600th Post SPECIAL: Why Alien 3 is the worst sequel ever made

19 Feb

By Slick Nick

When I judge a sequel, I don’t just consider its merits alone. I tend to think of sequels as remakes initially – you generally have the same characters, same setting, same story, same genre and similar writers & directors, doing the same shit as in the previous film/s.

I also think about how good the previous movie in the franchise was. To better an already great picture is a commendable feat. On the flipside, a film like Nightmare on Elm Street 4, arguably the worst film ever made, wouldn’t jump out at me as being a crap sequel because the previous film in that series isn’t worth much either.

I think a great sequel should be a decent stand alone film in its own right, but also build and improve upon the previous film’s ideas. A crap sequel will do the opposite and be an inferior film.

Aliens itself is a classic film but also one of the best sequels ever made. It betters a classic movie, brings memorable characters, technology and action to the table, and also delivers a shit ton of iconic sci-fi cinematic moments. Who could forget Bishop’s knife and hand trick which revealed him to have sperm for blood?

Alien 3 took all that away. Everything that made Aliens one of the best films of the 80s was missing. All the magic was gone.

1. Story

In Aliens, Ripley is still coming to terms with the mass murder of her entire list of co-stars from the first film by an athletic man in a suit. She then gets the opportunity to bond with some awesome space marines in a quest to wipe out the aliens for good after they’ve made a mess of a Pinewood Studios set. She acquires a foster daughter in Newt and does battle with the alien queen at the end – metal against flesh, mum against mum.

Alien 3 doesn’t compare. Ripley crash lands on a planet whose only inhabitants are prisoners. An Alien is born from livestock, and goes on a killing spree. It can’t kill Ripley because she herself is carrying an alien queen, though how the alien is aware of this is anyone’s guess. Apparently for the sake of convenience it’s been given x-ray vision. So the protagonist cannot be harmed by the antagonist in any way. Now, excuse me whilst I sit on the edge of my fucking seat through all this narrative tension.

2. Characters

Aliens has a list of unforgettable, richly scripted characters. They all drive the narrative and drama in certain ways and elicit the appropriate emotional responses from the audience. We want Ripley to conquer her demons and save her ‘daughter’. We want Hicks to survive because he’s a generally all round good egg. We want Burke’s throat to be ripped open by a xenomorph, because he’s a greedy, slimey corporate highflying fuckhole. The deaths that happen are iconic and meaningful, and so is the chemistry between characters.

Alien 3 fails almost immediately by having only a single sympathetic character other than Ripley in the entire film, and even he becomes wormfood fairly early on. The rest of the characters are dangerous criminals, exhiled from civilization and adequate dentistry, for example murderers, rapists and the like. Having them confront the alien leaves no room for suspense or hope – we don’t give two fucks if they survive or not because they’re the worst collection of subhuman scum committed to film. Even the authority figures are annoying, one being the arsehole PE teacher from Kes for example. They’re also almost entirely British. Why are the arse-kicking marines in Aliens essentially all-American archetypes, whilst the rotten, ugly prisoners in Alien 3 are from Blighty? Does no other nationality in the galaxy commit horrible crimes? Fuck off.

3. Technology

Aliens had all manner of awesome life-ending gear, plus spaceships, powerloaders, motion sensors, web cams and a commendable pimped up limousine. These still look great even today. Entire films now use the CCTV/reality TV gimick to exist, whereas Aliens innovatively used it in just one gripping, story-changing sequence when the marines first encounter the Viet Cong and get their arses quite convincingly handed to them.

What does Alien 3 have, apart from a sprinkler system and doors that lock? Fuck all. Not even one gun. Brilliant.

4. Action

This pretty much speaks for itself. Aliens is so packed full of action that you almost forget set-pieces. But the key thing is it’s never meaningless – it all drives the narrative and develops the characters. Each encounter makes Hudson more unhinged until he meets his legendary demise, for example, whilst Ripley only gets stronger and more determined. The final bout between Ripley and the alien queen is dramatic because the script makes it personal, like two old slappers having a scrap outside a Whetherspoon’s in Sheffield. Ripley is also confronting what could be the root cause of her nightmares in the first place.

