

  19. We all went anyway. My wife and I and some friends saw it in Manhattan. His lady friend saw it with her nephew in Albany. We were undeterred by death – except for him, of course. He was very much deterred by death.

  20. It might sound inappropriate that I saw a movie the weekend that my dad died, until I mention that I saw three movies the weekend that my dad died.

  21. But listen: Going out in the wake of his death felt a little bit like a tribute to the fact that, when assembled for somber family occasions, he and I both knew that the other was secretly wishing we could slip off to the movies for a couple of hours, even though it was not at all the right thing to do and we didn’t actually do it. You could call going to the movies anyway an honoring of his deepest-down wishes, or you could call it revenge for his sometimes barely-contained insensitivity.

  22. You could call it something else entirely; it doesn’t really matter. A parent dying has little to recommend it, but it does grant one childhood fantasy in multiple ways at once, most but not all of the cruelly ironic variety: No one can tell you what to do.

  23. My awareness of what movies my dad was now missing did not end with his most immediate plans. I am blessed with that most obsolete of talents, the ability to casually and continually memorize the next two to three months’ worth of movie release schedules, so it’s been very easy for me to keep an informal running tally in my head of movies my dad probably would have seen, but couldn’t. It didn’t happen with every movie I saw – far from it – but I wished I could ask him what he thought of, say, the Baz Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby, which I adored. We both loved the novel, which for him extended so far as him finding something to love in the misbegotten 1974 film version, with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. More often, though, the movies that have registered strongest as movies my dad has missed are the sequels.

  24. Movie series can go on forever. That was always technically the case, and it might be something you already know. But for most of the medium’s history it was rarely a stated strategy. Another, similarly unspoken rule was in place: You make four and you give up, having made one to three too many. The Alien series certainly looked dead after Alien: Resurrection, which I also saw with my dad, in 1997. I think at that point, he would have preferred the Bruce Willis remake of The Day of the Jackal, but I insisted (and also had already seen The Jackal). I don’t know if he saw the Alien prequel Prometheus (though a ginger, cursory search through my email suggests that he did not, or at least we didn’t discuss it). He certainly didn’t see either of the Alien vs. Predator movies that were made during the series’ fourteen-year recess from respectability. As for Alien: Covenant, which came out three days before the 25th anniversary of Alien 3 and four days before the 25th anniversary of me and my brother seeing Alien 3, it’s hard to say whether he would have bothered. He would have been 80 this year. Then again, he was also retired, and you can see a lot of movies following the retiree principle of: it doesn’t cost that much and hey look at that it starts in ten minutes.

  25. But I do know that he probably would have seen the new Star Wars movies, and he definitely would have seen Creed, the recent revival of the Rocky series. Even as I loved that movie and the way it recast Sylvester Stallone’s character as a trainer to Michael B. Jordan’s Creed, the son of Rocky’s old opponent, it hurt a little bit, knowing my dad didn’t get to see it, especially since he suffered through series low points like Rocky II and Rocky IV. I assume he also saw Rocky Balboa, the 2006 one meant to finish the series off with some grace, and so for him, the Rocky saga had long since concluded. For a time, this was a reasonable assumption: If a movie series began sometime before a viewer turned 40 or 50, that viewer could probably see the thing through to the end. (James Bond is notable exception, although any Bond fans who died between approximately 1990 and 1994 might well have assumed they’d gone the distance.) But there’s Creed, screwing over all the Rocky fans who died since Rocky Balboa, and screwing them over again by being great.