In Alien 3 there’s only one alien, and no weaponry; all that’s on offer is a lot of running through grim corridors, opening and shutting doors, until they’re in a position to offer their guest a very inconsistent shower to end its short life.

Sequels are supposed to turn the action up to 11. There should be more deaths, bigger sequences, better effects, new enemies and characters etc. that give the audience something more for their money. They shouldn’t take everything further back than even the fucking original movie.

5. Set Design

I love a good set, and Aliens is full of them. Every scene gives the audience something neat to look at. The space station where the marines awake from a long afternoon nap, the colony rooms and corridors, the laboratory, the alien lair, I could go on.

Alien 3, on the other hand, offers nothing. In fact what it offers is worse than nothing. It could have been decent, a hi-tech super prison perhaps with some decent weaponry and futuristic ideas on keeping a population of near animals in line. But no, that would have required too much effort. Instead we get a generic, bland, boring, depressing iron works, with every room and corridor resembling the same bland shit. It’s about as easy on the eye as that little woman/eunuk creature from The Krankies. It’s also poorly lit, as are all David Fincher flicks, and whilst that style does lend itself to gritty, noir-like psychological thrillers, it does little for big concept science fiction.

6. Special Effects

The effects in Aliens were cutting edge in 1986 and still hold up very well today. Cameron knew where the limitations were and shot and edited accordingly. The result is a seamless blend of live action, make-up, costumes, puppets, models and CGI work, a veritable wank for the eyes if ever there was one. Combining this spectacle with the dynamite story and script made Aliens unbeatable. Every scene is fucking gold.

Clean up on aisle 4 lol

Alien 3 didn’t offer much scope for effects, and those it did depict were substandard. A really ropey, poorly animated and crap-looking alien running around hardly compares to the might of the alien queen, which required the population of Basingstoke to operate. Technically, the CGI was more advanced than in Aliens, but it doesn’t stand up even for a second in the present day.

Conclusion

Alien 3 isn’t necessariy a terrible film in its own right, but it is the worst sequel ever made. It removed tension, narrative, spectacle, action and design and inserted some crap computer graphics as a compensation. It was like someone puking up a slap-up three course meal from a Gordon Ramsey restaurant and offering the bile in a cereal bowl to a dinner party guest. Above all else, the film was just a bore.

I do have hope though that a half decent sequel or prequel will get made, advancing the alien mythology in a good way and giving the audience something unique and entertaining at the same time to enjoy.

27 Responses to “600th Post SPECIAL: Why Alien 3 is the worst sequel ever made”

  1. Ishmael Harlock May 14, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    I agree ALIEN 3 ruined everything the death of Rebecca ‘Newt’ was BULLSHIT AND IT STILL IS! I MEAN SHE WAS JUST A LITTLE GIRL FOR FUCKS SAKE AND THE FUCKER WHO DIRECTED ALIEN 3 JUST KILLED HER OFF LIKE THAT?! BULLSHIT! TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DEATH OF ELLEN RIPLEY WHO HAD THE HEART AND SOUL IN THE FIRST 2 MOVIES IS PUT TOO DEATH? SHE WAS SUPPOST TO BE A SURVIVOR AND LIVE ON! FUCK IF THEY HAD MADE ALIEN 3 MORE LIKE THE ALIENS OH MAN THINK OF THE ATERNATIVES IT COULD HAVE HAD IT WOULD HAVE BEEN KNOW AS A STORY OF ACTION COURAGE AND HEROISM FOR YEARS TO COME AND THAT FUCKER WHO DIRECTED ALIEN 3 IS A COMPLETE FUCKER WHORE I SURE WISH I COULD GO BACK IN TIME TO STOP ALIEN 3 FROM EVER HAPPENING TO RUIN THE GLORY OF THE FIRST 2 MOVIES! FOR REBECCA AND THE MARINES AND FOR RIPLEY!