  26. And now that Hollywood has made explicit that was once politely unsaid – movies are, if not forever, a much stronger simulation of forever than a human lifespan – I’m left with the knowledge, vibrating somewhere inside my skull, that there will probably be Star Wars movies made after I die, even if I fulfill my current plan of living until 100 and then seeing where we can go from there. This was supposed to be the deal: I don’t live especially recklessly and die especially young, and I get to see what happens with Star Wars, and also whether the Aliens fight the Predators again, and, if so, under what circumstances, like a trade dispute or what. I wouldn’t be so callous as to compare the knowledge that Star Wars will outlive me to any kind of cancer. But it does give cancer one more thing to brag about, which sucks, because that asshole has a pretty big head already. There have been stories in the past about terminally ill people who, through special interventions by the filmmakers, were allowed to see upcoming Star Wars movies early, before they were taken too soon. If they’re going to keep making Star Wars movies every year or so, that should just become a section on Fandango, because what about people who are hardcore fans of things besides Star Wars? Someone must like those Transformers movies, right?

  27. I doubt the thought of death leaving him hanging on some movies would have much bothered my dad. He seemed baffled, when my mom’s father died, that family members would lament the additional grandchildren my grandpa wouldn’t get to meet. You can say that about anyone, forever, he said. There will always be someone they’ll miss.

  28. Maybe that pragmatism verging on coldness melted away in his final moments, at least enough to express some preferences, however privately or subconsciously. I like to assume that given the choice of, say, two 2015 events – seeing what happened with Rocky Balboa when he continued to get older or seeing what happened when I had a kid of my own – he would have chosen the latter. Same here: I want to find out what happens when my daughter grows up, see if she’s still so fond of screaming “BEAR!!!!” at mysterious intervals, see if she winds up having a kid, and if that kid screams “BEAR!!!!!” at mysterious intervals. I want this even more than I want to see what happens with Star Wars or the Alien or the Predators.

  29. It’s the movies, though, that monopolize my day-to-day terror at the impermanence of my life, because of the power imbalance at play. Just as I must know that I will not see my daughter live to 100, I know that she may not live to see her own younger family members live to 100, and on and on. Intellectual property, though, have no such equalizing limitations. They have started to flaunt their infinite lives, even if their stars or creators or characters die. Sometimes even the movies themselves seem scared of it. The most recent Alien movies have been set before the events of 1979’s Alien, in part because Ripley, the iconic badass at the center of the first four movies, dies at the end of Alien 3.

  30. Ripley’s subsequent return in Alien: Resurrection is fudged: hundreds of years later, cloning, came back different… these are the understandable lengths people will go to reunite with Sigourney Weaver.

  31. Sigourney Weaver will also, impossible and cruel as it seems, someday die.

  32. Alien: Covenant is set before all that. It’s here in part to mark more time before that unfortunate incident, not to celebrate 25 years since it happened. Best not to mention it. Best to look further back.

  33. Here’s what makes Alien 3 so dispiriting and also so impressive: At the end of Aliens, Ripley wins. At the end of Alien 3, death wins. If it seems like a dark sort of victory for Ripley, it’s because death gets her on its side.

  34. Whatever its many other faults, 1992 was not an environment where you would just assume that Ripley dying at the end of the movie was a corner another sequel would have to wriggle out of in a few years. You would assume, probably, that she was dead.

  35. In 2017, I assume there will be an Alien movie that comes out after I die. My friends who are still alive might think to themselves: Jesse would have wanted to see that. Or possibly: At least Jesse isn’t making me rewatch the previous 14 Alien movies in preparation for seeing that.

  36. So I attempt to strike and re-strike the same deal with movie series, the same terms of the same shaky, lopsided, unworkable deal that we make with everything else that will outlast us: If you’re going to insist on continuing without me, at least give me something else to think about some of the time. Distract me from the undistractable. Nothing really agrees to this – no one signs an actual contract, because what bargaining power do I have, really?

  37. 25 years later, I’m still going to see an Alien movie in May.

  38. Five years later, I’m still thinking about the movies my dad didn’t see.

  39. Ten years from now, maybe I can take my daughter to something inappropriate for her age, if she wants. She’ll handle it or she won’t.

  40. If movies are going to comfort us by never going away, then they’re also going to leave us behind, and not look back.

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.
  • Tim

    This is a great, thoughtful piece, Jesse. Thanks.