  2. poppeelings May 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    Steady on lad… director David Fincher went on to make a fine body of work.

    Even the best directors will struggle to make something decent from a crap screenplay/story.

    You cannot polish a turd, remember.

  3. Steve Willingham (@Zinematic) October 5, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    Interesting post, couldn’t disagree more though. I loved Alien 3 the first time around (not just after everyone suddenly realised Fincher was good). I thought it was an incredibly brave film. Fincher could have kept all the living characters left at the end of Aliens (Hicks, Newt, Bishop) and involved them in a new story. However, instead of using that crutch, an easy way to tell a story with established characters, he took the brave move to kill them all off, even the innocent child Ripley fought so hard to save. It was a perfect way to advance Ripleys story, by taking everything away from her, again. By impregnating her with the queen Ripley becomes a surrogate mother once again, and by having the xenomorph aware of that fact you remove her only salvation. Aware of her fate she knows death is the only release. But the only constant in her life, the Alien, refuses to grant her wish. Instead the Alien commits it’s worst atrocity by becoming her protector. Anyway I’m as passionate about the film as you are, just in a different way. See you at #MTOS!

    • poppeelings October 5, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

      Thanks for reading Steve.
      Alien 3 always bored me, but then when I sat down and gave it more thought, and weighed it up against Aliens, it became clear that it sucks and is the worst sequel ever made.
      You say it’s brave of them to start again, but they’re still copying the theme of Aliens with the motherhood, only this time without a sympathetic child.

    • Steve Cohen January 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

      It does have its good points. It perfectly captures the nihilistic, “Heart of Darkness” atmosphere of the franchise. I can’t get past the death of Newt, though. She was a great character. Destroying her was, for me, too cruel. Then again, I grew up watching shows like Star Trek and The Six Million Dollar Man, in which our heroes always came out on top. I gusess I’m a sucker for happy endings.

  4. Josh March 8, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Alien 3 destroyed the Alien franchise. Enough said. Huge disappointment to what could had been an excellent sequel.

    • poppeelings March 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      You’re quite right. Thanks for reading.

  5. moviewriting June 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    Brilliantly put. Alien 3 is officially the worst sequel ever made; in comparison to the superb earlier films anyway. Jeepers Creepers 2 is terrible, but then so is the first one. There are countless films this also applies to, none I can remember at the moment or express as eloquently as you have done so here.

    • poppeelings June 17, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

      Thanks for reading. I’ve heard Jaws 2 and Exorcist 2 would be contenders for the shittest sequels, but I’ve not seen them nor do I like the originals anywhere near as much as Aliens.

  6. ToonForever June 18, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    Do you think Prometheus has revived the franchise/mythology? I won’t see it until later this week, and rewatched Alien and Aliens to get juiced up for it 🙂

    • poppeelings June 18, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      Fuck nose.

      • ToonForever June 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

        What’s your problem, cuntface?

      • poppeelings June 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

        You, cunt mouth. Thanks for reading.

      • ToonForever June 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

        I regret wasting my time. I didn’t know you were such a useless fuck. My mistake. Ta ta.

      • poppeelings June 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

        Enjoy supporting your crap football team and take care. x

      • ToonForever June 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

        Ah, is that it? You’re a SMB? Figures. Who else would be such a prick out of the blue?

  7. Alien(s) fans are morons January 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    Oh dear you’re obviously one of those gay arse Cameron Alien(s) fagboy retards. Alien 3 is miles better than aliens you stupid fuck.

    • poppeelings January 12, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

      That’s a mindblowing case. Thanks.

  8. Eli Denham January 11, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    Can’t believe you wrote a whole review of Alien 3 and didn’t each touch upon it’s greatest thing. Nearly all horror films have a protagonist and an antagonist and then some fodder who get killed in between. The thing with Alien 3 is that the fodder are the prisoners and it poses the poignant question who is the monster? Is it the Alien or the Humans? The Alien is a beastly monster, the perfect killing machine, however you can’t say it’s evil because to be evil you need to have a sentient mind that understands the concept of good and evil, however on the flip side is the humans, who do have the capacity to be evil and the capacity to be good. The scene where Ripley is about to get raped best shows this. It’s also a film about trust. In Aliens you know you can trust the gun slinging marines however in Alien 3 it’s about the prisoners, Ripley and the Prison authorities banding together and forming a shaky alliance to fight a greater threat. Is Alien 3 better than the originals? No but it’s far from the worst sequel ever. You should stop looking at films in terms of just special effects, set design and action and try to look at the point the film was trying to get across.

  9. ThorX89 January 30, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    Ok, Alien 3 wasn’t about effects. It was about ideas. But those ideas sucked too. The movie doesn’t make much sense. The argument that convinced those prisoners to sacrifice themselves—why on earth would they want to do that?! First they want to stay completely out of it, and then suddenly they’re willing to become bait just so that they could avenge their mates’ deaths? If I were them, I’d simply try and hide until the company arrives and then get out of their way. Who cares if the company wants the xenomorph alive–it’s them who’s (probably) gonna get burnt, not me.

    In Aliens, you can sort of see why Ripley doesn’t want the Alien to get into the hands of the company, but it’s not like it was an absolute top priority, or something to trade a life for. If I were Ripley, and the company would be offering me a surgery, I’d be like whatever, just get it out ASAP. Then I could fight for it getting destroyed after my life was saved.

    Then there’s the question of how could those eggs have gotten aboard Sulaco. It’s not like the queen was seen carrying them in Aliens. She seemed too hurried to kick Ripley’s ass to carry any baggage with her, and it’s hard to imagine how she could’ve laid those eggs without her sack. And even even if she did—was Ripley, after all her experiences with the species, so stupid as to not make absolutely sure that everybody was save before going to hypersleep?

    I love the first two movies, but it ends about there.

  10. lux April 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    alien 3 is the best sequel evermade, kill them all and kill your self too… yeeeaaaa
    I love this movie its fantastic.

  11. Ailig September 17, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    i still dont get the hate after all these years. And especially the Newt case. here we have serious SF horror franchise and people complain someone killed the girl? i love A3 for it being completely different and find it perfect ending in the trilogy. it is quite a story when watched all 3 together. For me Resurrection was not necessary but i quite like it anyway. I loved the cinematography in A3 and think Goldenthal´s score to be the best of the franchise. I loved exactly for what you didn´t. You really wanted to see the same guys doing the same things again? Those action films archetypes all over again? To me it feels almost like an european film whatever it may mean. And sorry for my english, not my first language 🙂
    Just my two cents…

    • poppeelings September 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

      On its own, the film is not hate-worthy… but following Aliens, arguably the best film of the 80s, it sucked.

    • Steve October 5, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

      I’ve never quite understand why people feel that Ripley’s death was the perfect ending to the series. Perhaps you could help me.

      I’ve always felt that the series should have ended with the second film. Ripley suffered post traumatic stress and was also traumatized by the loss of her daughter. In Aliens she went back to the planet, overcame her fears, and was given a second chance with Newt and possibly Hicks. To take someone who has been traumatized and inflict more trauma on them just seems…reprehensible.

      I suppose, though, it might be a perfect ending in the sense that Ripley became a savior and was released from that universe of pain through death.

  12. Kennedy Hiscox-Wormegay April 22, 2019 at 12:04 am #

    Alien3’s biggest crime is spawning bullshit critiques like this one that can’t move beyond “Waagh! I wanted Aliens 2!” Practically all of your criticisms are based on elements that moved it away from the sequel you’d written in your head, and everything else is just a vehicle for you to make second-rate Blackadder-esque quips. Aliens might be a pretty good sequel, but Alien3 is better. Better cast, better acted, better written, better directed, better looking, perhaps equally-well designed, overall.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Movie Talk on Sunday – 9th October – Sequels « Pop Peelings - October 4, 2011

    […] The topic we’ll be discussing is film sequels. To get an idea of where I am coming from, have a look at this old article I wrote about the shittest sequel ever made. […]

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